Thursday, December 05, 2019

CHARLIE SYKES GETS LOST IN THE TIME-POLITICS CONTINUUM

#NeverTrumper Charlie Sykes wants Democrats to slow the impeachment down
Why the rush? Democrats, now in the midst of House Judiciary Committee hearings, seem intent on forcing an impeachment vote before Christmas. But moving too fast risks ignoring new evidence that might emerge, failing to pressure key players to testify and/or turn over records, letting the story’s momentum die over the holidays and playing into Trump’s hands.
I'm puzzled by this. Sykes wants Democrats to stretch this process out over a longer period of time because otherwise there's the risk that they'll be "letting the story’s momentum die over the holiday." But isn't slowing the process down precisely how momentum would be lost? Isn't that how momentum works? If you apply the brakes, don't you curtail momentum?

And what pressure can Democrats apply to get key players to testify or surrender records? Pressure isn't going to do it -- this White House and those who've worked for it respond only to court orders, and I wouldn't be so sure they'll respond to those. In my last post, I criticized Charlie Savage's news analysis on this subject in The New York Times, but let me again quote the passage I agree with, because it shows how Trump and his allies can grind the process to a virtual halt.
The opening stage of the fight over [a] subpoena to [former White House counsel Don] McGahn consumed nearly a third of the year before the judge completed a 120-page ruling rejecting it. The Justice Department then immediately appealed. It can repeat that process before a three-judge panel, and then again before the full appeals court and then before the Supreme Court.

And even if the Supreme Court ultimately orders such an official to show up for testimony, he could then refuse to discuss conversations with Mr. Trump on the ground that their contents are privileged. That would start a new cycle of litigation.
Not very good for momentum, I'd say. (This is precisely what House Democrats learned when they tried to investigate Russiagate earlier this year.)

Sykes writes:
... perhaps most important, the rush to a vote ignores the fact that speed is Donald Trump’s friend.

Trump counts on a dizzying, vertiginous cycle of news, outrage and disinformation to move past damaging stories before they are fully absorbed or placed into context.

Blink and you will miss it: kids in cages, “human scum,” the G-7 and Doral, “send her back,” his fraudulent foundation. Remember when Trump was planning to invite the Taliban to Camp David on the eve of 9/11? And how many weeks has it been since he gave Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan the green light to invade Syria?

Stories that would once have dominated the public’s consciousness for weeks, now can vanish in less than a single news cycle. By Friday of every week, even those of us who follow the news for a living have a hard time remembering the stories that had consumed our attention on Monday.

The same speed warp applies to impeachment. When did Ambassador Bill Taylor testify? Two months ago? Can you remember the key takeaways from his testimony? Who did Rudy Giuliani call when he was trying to have Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch sacked? What exactly is his relationship with indicted businessman Lev Parnas? Who tried to get the former Ukrainian prosecutor fired, and why?
So Sykes is saying that we don't remember what we learned two months ago, but we'll remember more if we stretch this process out to four or five or six months?

Sykes writes:
Trump thrives on this pace, knowing that he can move the focus from one issue to another and eclipse the most embarrassing stories with yet another embarrassment via tweet. For Trump, a dozen scandals are easier to face than one or two and the flood of new provocations serves not to outrage, but to distract and exhaust....

So there is value in slowing down and letting key pieces of evidence sink in for the public. Let the public catch up. Let the stories marinate a while.
But he also writes:
Impeachment, of course, is a solemn constitutional process that should center on facts, evidence and truth. Instead, we are getting a blizzard of bat shit.

“Much of the Republican Party,” the Washington Post reports, “is pressing ahead with debunked claims about Ukraine as they defend President Trump from possible impeachment, embracing Russian-fueled conspiracy theories that seek to cast blame on Kyiv rather than Moscow for interference in the 2016 U.S. election.”

... This willingness to embrace bat-guano crazy conspiracy theories will test the sanity of Democrats and voters alike. Unfortunately, the chief purveyor of the looniest theories is not Louisiana Senator John Kennedy (who was for it before he was against it before he was for it again) or even Representative Devin Nunes—it is the president of the United States himself, who continues to peddle bizarre stories about Ukraine, a tech company called CrowdStrike and the hacking of the DNC.

... It is important to recognize that the point of this Trumpian exercise in fabulism and gaslighting is not to convince the public of Trump’s innocence, but to confuse and obfuscate and hopefully make the public tune out and turn away.
But Trump and the Republicans don't fling shit only when they're under attack. They do it all the time. Sykes believes that Democrats should patiently wait as the question of testimony from key witnesses meanders through the court system. He thinks the Democrats' Ukraine narrative should be allowed to "marinate." During that period of waiting and marinating, Trump and his enablers will be creating the environment they prefer, one in which they're steering the overall political narrative, preferably by urging us to focus on and demonize the Bidens, Adam Schiff, the whistleblower, and the "liberal media," plus Hillary Clinton, George Soros, Strzok and Page, and whoever else is on Trump's enemies list that week. I can imagine arguments for patience and a good marinade, but it's absurd to argue that they'll allow Democrats to dominate the narrative.

I have doubts about the timing of this impeachment. I assume Nancy Pelosi actually wants it to be forgotten by Election Day, because she's afraid it's still a loser in swing districts. Is that a good reason to do it now? I'm not sure. But now that it's under way, I don't see the point of counting on the courts to ride to the rescue a few months from now, given the partisan makeup of the federal judiciary, and given the many slow steps on the journey from here to any final rulings. Now that we're on this bus, let's get to where we're going.

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