Another Pivot on Impeachment

We are living through a phantasmagoric psychodrama generated by the dishonest national political media. This is the media whose Joe Scarborough of MSNBC did not show some of President Trump’s responses to his enemies because of “concern” for the president’s family, as he “seems to have lost his mind.” This is a new frontier in American journalism, where a television news commentator who hates the president wishes to spare the president’s family a rerun of his entirely rational denunciations of his enemies.

The House of Representatives began considering impeachment because an anonymous Democrat and former political associate of former Vice President Joe Biden received a hearsay account of a conversation between President Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, in which Trump encouraged the newly elected leader to find out if Biden and his son had done anything inappropriate in Ukraine. The president quickly made the transcript of the conversation public.

Partisan Democrats and formerly sensible commentators have portrayed Trump’s request as a demand for incriminating evidence on Biden, failing which he would not resume U.S. aid to Ukraine. In other words, this was a solicitation for a benefit of value to Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. The reference to a resumption of aid was 500 words earlier in the transcript, and not connected at all to the Biden question.

When Biden was mentioned, it was to request to know what happened—a neutral request for the facts.  Yes, Trump said the appearance of the former vice president’s son $50,000-a-month sinecure as a director of a Ukrainian gas company, along with the elder Biden’s boast of having a Ukrainian prosecutor fired, was “horrible.” And so it was. But there may be uncontroversial explanations. If the Biden allegations are unfounded, Americans will want to know. If the facts are corrupt in themselves, Americans—and Democrats  especially—will want to know that, too.

Scrambling for Scapegoats

In reality, the whole episode is nonsense, a farce. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won’t hold a vote on a formal impeachment inquiry because she couldn’t win the vote. If there were such an inquiry, where the Republicans called and examined witnesses and subpoenaed documents, it would collapse as quickly as the Russian collusion fraud did when former special counsel Robert Mueller stumbled through his congressional inquiry.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)—who is usually lying when his lips aren’t moving and always is when they are—says we will not be hearing from a non-whistleblowing leaker, to give his hearsay evidence of a conversation that any person in the world can read and see has no legal implications whatever. But the investigation indomitably continues. It is like the last government of the German Third Reich, meeting in the week following the death of Hitler on the few thousand acres they still governed on the Danish border, discussing agriculture and immigration.

With no evidence of wrongdoing by the president, the Trump-hating media is now scrambling after Rudolph Giuliani, formerly one of the nation’s toughest prosecutors, as if they can pin something on him while he acted as the president’s private attorney. With Hunter Biden in hiding, this ludicrous mockery must end. Pompous commentators who don’t like Trump but have learned to live with their underestimation of him cannot go on indefinitely with wagging heads and furrowed foreheads, discussing the president’s “crisis.”

Seeing Past the Illusion

Fox News, which is generally well-disposed to the president, published a poll last week that 51 percent of Americans believe the president should be impeached and removed from office.

Fox’s polls aren’t very accurate, though their news coverage and comment are quite professional. But this one is bunk. Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans may wish there was a reason to remove Trump, or hope that he won’t be reelected. That figure is insufficient to change congressional votes on an impeachment resolution, given that about 45 percent of the country is militantly pro-Trump and probably 10 million others will hold their noses and vote for his substantive performance despite his stylistic foibles.

But a substantial part of the anti-Trump vote is a levitation, sustained by the unprecedented hostility and dishonesty of almost all the national political media, which has been confirmed in independent studies by Harvard University and the Pew Research Center and others.

Not all the hostile media is shrill. My rational and moderate friend of many years, Fareed Zakaria (CNN), wrote in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 11 that he now favors “an impeachment inquiry” because Trump’s “efforts to pressure the new Ukrainian government, including his phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, were profoundly wrong;” and because of Trump’s “far more troubling . . . refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry.”

Implicit in this explanation is the retreat away from the Trump-Zelensky telephone call, which is effectively conceded not to be probative evidence of any impropriety. Instead, Democrats are returning to the justification that impeachment is warranted based upon unspecified, unimaginable, and surely nonexistent evidence of presidential misconduct. The pitiful squeak that is meant to be a clinching argument is Trump’s refusal to cooperate with an impeachment inquiry based on an illusion.

The Democrats are stuck with this clunker. Maybe Pelosi wanted to humiliate the young Marxist congresswomen and Schiff and the porcine Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House judiciary committee. Maybe she wanted to get this out of the way now before it caused the Democrats more embarrassment, and before the long-awaited indictments of a number of prominent members of the previous administration for its unconstitutional confection and promotion of the Trump-Russian collusion fraud. It is not for me to read Pelosi’s mind, but she must have had some reason to let this anemic, spavined cat out of the bag. But this cat can’t purr and has no whiskers, let alone claws. In Monty Pythonese, “It’s a dead Cat!” (and it won’t even bounce).

The Democrats’ presidential nomination candidates are a rag-tag of extremists, kooks, dolts, and bumbling geriatrics, (Hillary was back last week with her autocue squib that Trump’s “an illegitimate president”). But it is a national party because it has tens of millions of traditional supporters who are reasonable people. Their aversion to Trump enabled most of them to endure the bone-crushing defeat over the Russian fiction. The allegation a few weeks ago of a 30-year-old act of sexual misconduct by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which had most of the candidates screaming for his impeachment in the 24 hours before it was exposed as a completely unfounded charge, must have caused unease to many thoughtful Democrats.

But when this stinker implodes, after they have got the faithful to the edges of their chairs and exhumed John Dean and Carl Bernstein, the bloodless assassins of Richard Nixon, and the full gallery of their unctuous homelists and pietists who demean the occupation of commentator, sensible Democrats will disembark. The best way Democrats can serve their party now is to try to get a plausible semi-moderate like Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, no world-beater but Walter Mondale in drag-she can lose with honor and dignity, and turn off the CNN-MSNBC-main network hate machine.

Trump can’t be removed from his office; he deserves and will gain reelection on his record; the Democrats will be back-both parties always are. But the sooner the country tunes out this dishonest, evil media putschism, the better for the whole country, especially the national political news outlets themselves.

About Conrad Black

Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years, and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world as owner of the British telegraph newspapers, the Fairfax newspapers in Australia, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times and scores of smaller newspapers in the U.S., and most of the daily newspapers in Canada. He is the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, one-volume histories of the United States and Canada, and most recently of Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other. He is a member of the British House of Lords as Lord Black of Crossharbour.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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