NRPLUS Conference Call with Rich Lowry and Doug Schoen

(NRO Illustration: Elijah Smith)

On September 27, NR editor in chief Rich Lowry spoke with Democratic campaign strategist Doug Schoen to members of the NRPLUS group on a private conference call. On the call, Doug and Rich discussed the politics of impeachment, what Trump did and said during his now-infamous telephone conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, and the Democratic primary.

Rich began by asking Doug about House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to stop tap-dancing at the river’s edge and cross the Rubicon. Doug said that first off, he believes the Democrats moved far too quickly, and acting before they had the transcript in their hands struck him as “imprudent at best.” Doug believes that what pushed Pelosi over was the seven members of Congress from swing districts who wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, given the existing enthusiasm the base has for impeaching Trump.

Rich followed up with a pair of questions about Pelosi’s actual commitment to impeachment and what the lack of a hard vote having been scheduled means for impeachment. Doug said that he does not believe that Pelosi is committed. He thinks that House leadership is going to let the inquiry play out before they engage in more self-induced political controversy or unforced errors. As for the lack of a vote, Doug said it’s simple: They don’t want a narrow partisan vote they might lose. They thought that the question of whether a quid pro quo happened would be resolved by now quite easily. Yet it’s become more murky, especially with the revelation that the whistleblower was a secondhand observer with an acknowledged partisan agenda. So they’re scared to take a vote that could compound their problem.

Next, Rich turned to the propriety of the call, questioning Doug on whether Trump pushing the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into the president is improper. Doug recognized that Trump was too forward with Zelensky, but said that as he read the transcript, he felt that it didn’t look like an impeachable offense. To him, it looked like a president looking to get to the bottom of things and concerned about corruption in Ukraine. Is this enough to remove from office a president with a year or so to go in his term? “I don’t think it even came close.”

Rich posed a hypothetical: Let’s say that it came out that the purpose of stopping the aid to Ukraine, which happened a few weeks before the call, was to kickstart the investigation, and that this was all made clear by President Trump or his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Would that change Doug’s calculation?

Doug said it would, but it wouldn’t have much material impact on the impeachment proceedings, as Trump would just say “look what I said, look what I did, don’t worry about them.” Going back to Nixon, it was only when the tapes came out and the smoking gun revealed that everything began. Rich agreed, saying that the transcript of the call didn’t bother him except for the presence of Giuliani. Doug agreed, saying that this investigative role that Giuliani has taken is far outside the appropriate realm of responsibility for a president’s personal lawyer.

Next they moved to the Democratic primary, with Rich asking why Warren has been surging. Doug said that for a few reasons, her campaign has been as good as anybody’s. She’s reached out at the grassroots level, she has a compelling message, she’s a fresh face nationally, and compared to Sanders and Biden, she’s “a spring chicken.” The moralism of her support for redistribution, Doug explained, also appeals to a substantial base that believes more in redistribution than economic growth.

In response to a question from Rich about how she is overtaking Bernie, Doug replied that Bernie has “played himself out.” Much of what he advocated in 2016 has been adopted by many in the party, and people can’t see Bernie as president anymore. At this point, Warren is better, and she’s a woman running in a party in which 60 percent of the vote is female. She’s basically absorbing the votes that Bernie used to have.

Rich and Doug finished with a few questions from users, who were submitting on the Facebook group, via the plus@nationalreview.comemail address, and using the Zoom desktop app. The recording is posted above, and we look forward to seeing you on the next call!

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

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