So far, the efforts to impeach President Donald Trump have revealed far more about the corruption in US foreign policy and the Washington bureaucracy than any White House wrongdoing. Nevertheless, the establishment persisted.
To hear Adam Schiff (D-California), chair of the House Intelligence Committee and the Democrats' point-man for the impeachment process, this is about no less than "defending our democracy" and stopping Trump's "abuse of power." His staff even made an ominous-looking web page laying out the "evidence."
Republicans point out, not incorrectly, that the evidence amounts to second-hand hearsay from career bureaucrats who seemed either completely uninterested in admitted Ukrainian meddling into the 2016 US presidential election; or Joe Biden's son serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company; or Biden's public boasts about threatening Kiev in order to have a Ukrainian prosecutor fired- or eager to make excuses for all these actions, while somehow considering Trump's behavior unacceptable, beyond the pale, outside all norms, and just not the way things are done in Washington.
Except none of that is illegal, much less impeachable, and is also precisely what Trump promised to do when running for president - and largely delivered on since.The key takeaway from the testimonies of Ambassadors Kent, Taylor and Yovanovitch and Lt. Colonel Vindman - both in secret and so far in public - seems to be that US foreign policy is created by some kind of "interagency consensus."Not according to the US Constitution, however, which says it is the purview of the president. Disagreeing with the current president does not, and should not, change that fact.
What the bow-tied bureaucrats boasting about their family pedigrees and generations of public service don't seem to understand is how much they are making the case for Trump to the American people in "flyover country."Every word out of their mouths is an indictment against the continued rule of the coastal elites and fodder for Trump's re-election campaign.
Americans watching the five-hour circus on all major cable networks on Wednesday saw and heard nothing that they hadn't already heard over the past four years - or the past two months, since the anonymous "whistleblower"claimed based on third-hand information that Trump did something bad in regard to Ukraine, though no one for the life of them has been able to articulate exactly what.
A good case in point is this line by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who challenged Ambassador Bill Taylor's claim of "clear understanding" that Trump was pressuring Ukraine into investigating the Bidens by withholding military aid.
"We've got six people having four conversations in one sentence, and you just told me this is where you got your clear understanding?" Jordan asked. "I've seen church prayer chains that are easier to understand than this."
Half the country got the reference. The other half wondered what a "prayer chain" might be.
Though the entire hearing was broadcast live, evening TV coverage selectively highlighted partisan angles for the "benefit" of Americans who were too busy working to watch. Needless to say, what they chose to highlight just reinforced the biases of people who have already made up their minds, be they Republicans who think there is nothing there, or Democrats convinced that Orange Man Bad.
Political pundit-land has very short memories. Things that happened yesterday are ancient history. Those with longer attention spans, however, may recall that this Ukraine brouhaha is only the latest gambit in the years-long effort to stop Trump from getting elected, or derail him afterwards - from "emoluments" to "Russian collusion."
Even though the Mueller probe fizzled spectacularly and offered precisely zero evidence for any "collusion" or conspiracy involving Trump and Russia, the collective hysteria has paid off for Democrats. Not only have they made gains with suburban voters, they've got much of America, including many Republicans, buying into the "Russian meddling" narrative.
While this impeachment probe doesn't seem to be persuading the general public, perhaps they are not the actual target. Rather, the Democrats seem to be zeroing in on the faction of the GOP defeated in the 2016 primaries, hoping they will cross the aisle and help them get rid of Trump in exchange for restoring the status quo ante.
Will they succeed? Not even Schiff seems confident of it. One thing is for certain, the impeachment process will result in more hearings, more drama, more profits for cable channels - and more political division in America going into the 2020 elections. The establishment doesn't seem particularly concerned, though, knowing they can always deflect by blaming Russia for that - just like the last time.