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Winning the Messaging Battle, Part II

Impeachment Gamble Already Backfiring on Democrats

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

This shiny new “impeachment inquiry” package placed under an early Christmas tree by Speaker Nancy Pelosi will ultimately contain one of two things: objective evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors by President Trump, or something that will blow up in their faces as others have before.


The ultimate answer will be dictated not by Trump supporters or tormentors, but by the facts. 

The timing of the Pelosi announcement Tuesday was odd from the start.  Weaving dramatic tales of a republic in peril, slinging charges with no established basis, she fell in line with the younger, brasher wing of her party before one word had been released from the Trump conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart.  She heaped mounds of stigma onto the infamous “whistleblower” report with no firm knowledge of what it says.

This seemed nervy, even from a party that has peppered the nation with endless impeachment teases.  Pelosi’s decision to pick up that hymnal is an important gesture, even though there is nothing concrete behind the “inquiry” she has announced.  It’s little more than the promise of a broader, busier gaggle of committees beating the drum they have flogged since soon after the inauguration.

It is important because it temporarily quiets the narrative that Pelosi is a desperate leader out of step with the modern party.  At least in the short term, I don’t believe we’ll be hearing further snarky asides from radicalized freshmen about generational rifts.  Madam Speaker is on board.


But is she really?  Has she suddenly decided that impeachment is a wise 2020 campaign strategy, or was the writing so indelibly on the wall that she figured she’d better satisfy the masses or risk irrelevancy?

Either way, she is now the face of impeachment; her fate will rise and fall with its plausibility.  The early news is not good.Cirque du Soleil in its most daring shows cannot rival the contortionists seeking to find something sinister in the quotes from the Trump phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.  Corruption and outright illegality exist in that memo only in the reddened eyes of Trump’s fiercest critics.

This is not surprising in this latest season of illiteracy regarding the law.  The whistleblower statutes are meant to provide cover within agencies for brave souls who sense malfeasance and seek to bring it to light without committing career suicide.  It does not extend in any fashion to miscreants seeking to troll the president of the United States.

The phone call memo is dead on arrival as a force toward Trump’s ruin.  Now we may get to enjoy the spectacle of the leaker (a far better term) testifying before Congress.  Please tell me who thinks this is a good idea.  The Robert Mueller testimony may look positively coherent by comparison.


The arc of this story can certainly change.  As the gaggle of House committees tries to avoid stepping all over each other, a hungry media climate will devour every development.  This may or may not be of benefit to a Democratic Party that has telegraphed its doubts about any of its candidates’ ability to beat Trump next year.

That 2020 field will spend the coming weeks talking about little else.  The topical oxygen that would otherwise be devoted to their healthcare plans, their environmental forecasts and even their broad critiques of the Trump era will now be consumed by the minutiae of Ukrainegate.  If that story collapses under the weight of its own silliness, Democrats may look back on this week’s momentary glee and wonder if there is an exit strategy from a quagmire of their own making.

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