David Brooks and the Impeachment Polls

Dr. Aardvark and I are emotionally attached to David Brooks. He seems like a nice fellow, and he often has interesting things to say. But he has a regrettable tendency to be cavalier, dismissive, and unfamiliar with all the relevant data.

So, let’s take a little look at the fivethirtyeight.com poll of polls on the topic of impeachment, beginning with these images from today. Here’s how it looks on the fivethirtyeight.com home page:

Poll 1

And here’s how a more detailed picture—over a longer time frame—looks:

Poll 2

Main Takeaway from the Data

When Congressman Schiff started his hearings, the best available data showed that American were literally split right down the middle on impeachment.

After a week of Congressman Schiff’s hearings, 2.6 percent had shifted from the no-impeachment side to the impeachment side.

If you go to the site and slide the vertical line, you can put all of this in greater context. For example, just after Mueller testified, anti-impeachment sentiment prevailed to the tune of nine percent. Now it’s pro-impeachment by 2.6. (If you add into the mix polls asking whether people support the impeachment inquiry, the number shifts to 5.3 percent.)

So, no, sentiment is not shifting away from impeachment.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Haven’t heard from Nostradamus this morning, so I can’t say for sure. But Trump hasn’t got an alternative narrative. And Trump seems incapable of asserting his best (or least bad) defense: bad but not impeachable. He continues to insult his supporters with Ukrainian fairy tales. And he’s likely, at any time, to hurl withering insults at anyone who tries to defend him in the most plausible way possible.

A logical person would infer that he is going to lose some more ground.

But, as I said, it’s anyone’s guess how low he will go.

Time for some music, I’d say.

How about Limbo Rock in Danish?

A Little Thought Experiment—with a Cigar and a Blue Dress

cigar

I just shared some thoughts on a rational Trump’s best and worst impeachment defenses. Let me follow up with a little thought experiment.

Suppose that Bill Clinton hadn’t stopped with asking senators to vote for acquittal.

Suppose he had demanded, in addition, that they all join in affirming that stimulating your intern’s clitoris with a big cigar is not, by ironclad and indisputable definition, an act of “sex.”

Suppose that he also required his senatorial supporters to proclaim—loudly but without any evidence at all—that the people who did the DNA test on the blue dress were a bunch of crooked Republicans who produced fake test results.

That the DNA on the blue dress actually belonged to Lindsey Graham.

That the real DNA results had been stolen, and hidden away in a rural Ukrainian village.

How do you think it would have worked out for Bill Clinton if he had made those arguments?

The Best Defense

fairy tales

In the immediately preceding post, I laid out the four possible lines of defense. If Trump were thinking logically, which would he choose?

I will answer my own question.

The best alternative by far would be to admit that he conditioned Ukrainian military aid on a Ukrainian announcement that they would open some investigations of the Democrats, and argue that, in so acting, he did not commit an offense worthy of impeachment. There are five powerful considerations that would lead a rational Trump to adopt this posture. (They are all compelling, and I don’t know how to rank order them by importance, so I’ll mention them in random order.)

One. The dividing line between impeachable bad conduct and bad conduct that doesn’t merit impeachment is amorphous, undefined, loosy goosy—whatever term you like.

That means that, whatever bad thing you or your guy did, you can always move the goalpost so it’s just a little bit north of the bad conduct that actually occurred.

Your argument to move the goalpost may be bad and it may be unpersuasive, but at least it doesn’t insult your listeners’ intelligence.

Two. As far as we can tell right now, Trump has no alternative narrative  about the Ukrainian extortion. Evidently, he cannot give an explanation for why he decided to withhold the military aid, and when he decided to withhold it. Some spoke loosely of withholding aid “pending an interagency review.” But interagency reviews leave paper trails. Any paper trail here to evidence the purported review? And, evidently, he cannot explain why he decided to relent and let the aid flow after all—but for the obvious explanation that he got caught.

It’s as if he wants to blame the blueberry pie consumption on his older brother—but he doesn’t have an older brother.

Three. Asking your supporters to claim they believe an obvious fairy tale insults their intelligence, imposes severe cognitive dissonance on them, and tends to alienate any rational people who remain among your supporters.

Four. Asking your supporters to claim they believe an obvious fairy tale tacitly admits that what you actually did was impeachable as hell.

It tells everybody that if you did what you actually good, then your goose is cooked.

You’re done, stick a fork in.

Five. Bill Clinton got away with the “bad but not impeachable defense,” so why shouldn’t you?

So, that’s what Trump would do if he were acting logically.

But what will he actually do?

Ask Nostradamus, don’t ask me.

Nostradamus

Alternative Defenses, Blueberry Pies, and Three-Year-Olds

The time has come for Trump to lay out his defense to the charge that he used military aid to extort and bribe Ukraine.

With that thought in mind, let’s do this thought experiment. Let’s say you are a three-year-old named Al. Mamma has made some blueberry pies, but she has stepped out of the kitchen. You’re hungry and eat one of the pies, leaving evidence all over your face. Mamma comes in and demands an explanation. You have four possible lines of defense.

  1. Admit that You Ate the Pie, But Offer a Justification

For example: “I was starving, and. the blueberry pie was the only food I could find.”

  1. Admit that You Have Blueberries All Over Your Face, But Offer an Alternative Narrative

For example: “My big brother is the one who actually ate the pie, and then he rubbed some blueberries on my face to make me look guilty.”

  1. Admit that You Ate the Pie, But Argue that Spanking Your Butt is Unwarranted

For example: “Did you know that many studies have shown that spanking kids’ butts causes permanent psychological injury?”

Or maybe this: “Eating blueberry pie is not nearly as bad as all the other things I thought about doing.”

Or this: “When Bill Clinton was little, he ate blueberry pies, too, but he didn’t get spanked.”

But, since you are a three-year-old, you do not offer any of the above defenses. Instead, you pick number four:

  1. Just Stand There and Deny There is any Blueberry Pie on Your Face

**

Good day to the nice folks in Finland, India, and Thailand, who checked out this blog while I was busy writing my earlier posts this morning. They have joined early morning (US time) readers from Austria, Kenya, and the United States.

Words for Republicans to Use Defending Trump and Attacking Democrats, Helpfully Arranged in Alphabetical Order

dictionary

Please Forward to Your Favorite Republican Senators and Congresspersons

Good advocates stand up, state the proven facts in an understandable way and in logical order, sit down, and let the listener draw her own conclusion. There is no need for the advocate to state the conclusion; it flows naturally from the proven facts, properly presented.

Some advocates, however, have no case to make. Others have not got the slightest idea of how to be a good advocate. These kinds of advocates just stand up and hurl insults.

Now, Aardvark is nothing but a caring and compassionate person. And so, in the spirit of caring and compassion, I offer the following Words for Republicans to use in defending Trump and characterizing Democrats’ words and actions.

Words for Republicans

arbitrary
atrocious
barbarous
below the belt
biased
bogus
charade
circus
contrived
crooked
debased
diabolical
discreditable
dishonest
dishonorable
fabrication
fake
fakey
false
feigned
fictitious
foul
fraud
fraudulent
heinous
imposture
improper
indecent
inexcusable
infamous
iniquitous
inquisition
low-down
make believe
manufactured
masquerade
misleading
mock trial
monstrous
nefarious
one-sided
partisan
perverse
petty
phony
preconceived
prejudiced
pretense
pseudo
putrid
reprehensible
rotten
ruse
savage
schtick
shabby
sham
shameless
show trial
spectacle
spurious
stunt
tendentious
three-ring circus
trick
trickery
uncalled for
underhanded
undeserved
unethical
unfair
unjust
unprincipled
unscrupulous
unwarranted
vicious
vile
vindictive
wicked
witch hunt
worthless