The Most Interesting Thing About the Hearing Today, and Other Observations

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I thought it went well, and time has not permitted a comprehensive reading of the pundits, so that I can find out what I am supposed to think. Moreover, I am not a theater critic, nor am I an expert in abnormal psychology, so I won’t opine about how it will be received by the various factions that make up our great Merican Nation. But I am cursed with a logical mind, so I will make just a few logical points.

Did the Democrats Prove the Core Offense?

More than sufficient evidence was adduced to prove that people who appeared to be speaking on Trump’s behalf told the president of Ukraine that military aid would be withheld unless the Ukrainian president publicly declared that his country would investigate alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and the alleged corruption of the Bidens.

That is to say, people speaking with apparent authority on behalf of the President of the United States engaged in bribery and extortion.

And, BTW, the Democrats showed that Trump’s own statements in the July 25 phone call corroborated the bribery and extortion.

What Was the Republicans’ Defense to the Core Offense?

That was the hound dog that did not bark in the night. They had nothing to disprove the core offense.

Bribery, or Just Attempted Bribery? Extortion, or Just Attempted Extortion?

Some of the Republicans argued that the aid was ultimately delivered, and the president of Ukraine ultimately did not conduct the investigations Trump demanded. Therefore, no harm, no foul.

These arguments imply that Trump was guilty of attempted bribery rather than successful bribery. That he was guilty of attempted extortion, not successful extortion.

No Direct Evidence! No Direct Evidence!

Trump has, of course, taken affirmative, vigorous, ruthless steps to keep Congress from receiving direct evidence of his own relevant direct communications.

As I said before, Republicans’ arguments are similar to killing your parents and pleading for mercy as an orphan.

Why Did Trump Relent on September 11 and Release the Military Aid?

Presumably, because, within a very few hours of Trump’s learning of the whistleblower report and the House inquiry, Trump realized that his goose was cooked if he went through with the extortion.

The Most Interesting Thing

I thought the most interesting point in the hearing came when Rep. Blabbidy Blabbidy suggested a new lie for Trump to tell: that he released the aid because, after initial suspicions of President Zelinsky, he was advised that a few months’ experience had shown Zelinsky was in fact an OK guy.

Note that this argument differs in quality from many of the Republicans’ other arguments. Most of the others are

  • based on things that actually happened, but are wrenched out of context,
  • based on things that actually happened, but are irrelevant to the proceedings, or
  • based on things that are sort of like what actually happened, but are nevertheless irrelevant to the proceedings.

Jordan’s last argument was none of the above. It was a fairy tale. He just pulled it out of his ass.

But congrats, Jim, on the … ahem … creative lawyering.

And, a Concluding Shout Out to the Republicans for Showing Restraint

Even the most depraved, reality challenged among them could not bring themselves to trot out the story about the Clinton server hidden somewhere in Ukraine.

Nor did they attack the integrity of the witnesses.

Congratulations, Republican pols. You are defending a president who is even crazier than you can permit yourself to seem, as your argue for the continuation of his delusional reign.

“NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!” Some Thoughts for the Cocktail Hour

Franklin Graham

As the Very, Very Reverend Franklin Graham calls down the wrath of God on the Democrats, we have it on good authority that President Pence is looking better and better out in Sioux City, Iowa.

May it be so. World without end. Amen.

Meanwhile, Trump, calling on some primal resource deep within his lizard brain, has intuited that if his alternate reality begins to slip from the minds of his cult followers, he is royally screwed, blued, and tattooed. Hence the NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG! tweet.

Nothing Wrong Tweet

As I reported earlier today, the Wall Street Journal has gently hinted to its plutocratic readers that this may not be the world’s best idea—for the said plutocratic leaders and for the empty suited politicians who represent them.

But Trump, it is said, has a mystical connection with the minds of the uneducated white folk of the heartland. So I think I’m goin’ with The Donald on this one: yep, let the alternative reality fade from their simple minds, and it’s all over for the Trumpeter.

I don’t know whether that’s right. But hallelujah, may it be so. World without end. Amen.

I want to share Daily Kos’ take on the matter. You will learn nothing new from it. But it is  the cocktail hour right now, out on the Right Coast.

Daily Kos writes,

The idiot in chief was at it again, on Sunday, this time apparently responding to Republicans who have been attempting to both-sides their way through impeachment questions by muttering, to the press, that Donald Trump was wrong to extort Ukraine into opening “investigations” of his political foes but that it wasn’t so bad as to amount to an impeachable offense.

That was never, ever going to fly with Donald Trump, because Donald Trump is a (say it with me, now) malignant narcissist. He is mentally ill. He genuinely believes he is perfect, his actions are perfect, he is the bestest phone-talker in the history of phone talking and he will get VERY DAMN MAD AT YOU if you suggest otherwise.

Republican lawmakers may think their best path for dodging responsibility to an exposed high crime, of the explicitly mentioned-in-the-Constitution variety, is to very lightly rap Trump on the shoulders while declaring that well, the Constitutional edict against doing crimes is more of a suggestion, really, but Trump has no intention of allowing that to happen. One does not criticize Dear Leader by suggesting that he has done something wrong. One praises Dear Leader for his perfection, and if you can’t handle that, Trump’s tone suggests, you may end up on Dear Leader’s enemies list no matter how you vote on impeachment itself.

That puts Republicans, especially Senate Republicans, in a bind. Anyone who does not want to look like a frothing authoritarian-minded nut (sit down, Lindsey) has to acknowledge that no, it is not “perfect” to withhold military aid from an ally as means of pressuring them into supporting an election-related conspiracy theory that your personal “lawyer” friend cooked up to smear your next possible election opponent.

From that uncontroversial real-world perch, Republican senators think perhaps they can rappel down briefly to crackpot crazytown base-land with declarations that it is still not quite corrupt enough to actually do anything about. Spilled milk and all; oh well, chalk this one up to Trump just not knowing which crimes are crimes.

That would allow them to avoid collapsing entirely into the Dear Leaderism of the Jim Jordans and Devin Nuneses, so that they themselves do not look mind-bogglingly corrupt, while still avoiding all-but-certain primary challenges from Republicans who dothink Dear Leader ought to be able to commit any damn crime he wants to. It’s what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, perhaps, intends as the Senate’s escape hatch now that a dozen different witnesses have testified that Trump and allies without question carried out the extortion effort, over the course of many months; the previous Republican stance that Trump did nothing wrong is now impossible to plausibly argue, so arguing that Trump’s corrupt act was not a presidential dealbreaker is the current line of retreat.

But Trump isn’t having it. Dear Leader is perfect, by God, and not one of you will be getting out of this by meekly claiming otherwise.

I think it’s time for a drink. Not only to accompany the wit and wisdom of Daily Kos, but also because my Russian readership is steadily growing, and I’m a little concerned.

Theme and Variations on the Challenges of Defending Baron Munchausen Against the Charge of Prevarication

Bank Robber

Politico on Pros and Cons of Creating an Alternate Reality.

Politico, the house organ of the Republican pols, reports that Trump’s bluster crashes into a barrage of impeachment facts. The gist is that Trump is really good at creating an alternate reality for his cult followers, but Republican politicians—however subservient they might wish to be—are faced with living in the real world, not the alternate reality.

I like the article’s teaser on Politico’s current home page: “[Trump] doesn’t argue well when there is an obvious fact pattern at play.”

The Wall Street Journal Points to, Umm, “Challenges”

WSJ, GOP Divided on Defense of Trump Over Ukraine: Divergence shows party’s challenges to mount a unified front ahead of public impeachment hearings this week

The paper identifies the nature of the “challenge,” which would be Trump’s demand that all the Republican politicians join him in Alternaterealityland:

“Republicans, don’t be led into the fools trap of saying it wasn’t perfect, but is not impeachable,” Mr. Trump said Sunday in a tweet. “NOTHING WAS DONE WRONG!”

Most of them know they can’t do that. But they cannot agree with one another on what lies to tell.

Some Help with the Articles of Impeachment

Meanwhile, two writers for the New Republic helpfully draft articles of impeachment.

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My Russian readership has held steady for the last several days. I hope the KGB is enjoying the blog.

The House “Freedom Caucus” as the Champions of Human Reason

Maori

Washington Post, House GOP looks to protect Trump by raising doubts about motives of his deputies

Greg Sargent, Republicans are throwing Giuliani under the bus. But there’s a problem.

Jonathan Chait, New GOP Ukraine Defense: Trump Was Just a Patsy for Sondland

I know what many of you are thinking: America has become divided into warring tribes with painted faces, yelling and sticking their tongues out at one another. There is no place any more for reasoned argument, yea, not for anything that bears the slightest resemblance to reasoned argument. So why is a lone blogger wasting his time and ours by deconstructing arguments?

You, dear friends, may very well be right. Certainly, if we were together, drinking—let us say at the Happy Acres happy hour—I would not engage you in vigorous disputation over the matter.

However, regardless of the accuracy of the claim that all of us have lost all appetite for reasoned discourse, I can name some people who do not share that view. Or who, at least, are not yet prepared to put all their eggs in that basket.

They are Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows and the 30-odd other members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Currently, these solons and champions of human reason are eschewing the Deny the Undeniable Defense. As Chait puts it, they don’t “deny that the extortion scheme took place.”

Ixnay, likewise, on the Defend the Indefensible Defense. In Chait’s words, once again, they do not “defend the extortion scheme as a legitimate exercise of foreign policy.”

Nor have they yet fallen back on the pure tribalism amoral defense: Just Get Over it.

They are instead arguing a version of the Explain the Inexplicable Defense–an argument which, if it bore the slightest resemblance to reality, might give some cover to Trump. (For the gory details, see the WaPo story cited above.)

And why not embrace the patently illogical arguments? Why the hell not?, you may well ask.

Have these folks searched deep within their souls and found some lingering reservoir of moral strength and courage?

No, I don’t think so.

Well, then, are they not aware that vast hordes of Trump supporters would forgive any sin on his part? Has it escaped their notice that the Trump cultists do not give a tinker’s damn about anything bearing the slightest resemblance to a structured argument?

Yes, yes, my friends, it has assuredly not escaped their notice that vast swaths of the American public subscribe to the Cult of Trump.

Well, all that being the case, how may we explain this deep and incomprehensible mystery?

The answer must lie in a recognition by Messrs. Jordan and Meadows and others in their merry band that the utterly gullible, though vast in numbers, are not quite vast enough to keep them in power.

That, for folks other than the terminally stupid, continued tolerance of Trump will have to rest on something that is a second cousin of a plausible explanation.

It is an act of utter desperation. Chait and Sargent lay out the case why this dog will not hunt.

But, all that said, I sleep tonight with some small assurance that there is at least a scant hope for America, and that the light of reason has not entirely died. Even the House Freedom Caucus has seen the need to find a defense that might exonerate Trump, if it were true.

Progress, indeed.

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As I prepare for slumber, I see that today’s readers now come from Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Kenya, India, Pakistan, Thailand, and the United States. Also Russia. It gives me a real special feeling to know that I have readers in Russia. Not gonna be accepting’ any perfume from strangers.