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Issues & Insights

An Impeachment That Is More Madison Ave. Than James Madison

C-SPAN

“Once again, the communication process has broken down. It appears to me that you want to skip the arraignment process, go directly to trial, skip that and get a dismissal.” — Judge Chamberlain Haller, “My Cousin Vinny”

The spirit of Vincent LaGuardia Gambini reappeared in the hallowed halls of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

There we heard from three learned law professors ready, willing and eager to serve as judge, jury and executioner in the sham impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.

Harvard’s Noah Feldman: “President Trump has committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by corruptly abusing the office of the presidency.”

Stanford’s Pamela Karlan: “When President Trump invited, indeed demanded, foreign involvement in our upcoming elections… (t)hat demand constituted an abuse of power.”

And North Carolina’s Michael Gerhardt: “(T)he record compiled thus far shows that the president has committed several impeachable offenses, including bribery, abuse of power in soliciting a personal favor from a foreign leader to benefit his political campaign, obstructing Congress, and obstructing justice.”

There you have it. Let’s skip the impeachment vote and trial, go directly to the guilty verdict, and head straight to Mike Pence’s swearing-in.

Except for one thing: None of these eminences is a member of the United States House of Representatives. Nor is any a Senator.

Which means that for all their erudition and education, the Three Tenureds’ conclusions as to the President’s guilt mean as much as yours or mine: exactly jack spit.

Their job as witnesses: to offer guidance and perspective – not rulings from on high.

Professor Feldman acknowledged as much: “My role is not to address the determination of credibility that is properly yours.” (Which is why he added immediately thereafter: “President Trump’s conduct described in the testimony and evidence clearly constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under the Constitution.”)

So what was Wednesday’s farce all about? Simply this: a further use of the hearings format as a public relations exercise to get Americans to buy into a predetermined outcome.

Offering up, as in the prior House Intelligence Committee impeachment circus, more self-important people lecturing America as to how we must agree that the president is guilty – of disagreeing with their better-informed views of how the world should be.

In those hearings, we got, sneering down their noses, the dulcet-toned and unimpeachable (to coin a phrase) career diplomat William Taylor. Virtuous, victimized ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Insufferably stuffy and superior George Kent and Fiona Hill (she of the snooty British accent). Decorated and ostensibly noble soldier (but admitted snitch) Alexander Vindman.

Their PR artifices surfaced again in the Judiciary hearings – starting with Feldman’s stereotypical, professorial tweedy jacket that, like Kent’s bow tie, was carefully selected to demonstrate his elevated intellect and standing – and continuing with:

Bombastic, conclusory language: “Clearly.” “Demanded.” “Defiance.”

Spiffy soundbites: “If we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy.”  “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

The required moment of high dudgeon: “Mr. Collins, I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts, so I’m insulted by the suggestion that as law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

(P.S. Chill, lady. We could hear you throughout. You did have a microphone in front of you.)

But most important, careful framing of the issues around impeachment to align with the Democrats’ “narrative:” “The classic form of the high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of office is using the office of the presidency for personal advantage or gain, not for the public interest…. “

“Other forms of abuse of office include the use of the office of the presidency to corrupt the electoral process or to compromise the national interest or national security.”

Whether or not these academics read the transcripts, they for sure internalized Adam Schiff’s talking points.

Wednesday’s show had its desired effect: ABC’s David Muir, for example, opened his evening newscast gravely intoning about the impeachment process’s “dramatic turn” with “explosive testimony.”

But to maintain the slightest wisp of credibility for an impeachment process that from the start has been more Madison Avenue than James Madison, the profs might have done better to heed that well-placed piece of millennial advice:

Stay in your lane, bro.


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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at bob@rpmexecutive.com.

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About Issues & Insights

Issues & Insights is a new site formed by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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