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Issues & Insights

Impeachment: The New Front In The War On Free Speech

I&I Editorial

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s haughty restrictions on fiery upstate New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik’s questioning of ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch on Friday were the most visible manifestation of Democrats’ impeachment efforts being in reality a communications war. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s House majority isn’t abiding by any Geneva Convention protocols.

But when the day’s public impeachment hearings were over, eminent Washington attorney Samuel Dewey, who’s wielded the legal artillery in major House and Senate investigations scrutinizing the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told Fox’s Neil Cavuto that the muzzling goes far beyond the noisy C-SPAN theater.

Schiff is “restricting relevant evidence,” Dewey pointed out. “He’s not allowing Republican members to question on transcripts that he hasn’t released yet,” a reference to the committee’s secret deposition of witnesses whose testimony is sealed, but from which Schiff and Democrats then cherry pick and leak to the press.

Schiff is also refusing to allow the GOP members of his panel to bring what Democrats call “sham witnesses” before his panel – meaning figures who would provide details of the connection between Ukrainian government corruption and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, whose son Hunter was paid a fortune by a Ukrainian firm while his father was vice president despite Hunter Biden’s lack of expertise in anything of value to the firm.

And that big moment in the Yovanovitch hearing, when President Donald Trump right in the midst of her testimony tweeted a harshly negative assessment of her record in various posts, which Schiff proceeded to read to her, and to which Yovanovitch reacted with horror and called “intimidating”?

Even Trump allies have been shy to endorse the tweet, but Dewey provided a compelling contrarian perspective based on his experience in similar congressional testimony settings. He contended that “it was perfectly fair for him to comment on the witness during the hearing. I’ve seen that all the time in hearings I’ve been involved with. People are live-tweeting. Some of them are are very critical, coming from important people.”

Dewey also pointed out that “if this were following the procedures from the Nixon impeachment, from the Clinton impeachment, his [Trump’s] counsel would have been there to cross-examine today. He did not have that basic procedural protection, so he had to resort to Twitter to weigh in. He was denied that right.”

Far from it being “witness tampering,” as Schiff immediately accused Trump of committing, Dewey said Trump merely “commented on the credibility of the witness, and that’s perfectly appropriate.”

The message from Democrats is that the president of the United States exercising the same constitutional right of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment that all Americans enjoy is an obscenity – indeed a felony, it supposedly being a process crime that interferes with the House’s impeachment inquiry.

Stefanik is interrupted a half dozen times because she’s in technical violation of Schiff’s strict enforcement of his committee’s slanted rules, and because she’s a rising star whose on-camera demeanor is too effective. Not to mention she’s a female New Yorker from the very blue city of Albany whose father ran a plywood business.

Urban and suburban Northeastern women from working-class and small-business backgrounds are supposed to be left-leaning Democrats. That’s an important component of the party’s narrative as it seeks to regain the White House by slashing Trump and everyone attached to him. For a national audience to hear her smashes that stereotype.

Censorship The Only Way To Beat Conservative Ideas

Suppressing free speech constitutes the heart of today’s left-dominated Democratic Party. It’s being used to destroy a Republican president, but it’s perhaps most often used to prevent voters from being exposed to conservative ideas, because such concepts are the key to keeping Democrats out of power and preventing the left’s agenda of socialist economics and continued social revolution from being implemented.

An assortment of examples from the expression suppression battlefields:

  • The apparently unending censorship, obstruction, harassment, and even physical assault of conservative speakers and activists on college campuses
  • Demands that Twitter suspend Trump’s account on the social media platform, with his nearly 67 million followers
  • The outrage from Democrats over Attorney General William Barr’s choice of the word “spying” while testifying to Congress in the spring to describe the Obama administration’s probing of dealings between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia
  • Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s plans to use government intimidation against doctors who express candid medical opinions to non-white patients
  • Veering the debate over what to do about the failures of government-run public education away from discussion of school choice alternatives for exasperated low-income parents, such as vouchers and charter schools, so that the focus is limited to seeking further taxpayer funding – in other words throwing tens of billions of dollars more in good money after bad
  • The granddaddy of Democrats’ objectives in squelching constitutionally protected freedom of political speech: overturning the Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United ruling, which protected the paid expression of political views by organizations – be they corporations, nonprofits, or labor unions – and substituting a system restricted to government-financed political advertising, which would place the left into power perpetually.

If the ideas that Democrats’ espouse were as beneficial for Americans as Democrats hold them to be, they would be eager to put them up against the conservative proposals they revile, anxious to engage in debate after debate.

Seventy years ago, those leaning left were so confident of how overmatched conservatives were intellectually, Columbia University literature professor and literary critic Lionel Trilling could smugly declare that “liberalism,” as he and other advocates of ever-expanding government defined it, “is not only the dominant, but even the sole intellectual tradition” in America. He added that “the conservative impulse and the reactionary impulse … do not express themselves in ideas, but only in action or in irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas.”

Since then, from losing a domestic war on poverty to losing, via incrementalism, a foreign war in Vietnam; from seeing personal morals turned upside down in the ’60s to feeling tax revenues trickle down in the ’80s, the ideas of the left have failed. and those of the right have triumphed, confounding conventional expectation.

Democrats simply cannot win a war of competing ideas, so they must change the conflict to one of competing communication strategies. A Donald Trump associated with tax cuts, regulatory relief, record high markets and record low unemployment, fighting back against Chinese economic warfare, restraining unfettered immigration, and fulfilling the pledge to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem made by previous presidents of both parties – that Donald Trump is sure to win reelection next year.

A Donald Trump forced to wear a Scarlet “I” is far less likely to.

— Written by Thomas McArdle


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5 comments

  • This is the investigation phase which does not include the other side. Your side gets its turn at the trial in the Senate.

    Did Clinton get any folk on Ken Starr’s team? NO. The Democrats let you in as a favor because they have the evidence to do it, and wanted you to see it.

  • Communication must proceed from statements of fact. While neither side is purely on the side of the angels in the context of an increasingly rancorous partisan process, the Right is more sinning than sinned against. Case in point – this editorial begins by repeating the specious claim that Rep. Stefanik was subjected to unusual treatment in the Impeachment Hearings. In fact, Stefanik and Nunes certainly knew that their actions were a violation of rules and staged some political theater, which this editorial has duly seized upon as “proof”. Stefanik’s violation of the rules was *actual* not *technical*. But you’d have to know how our government functions on a minute and granular level to realize that and most people do not tune into C-SPAN to observe parliamentary procedure at work.

    In terms of a “war of ideas” – Trumpism has removed the fig-leaf from Conservatism revealing it to be utterly devoid of the ideas that defined it in the 60s, 70s and 80s. There are no great conservative voices akin to Buckley, Kirk, Friedman, Bennett et.al. Saying anything to hold power has become the hallmark of GOP politicians, who can voice their great disdain for Trump in one moment and then their servile devotion to his leadership regardless of what he does to erode norms and traditions expected of the Presidency. Virtue? Morality? Decency? These are now quaint concepts that conservatives have dropped in an effort to hold power. (Cue reference to the Left’s lack of all these qualities as though that represents a meaningful rebuttal.)

    • Trump’s policies and appointments are almost completely a dream come true for conservatives. Buckley and Friedman would love most of what he’s doing. And Bennett does love him.

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