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Politics & Policy

‘Dream-Team’ Redux?

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler listens as constitutional scholars testify on the impeachment Inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 4, 2019. (Drew Angerer/Reuters)

There was a lot of pre-hearing hype about the Democrats’ supposedly stellar academic experts, sort of analogous to the giddiness about the “dream team,” “all-stars,” and “hunter-killer” legal eagles that Robert Mueller supposedly had assembled to pick apart the Trump carrion — and they likewise proved a complete dud.

There were a number of errors that reminded us why Pelosi had originally outsourced the impeachment gambit to the duplicitous but cunning Schiff rather than to the bumbling and clueless Nadler and his Judiciary Committee, who has now all but blown up his inquiry in just its initial hours.

1) By stacking the witnesses 3–1 and ignoring Jonathan Turley, the Democrats only hyped the writ against them that they are biased and unfair. Worse still, the Republicans’ witness Turley, former Bush administration critic who had voted against Trump, came across as the far more disinterested. Could not the Democrats have found one pro-Trump professor who had soured on him and now favored impeachment? Does the self-described “snarky” Karlan have any common sense at all — or even an associate with common sense who might have warned her that her canned, preplanned smear of Barron Trump was not just boorish, but a public relations disaster?

2) We are reminded that, outside small captive audiences on campus, academics are not very good public speakers and usually argue on the basis of presumed authority rather than facts and analysis. The three partisans came across as nasal, whiney, emotional, biased, and self-referential — and their past anti-Trump tweets, and partisan careers, clips, and interviews only confirmed the current stereotypes. On Ukraine, they said the same old, same old thing in mostly the same old ways.

And the three came off like those talking academic heads in documentaries, who sometimes wish to make the most of their 2 minutes of fame by turning up the volume and animation. Turley, in contrast, is a cool veteran of televised news analysis. His op-eds are sober and judicious. And he is a skilled public debater, who knows how to keep calm and analytical. He quickly eviscerated the three with apologetic ease — and deferential smiles. So whose bright idea was it to allow three partisan mediocrities to gang up against Turley, whose  rapier thrusts are well known? Americans love underdog odds, but Turley didn’t even break a sweat in leaving gaping holes in almost every argument advanced by the experts and House panel. He may have given the best solo congressional witness performance in modern memory.

3) It is easy to say that once again, as in the case of the Schiff committee, the Democratic House members were far less skilled in questioning, and more rambling and incoherent. But then to be fair they had the harder task to showcase the three academics who brought no new evidence to the issue and failed in their primary mission to offer novel strategies of impeachment — apparently abuse of power now replacing bribery that replaced quid pro quo that had replaced the Mueller team’s collusion and obstruction. The Republicans had the far easier task of simply reminding the country there was nothing new to justify alleged articles of impeachment (whatever they actually were?) and otherwise just sat back and unleashed Turley on his poorly prepared colleagues.

4) What now? Nadler did real damage to the impeachment cause. His first day should have had a Bolton or some high Trump official coming forward in pained expressions as he related shocking quid pro quos. Instead, Nadler’s academics gave the public yet another boring reminder of why people voted for Trump in the first place. All that can be said for Nadler so far  is that like Schiff, he keeps national attention away from what Sanders, Warren, and Biden are saying. And that at this point is at least something.

If Nadler had any sense, he would simply fold his tent and stop the damage he is doing to House candidates in 2020.


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