Twitter had some fun Wednesday night when NBC’s Andrea Mitchell tried — and miserably failed — to correct Sen. Ted Cruz on the source of the famous Shakespeare quote from Macbeth, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The Texas senator had used it to describe the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump now underway in the Senate.
Mitchell, who studied English literature at the University of Pennsylvania, thought the quote came from William Faulkner. “@SenTedCruzsays #ImpeachmentTrial is like Shakespeare full of sound and fury signifying nothing. No, that’s Faulkner,” Mitchell tweeted, apparently unaware that Faulkner borrowed the phrase from the Bard.
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) February 10, 2021
Mitchell’s literary ignorance unleashed a mini-tempest on Twitter, including Cruz chiming in with the full quote from Macbeth. To her credit, Mitchell apologized to Cruz — but not without humble-bragging that she “clearly studied too much American literature and not enough Macbeth.” Yes, clearly.
Amusing as this little spectacle of elite ignorance was, it calls to mind something sinister about the Trump impeachment trial, which is indeed “full of sound and fury,” but doesn’t signify nothing. It signifies that Democrats, by putting a former president on trial for something he did not do, are trying to destroy not only Trump but the entire Republican Party, and tar everyone who voted for Trump as a traitor. The former president is not really on trial here, the movement he represents is.
Impeachment Managers Allege Guilt By Association
How do we know? Because not a shred of evidence has been or will be presented that connects Trump to the thing for which he is purportedly on trial: incitement of insurrection. The Democrats’ entire case is one of guilt by association. A ragged band of radical Trump supporters attacked the Capitol, therefore Trump himself is to blame.
To make this case, Democratic impeachment managers have had to rely on emotional appeals rather than facts. On Wednesday, they gave lengthy and dramatic presentations about the mass protest and subsequent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, showing previously unseen security footage of rioters breaching the Capitol building.
The footage was at times intense, as riot footage usually is, but the presentations that accompanied the footage did not reveal anything new because that was not their purpose. Their purpose was to elicit emotional responses from the Senate jurors and the media, which they predictably did.
During a dinner recess, Sen. Mitt Romney (who else?) told reporters he hadn’t realized just how much danger he was in until he saw footage of a Capitol Police officer leading him away from the mob. “It was obviously very troubling to see the great violence that our Capitol Police and others were subjected to,” Romney said. “It tears at your heart and brings tears to your eyes. That was overwhelmingly distressing and emotional.”
Romney was of course playing the part Democrats have assigned him. The point of the footage, paired with over-dramatized narrations of events by impeachment managers, particularly Del. Stacey Plaskett who went through the events of Jan. 6 in detail, was to depict Trump as the true leader of the mob, commanding and directing them from his perch in the White House.
“Make no mistake, the violence was not just foreseeable to President Trump, the violence was what he deliberately encouraged,” Plaskett said. “He fanned the flame of violence, and it worked.”
Another impeachment manager, Rep. Joaquin Castro, went a step further, claiming that Trump “left everyone in this Capitol for dead” — seemingly taking a cue from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently accused Cruz of attempting to have her murdered.
On Thursday, impeachment managers delved more deeply into Trump’s role that day, but again failed to present any new information that would suggest Trump planned, supported, or even knew about the attack that a small group of his supporters pre-planned for Jan. 6.
Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette tried to make a case that the handful of rioters who attacked the Capitol (out of a much larger protest numbering in the tens of thousands at least) were doing so because they thought they were following Trump’s orders. Tellingly, House Democrats never called on any of these people to testify in the House impeachment hearing, so DeGette was reduced to quoting a few statements rioters posted on social media or made to the press.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if some of the rioters thought they were carrying out Trump’s orders. After all, it’s no more Trump’s fault that these people are idiots than it’s his fault they decided to attack the Capitol. Unless Democrats can produce some evidence that Trump gave the rioters instructions or direction, we’ll have to rely on what we know Trump said, which was to encourage the protesters to march to the Capitol grounds “peacefully.”
Lacking anything more than this, Democrats finally fell back on the sinister heart of their case against Trump: all Trump supporters, not just the rioters, are traitors simply for supporting him. Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, the lead impeachment manager, argued that Trump had previously “inflamed and incited a mob,” citing a peaceful protest at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing on April 30 against strict COVID-19 lockdown orders imposed by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
At that rally, several protesters carried firearms into the state capitol, as allowed under Michigan law, without incident. Apart from a single arrest — someone got really drunk and tried to rip a flag out of a protester’s hands — the protest was entirely peaceful and orderly.
Yet Raskin showed images of the Michigan rally next to images of the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol in what amounted to a shabby attempt to impugn any and all conservatives who might have at some point protested at a capitol building or expressed opposition to an elected Democrat.
And that’s really the point of this exercise. Trump is out of office, a new administration has taken power, but Democrats won’t let go of their “insurrection” narrative, not because there’s any truth to it but because it’s politically useful. Some on the left are dumb enough to come out and say it, like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who on Thursday morning said Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley is “responsible for the insurrection,” along with Cruz and Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio.
What do all these Republicans have in common? They all think there were problems with the 2020 election. If that’s the bar for being guilty of insurrection, then Trump’s guilt is shared not just by Hawley and Cruz and the others, it’s shared by millions of Americans across the country.
Understand what’s happening here. There’s almost no chance Trump will be convicted by the Senate, but this impeachment theater is not as pointless as it seems. The sound and fury of Democrats signifies clearly that if you support Trump, you’re a traitor.