Madness

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Ben Mathis-Lilley,Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Is Having an Online Meltdown a Good Defense Strategy?

For the record, I do not endorse the 80 percent figure. But I do endorse the description of Trump’s impeachment “defense” as an online meltdown.

As I wrote, there are only so many ways of defending against impeachment. One is to argue, “I didn’t do it.” Insofar as the charge is soliciting election help from a foreign government, with the aggravating factor of coercing that foreign government by threatening to withhold military aid, Trump and his defenders are foreclosed from arguing “I didn’t do it.”

That is because Trump’s release of the July 25 “transcript” is a legal admission that the words in that document are accurate.

And the words in that document establish that charge.

The foreclosure point is illustrated by the attempted defense proffered by Kevin McCarthy, the House Minority Leader. The headline captures his problem: Trying to defend Trump, GOP leader caught off guard by reality.

The second defense is “I did it, but it was OK.” See, for example, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.

The third defense is, “I did it, and it wasn’t OK, but it wasn’t impeachable.” The impeachment of Bill Clinton is an example. So is the initial Ukrainegate defense offered by Moscow Mitch: “There was nothing impeachable in that call” or words to that general effect.

The logic of the present situation is that those who are determined to defend against impeachment will embrace the third defense. This will cause some awkwardness, because the third defense, applied to this situation, means that you have to claim it’s a minor peccadillo—something like lying about your sex life—to withhold portable antitank missiles from a country being invaded by Russian tanks until the country’s government coughs up dirt on your opponent.

Meanwhile, Trump himself has not adopted the first defense, he has not adopted the second defense, and he has not embraced the third defense. Instead, as Mr. Mathis-Lilly writes,

With both the facts and the public against him, Trump is, to use a political science term, going berserk. On Sunday he sent or retweeted 20 Twitter posts about a Fox News host, Ed Henry, who’d suggested in measured terms that Trump’s conduct toward Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky may not have been appropriate. (One of the retweets referred to Henry as a “lying shit head.”) Then he wrote out and endorsed a statement that MAGA megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress made on Fox in which Jeffress warned that impeachment would cause a “Civil War-like fracture.” Finally, Trump has begun demanding that House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff be arrested and “questioned at the highest level” for committing treason, the alleged treason having occurred when Schiff paraphrased Trump’s conversation with Zelensky in the manner of a Mafia-style shakedown during a hearing last Thursday …

(Schiff made clear before his account of the conversation that he was conveying its “essence” in “not so many words,” not reading it verbatim.)

Trump’s party does not seem to be embracing this crisis-response approach.

So, to Review the Bidding

We have reached a state where a berserk president is reduced to paroxysms of anger when a reporter on state propaganda channel Fox News reports that the words on a paper that Trump released say what the words say.

A situation where the House Minority Leader tries to deny reality.

A situation where the Republican Senate leader, Moscow Mitch, chooses not to deny reality but to defend an utterly indefensible proposition.

And a situation where the mad king’s madness prevents him from accepting professional advice or articulating a remotely coherent defense, let alone a winning defense.

And this is supposed to be a situation in which progressives are hanging themselves by pursuing impeachment.