Good Friday Morning! Something I’ve learned in the Trump era, especially with the advent of all breaking news moving to Twitter, is that conventional wisdom sets up fast. The speed with which things move on Twitter is incredibly quick. Some research now says that the typical “24-hour news cycle” now lasts about two hours because of Twitter. And the people who spend most of their time on Twitter discussing these news cycles are other journalists and pundits (myself included).
Now, in one sense, one would be tempted to think that any news item that lasts beyond those two hours is worth knowing, while anything two hours or below, isn’t worth knowing at all. That’s not wholly true — sometimes journalists try to bury a story by not promoting it, other times something important doesn’t stick for one reason or another. But whatever is the case, the conventional wisdom that blossoms out from these cycles lasts longer than a single news item. And the main takeaway I’ve had for the Trump era is that starting from the point of questioning the central narrative/conventional wisdom often gets in you the right place in the end.
I say all that to say this: There is not a shred of evidence, in any direction, that Donald Trump’s decision to abandon our Kurdish allies in Syria, at the drop of a hat after Turkey asked, benefits the United States at all. We’ve left a partner that has now run to Russia and Bashar al Assad in Syria for help, while Turkey is attacking from the West. There’s a non-zero percent risk that Turkey ends up fighting a war in Syria with Russia and Assad, and invokes the NATO charter to request help in their fight.
That specific scenario doesn’t keep me up at night, primarily because Donald Trump is too terrified of war to make that decision. For all the bravado he espouses, when it comes to hard choices, he’s remarkably soft. But an outbreak of war in Syria could — and likely will — trigger another migrant crisis of people fleeing that region into Europe, which in turn could trigger another outburst from far-right parties across Europe. All of this happened in 2014/15 — the ingredients are there again.
Jonah Goldberg had Kenneth Pollack on his podcast to talk Syria, and it’s just stunning how bad the entire situation is from start to finish. I highly recommend that, and I recommend signing up for TheDispatch — Goldberg and Steve Hayes’s new operation. Their analysis of the Syria situation this past week has been indispensable.
This week I’m doing a quick hit on the impeachment front — questioning the conventional wisdom. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the Beltway Outsiders Podcast host Daniel Vaughan discusses why what Trump is doing in Syria is terrible; how the NBA’s reaction to Hong Kong support undermines American soft diplomacy; the controversy over Elizabeth Warren’s pregnancy discrimination story from 1971; and what to make about a new case taken up by the Supreme Court on the topic of abortion.
The NBA’s actions should prompt us to reevaluate our stance on China – The Conservative Institute
This column on the NBA is the first half of my argument in the NBA section of the podcast. I argue how this entire debacle should make us reevaluate the US’s role with China, especially seeing American companies cower.
Beto O’Rourke’s America – The Conservative Institute
Beto has fallen from liberal media grace harder than just about any candidate. What people should ask now — is he just a dumb guy? Or is he saying more of what the left believes than professional politicians let on?
Democrats do not have the votes for impeachment
There is a daily stream of reports coming out of national media, breathlessly tracking impeachment, about what Republican said or did what regarding impeachment. Conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill is that the Democrats voting on impeachment — and winning that vote — is inevitable, as is the inevitability of them having the requisite majorities.
The media is so sure of this, places like Vox are breathlessly reporting that there are eight Republican Senators you need to watch on impeachment. Some reporters are even floating the idea that as many as 20 Republicans could vote to impeach Trump.
Democrats are getting cold feet
The problem with conventional wisdom is that it’s forgotten the essential part: swing district Democrats. They are the ones who have to foot the bill of impeaching Trump — not the Pelosi and AOC’s of the world. Conventional wisdom has seemingly forgotten this fact and the fact that swing state Democrats won their seats in 2018 because they focused on bread-and-butter Democrat issues: health care and the economy.
Focusing on impeachment and Donald Trump means that these Democrats lose their winning issues, their winning formula, and have to focus solely on Donald Trump. I say all that to lay the groundwork for an underreported news item in the New York Times this past week: “Democrats Fear Impeachment Is Blurring Their ‘Kitchen Table’ Focus.” Let’s read what these Democrats are saying to the NYT behind closed doors:
Democrats returned to Washington this week determined to spotlight the popular domestic initiatives, like lowering the cost of prescription drugs and education, that helped to sweep them into the majority last year. But instead of focusing on those, their first private gathering on Capitol Hill was dominated by a debate over whether they should cast a formal vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry they began three weeks ago.
The meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Tuesday night made it clearer than ever that many Democrats — particularly those from conservative-leaning districts who flipped Republican seats and now face difficult re-election races — have no interest in spending time on the House floor calling attention to the impeachment push.
The idea of having a vote, which had been floated by leadership earlier in the day, was quickly shot down, according to a Democratic aide in the room, speaking on condition of anonymity without authorization to describe the private meeting. While many Democrats are open to a vote, nervous freshmen in swing districts were opposed, fearing it would be a distraction. …
Ms. Pelosi has been resisting a formal vote on impeachment for weeks, well aware that it could endanger vulnerable Democrats whose constituents might interpret it as a partisan attempt to undo the 2016 election.
Holding such a vote might strip Republicans of one of their central talking points: that the inquiry is invalid because it was not authorized by the full House. The White House has denounced the inquiry as illegitimate and unconstitutional, and Republican lawmakers have assailed it as “a kangaroo court.”
Republicans have also argued that precedent dictates a vote of the full House, citing the formal votes to open impeachment inquiries into Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.
There’s a lot of spin in that article. Here’s the million-dollar takeaway: Pelosi and Democrats are terrified of any vote on impeachment, inquiry, or removal. If they had the public support and Pelosi had the votes in hand to hold an inquiry vote, and the capacity to hold hearings in public — they’d do it.
They don’t want everyone to see them focusing on impeachment in these closed hearings. They don’t want a vote. They want to talk about inquiries — but they don’t want to do anything that formalizes that push.
Democrats lack the political leverage or legitimacy
Democrats are right about the Constitution having no formal procedures for the House to follow through on regarding impeachment. The House can make up its own rules concerning impeachment. But part of the reason that the House, in previous Congresses, held that inquiry vote was to show that they had the political leverage from the public to pursue impeachment.
Democrats aren’t doing that here. They’re staying behind closed doors to give these swing district Democrats a chance to focus on bread-and-butter issues. The problem, no one in the liberal media cares one bit about legislation — everyone knows nothing will get passed without Senate support, so the legislative agenda is DOA. So we get scenes like this one in that NYT piece:
[Pelosi] has bristled publicly at being asked about impeachment instead of legislation, repeatedly inviting reporters to question her about Democrats’ “For the People” agenda, the catchphrase that they used during the 2018 midterm elections. Emerging from the impeachment discussion on Tuesday night, she addressed a roomful of journalists eager for news about whether there would be a floor vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry and pointedly asked, “Any questions about our legislative agenda?”
There were not many.
The only floor vote Democrats can hold that would make a meaningful impact right now is on the issues of impeachment. And the media WANTS impeachment — they want to televise and cover impeachment hearings. It’s rating’s gold for them.
There’s no incentive from the national media to let Democrats off the hook here. The loudest, most online part of the Democratic base wants impeachment. The progressive donor base wants impeachment. The media wants impeachment. The only people who don’t want impeachment are Nancy Pelosi and her swing district members.
That matters — far more than the Republican quotes the media wants to get on the record. These closed-door impeachment inquiries that are happening are as much about whipping Democratic votes as they are about learning the truth.
Public support for impeachment hit a high point at 50.3% on October 14th, in the FiveThirtyEight poll averages — it’s since dropped below that to 49.5% as I’m writing this piece. 31 House Democrats are sitting in Trump districts. When you start including purple districts or slight lean districts, that number climbs up much higher.
My point in these numbers is this: what is true on a national level is not going to be true on a House district level. The odds are many of these House Reps know that impeaching Trump has much lower support in their district — touching that issue is a lightning rod for them. Supporting an inquiry without a vote was easy — that’s just holding a ton of meetings.
Voting for an inquiry or removal is a far different animal.
One of the reasons I was prompted to write on this topic this week is because there was an annoying buzz in political media about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell previewing what a Senate impeachment trial would look like if they got those articles. CNN had this report:
McConnell prepared his colleagues on what’s to come as the House investigates allegations that President Donald Trump abused his power in asking a Ukrainian leader to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
McConnell said that the trial would start in the early afternoon each day, six days a week, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding over the Senate. He said that the House could pass articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving and the Senate could then finish its trial by Christmas, according to a Republican present. McConnell’s office declined to provide a readout of the meeting.
“One of the hypotheticals is we get these before Thanksgiving break,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican. “There’s great motivation to get this done by Christmas.”
McConnell also said Wednesday that senators would not be allowed to kibitz on the floor per usual — and warned that they could be kicked out if they do, according to a senator who attended the lunch.
“Senators will not be allowed to speak, which will be good therapy for a number of them,” said McConnell in a news conference after the meeting. “We intend to do our constitutional responsibility.”
Here’s why McConnell held that meeting. The House is highly secretive in all their processes — he’s not. While Republicans are making a persuasive case that Democrats are hiding their meetings to avoid public accountability, McConnell is laying everything out for his members. It keeps everyone on the same page and shows that Republicans are following tradition on this process — while the House is not.
Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry on September 25th, 2019. I’ve said multiple times; I believed Democrats only had the political winds to keep this up for two to four weeks, maybe six weeks max. McConnell’s hypothetical requires Democrats to keep those impeachment polls inflated up close to 50% until Thanksgiving — and nothing suggests right now that will happen.
Could Trump do something that reignites everything? Sure. That’s possible. It’s also possible that House Democrats could vote to impeach Trump, knowing that it will cost them their seats. But if everyone is acting on political instinct — a majority of House Reps — then the clock is against Democrats right now. Once we hit the primary voting season, it’s unlikely anyone will have an appetite to impeach Trump.
P.S. to the conclusion…
I got asked a question of how Syria plays in with impeachment. Conventional wisdom says that if the Syria debacle causes more Republicans to speak out against the Trump administration that they’re more likely to impeach. That makes total sense.
Except I think it could work the opposite way. Republicans could respond that they don’t follow Trump lock-step like Democrats do and are approaching each outrage objectively. They oppose the Syria decision but also don’t see a need to impeach. It makes them appear objective while Democrats only choose to opposite 24/7.
Politics can be bizarre — and the Syria debacle having a weird positive effect for Republicans politically — wouldn’t be that odd by current standards (props to John Podhoretz for first proposing this theory).
Links of the week
Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President – William H. McRaven (retired Navy admiral, & a former commander of the United States Special Operations Command), The New York Times
Be Brave. Be Water. Be Ready: Three Days Among The Freedom Protesters In Hong Kong – When a fourth of your population demands something, there is a serious consequence when nothing happens — when millions of law-abiding people feel their autonomy is at risk. – Ben Domenech, The Federalist
Megyn Kelly: “CBS, FOX, NPR, NFL – all hired outside investigators. NBC again refuses to do so … as it claims it has “nothing to hide.” RELEASE ALL LAUER ACCUSERS FROM THEIR NON-DISCLOSURES.” – NBCUniversal Won’t Conduct New Matt Lauer Investigation: “We are not doing another investigation,” a spokesperson said. “We are very confident in the report that was conducted.” – Jeremy Barr, The Hollywood Reporter
NBC News President’s Writing Gigs Add Drama to Farrow Flap: As Noah Oppenheim hits back at the allegation the network buried reporting on Harvey Weinstein, the exec’s screenwriting career receives scrutiny. – Tatiana Siegel, The Hollywood Reporter
NMPA Calls on Congress to Investigate TikTok for Copyright Theft: Letter sent to Senator Marco Rubio claims TikTok “has consistently violated U.S. copyright law and the rights of songwriters and music publishers.” – Chris Effertsen, Billboard
Executive privilege, Congress’ subpoena power, and the courts: A brief overview of a complex topic – Steve Vladeck, SCOTUSBlog
The Trump Doctrine: American Unexceptionalism: In Syria, the president has chosen chaos and collapse. – Eli Lake, Bloomberg View
Elizabeth Warren Scrubs DNA Test Video From Twitter – Alex Griswold, The Washington Free Beacon
“Medicare for All” Is Getting Less Popular – Jordan Weissmann, Slate
How You Like Him Now? – One for the record books. – John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine
Hundreds of police officers have been labeled liars. Some still help send people to prison: Across the USA, prosecutors aren’t tracking officer misconduct, skirting Supreme Court “Brady” rules and sometimes leading to wrongful convictions. – Steve Reilly and Mark Nichols, USA Today
When Cops Create Their Own Risk, Innocent People Die for Their Mistakes – David French, National Review
Male-Bodied Rapists Are Being Imprisoned With Women. Why Do so Few People Care? – April Halley, Quillette
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
LeBron James Says Rosa Parks’s Bus Protest ‘Could Have Waited A Week’ – The Babylon Bee
LOS ANGELES, CA — NBA superstar Lebron James recently told reporters that while he respects what Rosa Parks did for civil rights by refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 Alabama, he thinks her protest “probably could have waited a week.”
James, an expert in geopolitical relations as well as the game of basketball, went on to explain that people in power stand to lose a lot of money when protesters challenge the status quo. “Civil rights demonstrations should really be limited to times that are convenient to everyone,” James told sources. “When Rosa Parks started the bus boycott by refusing to give up her seat, I guess there were some sporting events scheduled that week in downtown Montgomery that lost a lot of revenue. It wasn’t fair to them. I can’t really blame Ms. Parks though. She was just misinformed.”
Thanks for reading!