Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Mueller hearing may advance Trump's defeat, not impeachment

I watched the entire Mueller hearing this morning. There were no big, revelatory moments; realists expected none.

Democrats used their time to feature Trump's known obstructions of justice. 

Republicans made their predictable attacks on Mueller and his team.

I doubt many minds were changed.

Republicans had already won the critical, initial framing battle when AG William Barr in April held a misleading news conference to release a misleading summary of the report which Mueller had completed in March, and which Trump and his echo chamber have been repeating misleadingly and self-servingly ever since.

Those months of delay and spin - - more obstruction, if you will - - in a political and media environment which now changes at the speed of a tweet - - helped make today's hearing anti-climatic.

If you were expecting a fireworks show grand finale, think bottle rockets and a couple of Roman candles instead.

Much of the hearing format did not favor Mueller, as his presentation and answers were constrained by law, Justice Department policies, a crummy mic, his professionalism and low-key demeanor. 

And though Mueller was obliged to refuse answering many questions, and had to have questions repeated so he could verify a line being quoted or to check a page reference - - all of which suggested, unfairly, that he was unfamiliar with details in an obviously complex probe and report - - he was savvy enough to decline Democrats' requests to read aloud portions of the report obviously damaging to Trump.

Which means there will be no descriptions of illegal or shady behavior by Trump or his allies' with Mueller's picture and voice which Democratic could have out into ads during campaign 2020.

I'm not watching the second hearing. I'll update this report if need be.


Primary and caucus voting begins in Iowa on February 3, 2020. Candidates are already campaigning there, in South Carolina, Nevada and elsewhere.

Which means the Dems will have to decide quickly if they want to, let alone could even get the logistics and mechanics of impeachment hearings rolling - - all of which would subsume most everything else through November, 2020.

And which would give Trump and his allies a 24/7 opportunity to complain that Trump is again the victim through a sort of political double jeopardy - - possible removal by impeachment and trial prior to citizen balloting.

I can't quickly find the polling or exit interviews which backed it up, but I know there is a school of thought that Walker won the recall election in part because some voters thought it was unfair to try and remove him from office before the next regularly-scheduled election.

Dems did not move more quickly on impeachment. They took over the House of Representatives in January but put impeachment on the back burner.

Months have been frittered away, abetted by Trump's foot-dragging that began over an interview with Mueller which was never going to happen, then the drip-drip-drip of Barr's maneuvers, plus on-going games being played by Team Trump with Congressional subpoenas, etc. etc.

And official Washington shuts down in August.

So I'm guessing the Dems won't go for impeachment, but instead will try and unite - - fingers crossed - - behind an appealing ticket - - fingers crossed - - that can defeat Trump in 2020 by focusing on his lack of presidential fitness and on his serial international, domestic, authoritarian and racist outrages, including his documented obstructions of justice and coziness with the very Russians who raided the 2016 election process on his behalf.

In other words, "Mueller Report" and everything for which it is shorthand for "Trump's illegitimacy "- - can become a key cudgel in defeating him at the ballot box - - but not in an impeachment process shoehorned into an unfriendly calendar for delivery to a worshipful, pro-Trump US Senate - - and only if Democrats choose smart moves and we all make it the cause of our lifetimes.

I'm not happy with all this. I know the polls say Trump is unpopular but I don't think polling reflects the fanatical commitment he enjoys from his base and the unseemly willingness of everyday "R's" to unite around him as he skillfully plays his dangerous deck of Race, Red Scare and Resentment cards.

Most Presidents win second terms. Trump has an excellent chance to get one, given his unique ability to manipulate all media.

I think he's beatable, but I also think impeachment is a longer and less likely shot, and I haven't seen anything yet during the hearings and the reporting I've read that suggests otherwise.

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