Talking Heads, Male and Female

This morning, the talking heads on the teevee were busy talking about Biden’s temper tantrum. The talking heads of the male persuasion thought he did just fine, because he “showed emotion” and “pushed back.” The female talking heads were entirely unimpressed by his manly strength and hot temper, given the fact that keeps on giving bullshit responses to a legitimate and highly relevant question: in essence, Didn’t your son make a mistake in Ukraine, and didn’t you make a mistake by not disavowing his actions?

I’m probably losing my Y-chromosomes, but the ladies were clearly right on this one.

Nancy Pelosi just got through showing us that when a hostile person asks you a bullshit question, go ahead and push back, and push back hard. But when someone asks you a reasonable question, give a reasonable response to the question they asked.

Even if you object to their tone. In fact, especially when you object to their tone.

The Great and the Good, Pushing the Envelope

Over and apart from my general objection to bullshit answers, there’s a more specific concern that rings my bells. A lot of Hillary’s undoing grew out of her attitude that she was one of The Great And The Good—and that it was really unsporting for anyone to draw attention whenever she, or someone in her family, was pushing the envelope, ethicswise. Her attitude of high moral superiority just sort of left a bad odor in the room.

Everyone screws up now and then. But it’s not good to deny the screwup and impugn the motives of the one who questions you about the screwup.

Not exactly the way to win friends and influence people.


Hello Canada, Denmark, France, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Yo, Garment Renders, You Might Want to Check This Out

garment render

Here’s the latest Morning Consult polling on Trump’s approval in 15 states, where the 2020 race may be close. The second column shows how the state voted in 2016. The third column shows Trump’s negative or positive approval currently.

  Trump 2016 Vote Net % Trump Current Approval

Net %

Arizona plus 3.57 minus 4
Colorado plus 4.91 minus 15
Florida plus 1.20 plus 1
Georgia plus 5.09 minus 3
Iowa plus 9.41 minus 13
Michigan plus 0.23 minus 14
Minnesota plus 1.51 minus 13
Nevada plus 2.42 minus 7
New Hampshire minus 0.37 minus 15
North Carolina plus 3.66 minus 2
Ohio plus 8.13 minus 5
Pennsylvania plus 0.72 minus 7
Texas plus 8.99 plus 3
Virginia minus 5.32 minus 7
Wisconsin plus 0.77 minus 14

In Sum

Trump carried 13 of these 15 swing states in 2020. Now, his approval is under water in 13 of the 15.

In Context

Some Trump “Approvers” Will Vote Against Trump, Depending on the Democratic Candidate

That’s what lots of polling has shown. (Presumably, when the pollster asks if they “approve of the job Trump is doing as President,” they think of some policy or outcome they like, such as their big tax cut.)

You Can Fool Some of the People All of the Time, and Now We Know Who They Are, and There Aren’t Enough of Them

The 2016 data show that just over half of Wisconsinites could be fooled at least some of the time. But the 2019 data show that only 36 percent of them can be fooled all of the time.

The Trump Sorting Hat

sorting hat

The Trump effect on the country is like the Hogwarts sorting hat. It drives away everyone who can’t be fooled all of the time.

What about Impeachment?

I entertain not the slightest doubt—zero, zilch, nada—that if the case for impeachment were weak on the facts OR if it were weak as a matter of constitutional principle, the effort to impeach would be a negative for Democrats. That it might, for example, push some of the 15 percent of Wisconsinites who have changed their minds since 2016 to rethink their views and change their allegiance back to Trump.

But the Democrats’ case is very strong on the facts, and it is very strong on constitutional principle.

The Republicans deny the facts and ignore the constitutional principle. But sayin’ ain’t showin’. It’s true that if you tell the same lies over and over, your lies may tend to get accepted as truth. But that rule of thumb doesn’t work so well if, every time you repeat your lie, a voice of equal strength sounds off to explain why it is a lie.

And that Hogwarts sorting hat just keeps on sortin’.











He Can Name Barron, But He Cannot Name Barron a Baron


Alexandra Petri, Pamela Karlan committed the one unspeakable crime:

At last they have gone and done it. They have crossed that last frontier of decency. They have insinuated the unbearable — nay, the unthinkable: that Barron Trump is not a baron.

“While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” said Professor Pamela Karlan at the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing. I am chagrined to retype the words, so obviously loathsome are they. To state that a child is not a baronet — this is the worst kind of speech, and one of many reasons we ought to consider tightening up that First Amendment. …

No, this indignation is entirely justified. To allude to the fact that the president has minor children who are not royalty is the unkindest cut of all, and we must leave them out of it.

This outrage is certainly not trumped up — oh, no, now I have gone and invoked a child’s last name, too. Surely the tumbrel is coming for me.

All Seriousness Aside

All seriousness aside, sarcastic humor has its place. Like in this blog. Or, better yet, in an Alexandra Petri column.

But a witness is always advised to stay away from sarcastic humor while witnessing. It generally does not go over well.

Mayor Pete, Anyone?

Sleepy Joe

Washington Post, Biden calls Iowa voter aa ‘liar’ after he brings up his son and Ukraine:

Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden got into an extraordinary exchange Thursday afternoon with an Iowa farmer who first called him too old to run and then challenged him on Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine, triggering Biden to call the man “a damn liar.”

“You’re damn near as old as I am,” the man started. “You’re too old for the job. I’m 83, and I know damn well I don’t have the mental faculties I did 30 years ago.”

Then he turned toward what he said was a more pressing concern.

“We all know Trump has been messing around in the Ukraine over there, holding their foreign aid . . . saying they’re going to investigate you,” he said. “He’s got no backbone, we know that.”

“But you, on the other hand, sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company that he had no experience with gas or nothing, to get access to the president,” he continued. “You’re selling access to the president just like he was.”

“You’re a damn liar, man,” Biden said. “That’s not true. And no one has ever said that.”

“The hell it ain’t,” the man replied. “I see it on the TV.”

“You see it on the TV?” Biden said.

“All I do is watch TV,” the man continued.

“No, I know you do,” Biden responded, as he moved closer to the man, looked him in the eye and instructed one of his staffers not to take the microphone away from the man.

“And by the way, I’m not sedentary,” Biden, 77, continued. “Look, the reason I’m running is I’ve been around a long time, and I know more than most people know. And I can get things done, that’s why I’m running. And you want to check my shape, man, let’s do push-ups together here, man. Let’s run. Let’s do whatever you want to do. Let’s take an IQ test. Okay?”

“Number two,” Biden said. “No one has said my son has done anything wrong. And I did not on any occasion — and no one has ever said it.”

The Iowan interjected, saying, “I didn’t say you were doing anything wrong.”

“You said I set up my son to work on an oil company!” Biden said, growing more agitated and raising his voice. “Isn’t that what you said? Get your words straight, Jack!”

“That’s what I hear on MSNBC all day,” the man said.

“You don’t hear that on MSNBC,” Biden said.

“The hell I didn’t,” came the response.

“You did not hear that at all. What you heard — look, okay,” Biden said, trying to calm the exchange. “I’m not going to get in an argument with you, man.”

“I don’t want to either,” the man said.

“Well, yeah you do,” Biden responded.

“It looks like you don’t have any more backbone than Trump does,” the man said, as the crowd groaned.

“Any more questions?” Biden said, turning elsewhere in the audience.

As he sat down, the man said he wasn’t going to be voting for Biden.

Paging Goldilocks. Goldilocks, Please Pick Up any White Courtesy Phone.


This morning, we read that some of the Republican empty suits are trying to rally around Professor Turley’s argument that the impeachment is going way too fast. Meanwhile, someone else thinks it should be even faster.

Fast Tweet

This is the sort of thing that happens when you try to deal with a tough situation without the effective assistance of counsel.

Advocates Gonna Advocate

ballistics expert

Yesterday, Professor Turley’s role was as an expert witness advocate, not a scholar delivery an unbiased opinion grounded in factual and legal scholarship. Dana Milbank nails down the point:

[Turley] made almost exactly the opposite case against President Barack Obama in a 2013 hearing. “This will not be our last president,” he argued then, saying it would be “very dangerous” to the balance of powers not to hold Obama accountable for assuming powers “very similar” to the “the right of the king to essentially stand above the law.”

Now we have a president soliciting campaign help from a foreign country while withholding military aid, then ignoring duly issued subpoenas — and Turley says Congress would be the entity committing an “abuse of power” if it holds Trump to account. Trump shared that quote on Twitter.

Back in 1998, arguing for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Turley said there was “no objective basis” to claim that the Framers intended a “restrictive definition of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ ” Now Turley argues that the Framers intended a restrictive definition, applying “bribery” only to “money” transactions.

How Did Turley Do as an Advocate?

Tone and Manner

He affected the tone and manner of a coolly aloof, highly confident person masquerading as an objective expert, all while mouthing arguments in support of his client.

Pretty much what you want in an expert witness.

I turn now from theater criticism to substance.

Turley’s Approach to His Job as Expert Witness Advocate

Let’s say you are an advocate—whether as lawyer or expert witness, it doesn’t matter, because you’re all on the same team—for a bad client with a rotten case. There are two things you don’t want to do, and one thing you do want to do.

You do not want to just throw spaghetti at the wall, in a transparently desperate effort to divert the judge’s and the jury’s attention from your client’s wickedness. It’s unethical, but it’s still a bad idea, even if you lack scruples, because it’s unlikely to work.

And, if you’re an expert witness, you do not want to abuse your credentials as an expert by offering an opinion that is just bullshit. If, for example, you are an expert on materials science, you do not want to offer bullshit testimony about tensile strength. (One: you’ll get found out. Two: because you’ll get found out, your client will probably lose. Three: it’s really bad for your future employment prospects as an expert witness.)

Here’s what you do want to do: you want to ask yourself, “Self, what plausible or semi-plausible arguments can I make that do not make me look like a charlatan and sound like a fool?” If that’s the way you approach the task, you will probably find some plausible or semi-plausible arguments that fill the bill.

I would say that Turley generally approached his with the right mindset.

The Standard of Impeachability and the Constitutional Definition of “Bribery”

He probably did about the best he could do to support a losing case.

Ditto for the views he shared on the timing of impeachment.

Likewise for his opinion on the “thinness” or “thickness” of the factual record.

He probably understood that his job was not to convince the unpersuaded. His job was to give the Trump Cultists some talking points that would appeal to them.

A Bridge Too Far for Professor Turley

For legal scholars and advocates, thinking about hypothetical cases is as natural as eating a ham sandwich for lunch. So the professor thought of a hypothetical case: a case where Congress—or at least one branch of Congress—violates the balance of power by refusing to recognize the judicial branch’s constitutional right to referee disputes between the legislature and the executive over what is or is not a proper assertion of executive privilege, and over what documents and testimony must or must not be provided in response to a congressional subpoena.

Turley’s expert opinion was that, in such a case, Congress would be abusing its power.

And so it would, in that hypothetical case.

It’s a perfectly fine hypothetical, and Turley’s analysis is perfectly fine.

The problem is that in the real world, it’s not Congress that is denying the constitutional principle of checks and balances. It’s Trump.

It was unprofessional for Turley, even as an advocate, to ignore or misstate legally relevant facts.

Auditioning for Defense Counsel in the Senate Trial?

I believe that is what Turley is up to.

Clearly, the job is currently vacant.

Turmp could do a lot worse. And probably will.