Good Friday Morning! The impeachment drumbeat continues this week unless you are Representative Eric Swalwell, in which case the trumpet goes on. If you don’t understand that reference, you missed one of the greatest news cycles we’ve had in recent memory. Rep. Eric Swalwell appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to talk about impeachment. During that interview, Swalwell seemed to rip a massive fart. Buzzfeed has a clip you can view here.
There was, of course, a controversy over whether or not Swalwell was the one who committed the deed. Snopes cheekily said that they were “seeking the identity of the “whistleblower.” And Chris Matthews has a long history with farting on live television — so it’s possible for someone other than Swalwell to have blasted an entire audience. But one thing is for sure; no one believes the official MSNBC Hardball line that it was a coffee mug moving across the desk. All I know is the ancient wisdom passed down to me by all grade-school boys: he who denied it supplied it.
We’re in the second week of impeachment hearings, so I thought I’d do you a favor and tell you what was important on the impeachment front this week — links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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This week on the Beltway Outsiders Podcast host Daniel Vaughan talks about Colin Kaepernick’s tryout; how everyone has forgotten about Michael Avenatti; Nancy Pelosi’s options on impeachment; Pete Buttigieg’s moment and his problem with black and Hispanic voters that won’t go away; and some quick thoughts on Iran and Hong Kong.
A secret impeachment ballot harms more than it helps – The Conservative Institute
A proposal in Politico suggested that three Republican Senators should ask for a secret vote on impeaching Trump. Put aside the obvious problem of that vote staying secret at all — how would a secret ballot fix public trust in institutions? That’s what impeachment is supposed to fix. A secret ballow obliterates trust in institutions.
The state can’t build a society: A response to Rich Lowry – The Conservative Institute
Rich Lowry, EIC of National Review, wrote a piece on where he sees Ronald Reagan’s famous speech, A Time For Choosing, falls in a modern context. I disagree and walk through that disagreement here.
Crunch time for Democrats — impeach or not?
We’ve wrapped up the second week of impeachment hearings, and Congress is headed out for the Thanksgiving break. I pulled up the House Congressional calendar to look at the soonest that the House could hold an impeachment vote after these two weeks of hearings, and that would fall on December 3rd or 4th. In the current polling/news cycle, that’s a long time between now and then.
I bring that up because at the start of the process, rumors swirled that Democrats wanted to get a vote on impeachment by Thanksgiving. That’s not going to happen now. And the bigger question is do they run through more witnesses, or move forward on a vote? Pelosi has a big decision ahead of her, and her decision will tell us about the direction Democrats will take on impeachment.
But first, the fundamentals…
One of my hobbies is reading and studying meteorology. I love the work that goes into providing a forecast. There are a ton of variables and things big and small that can affect a prediction, but even given all the variables, there are some core fundamentals that, if you know them, can be highly predictive. Politics, I believe, works similarly. If you identify the political fundamentals controlling a given story or environment, you can come to a more accurate forecast.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t surprises — we’re dealing with humans in politics, in which highly illogical things can occur. But it’s worth noting them anyhow because it gives you a firmer foundation.
- Support for “Impeach and Replace” sits at 45.6% — down from a peak of 48.4% on 10/22/2019. It’s also below the 47% mark for the first time since the story snowballed on 10/07/2019. – FiveThirtyEight.
- Opposition to “Impeach and Replace” sits at 45.5% — matching the support numbers for the first time since the story snowballed on 10/07/2019. — FiveThirtyEight.
- FiveThirtyEight shows Republican support for “impeach and replace” at 12.2% — the rest opposed. It’s a slight tick up from one poll, and trend lines had this number headed below 10%.
- FiveThirtyEight has Independent support for “impeach and replace” at 41% — which is a significant drop from a peak of 47.7% on 10/29/2019. Support among Independents has fallen ever since.
- The only group in strong favor of impeachment are Democrats, at 80.3% — which is interesting because that means there are more Democrats opposing impeachment at around 18-19% than there are Republicans supporting impeachment at 12%.
- RealClearPolitics is tracking similar numbers and finding the same results.
- FiveThirtyEight’s approval rating tracker for Trump shows it unmoved at 42%, and RealClearPolitics shows similar static movement at 44%.
- RealClearPolitics shows Democrats with an unmoved 5.4 point advantage in the Generic Ballot, with FiveThirtyEight calling is a 5.8 point lead.
- Variety: TV ratings for the impeachment hearings were down again for week two. Viewership for the day three interviews was 11.4 million, compared to 13.1 million for day one, and 12 million for day two. Each day loses more viewers — and these numbers are across all networks covering the testimony all day long.
That’s our political environment. For all the talk of whether or not impeachment matters — Trump’s approval ratings are unmoved, and the Generic Ballot is also mostly unaffected. Republicans AND independents oppose impeachment — with both groups showing increasing dislike for the option of impeaching and removing the President.
If you’re following me on Twitter, you might notice I’m agitated by the national punditry and narrative getting driven that every day is a bad day for Donald Trump. OK — That’s cool for a story — but where’s the data backing that up? If this was such a bad couple of weeks for Trump and Republicans, we should see some weakness — SOMEWHERE. People should lose their approval for Trump, or the generic ballot should take a hit, anything. Something has to show up here — and I do not see it.
The most generous case for Democrats and this process you can make is that the polls are static so far — showing little movement. If that’s true, it’s a complete indictment to the ineffectiveness of Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi in presenting a case for impeachment to the American people.
Let me clarify my thoughts here: I think what Trump did, halting aid for the express purpose harming a political enemy is an abuse of power. From the evidence, it looked like Trump did all of this, not caring whether the allegations were true or not — he just wanted a hit on Biden. The US does have an interest in unearthing corruption in places like Ukraine where our aid goes — but it doesn’t look like Trump had an interest in that.
But despite ALL of that, there’s no evidence anyone wants impeachment. I see all that agree that it’s terrible, but I don’t see impeachment fixing it. An election? Sure. That could fix it. But we’ve lived now with an ever-increasing Presidency that does more and more that I consider unconstitutional. There are still things from the Obama era that the courts are working out.
Back to reality…
Retiring Republican Congressman Will Hurd, one of the smartest people on either side asking questions during the hearings, gave a speech saying, “An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous. And it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly … I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.” The Atlantic summarized this development as, “If Democrats can’t draw a Republican lawmaker like him to their side, they likely won’t be able to win over any at all.”
And that’s about the state of things. Democrats, specifically Adam Schiff, have so thoroughly trashed the process of impeachment, that they’ve managed to alienate Republicans who don’t like Trump. Hurd listed off all the other witnesses he wanted to hear from, and the evidence he’d like to sift through, that Democrats flatly denied. There’s more evidence out there — but Schiff and Democrats don’t want to hear it — and that means they haven’t made a compelling case.
Perhaps that lack of a case and the sliding poll number I mentioned above is one of the reasons we’re seeing freakouts from Democrats. In a piece on the USMCA trade deal before Congress, Politico buried a paragraph about a freakout from Moderate/swing state Democrats:
Pelosi has been under increased pressure in recent days to wrap up the USMCA negotiations numerous moderate Democrats — particularly from districts Trump won in the 2016 election — have been vocal about their desire to pass the deal. They have been frustrated with the slow pace of action, particularly as they face criticism from constituents over the impeachment inquiry.
A few days ago, there was a similar paragraph, where moderates are panicking in Trump districts that they don’t have any victories to take back to their community. They only have impeachment talk:
Some Democrats, however, are getting anxious as negotiations drag into yet another month, with little floor time remaining before the end of the year. Those Democrats are from agriculture-dependent districts — many of which Trump won in 2016 — where failure to pass the trade deal could carry severe political consequences.
These same Democrats, before the Ukraine story made it big, were already uneasy about the impeachment front in September.
I started by pointing out the House Congressional calendar, and I’m going to end there. All this freakout by moderate Democrats is essential because they’re out of DC this next week. No votes over the week of Thanksgiving — everyone is going home. We won’t see any more impeachment talk or votes until December rolls around.
The million-dollar question between now and then, does Pelosi hold an impeachment vote? If these polls continue trending towards Trump, she could end up in a situation where impeachment poll averages show opposition outpacing support. And these are national averages, in the battleground states that will decide the 2020 election, impeachment is highly unpopular. A poll of Wisconsin, which may be the tipping point state for a Trump 2020 victory, showed him ahead against all contenders and impeachment unpopular.
I remain skeptical of impeachment overall — and suspicious of Democrats’ chances of doing this successfully. But we’re in a wait and see approach on what Pelosi does next.
While I was finishing this piece, the Washington Post dropped a story with the following headline: “‘The picture has been painted’: Hearings unite Democrats behind impeachment.” After all the above, that might challenge everything I’ve said so far. So I opened it… and found that not a single paragraph supported the headline. You have to scroll until the seventh paragraph, but things fall apart fast. Take this section:
Some Democrats — including those holding some of the most vulnerable seats — said they were waiting to consider all the evidence before coming to a conclusion, but they also declined to identify any major gaps in evidence that they would want to see filled before a vote.
Two Democrats voted against an Oct. 31 resolution establishing rules for the impeachment hearings — a vote widely seen as an early test for the viability of impeachment itself — but scores of lawmakers said they had not made a final decision on whether Trump ought to be impeached.
A few, such as Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), said they still wanted to secure testimony from witnesses who have resisted congressional subpoenas, such as acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
The story then goes on to quote two other moderates off the record, who think Democrats need to get past the vote to move on to other things. And other moderates who talk about needing more time or needing to appear serious for their constituents.
Reminder: There are 31 Democrats in districts that Donald Trump won in 2016 — and 16 Democrats were rumored to jump board on the process vote. The party isn’t united at all — if they successfully have a vote, it’ll be along partisan lines.
Something to watch: Moderate Democrats demanding more witnesses in December. Pelosi doesn’t want to go there. But if she can’t get there, and a coalition of Democrats and Republicans join up for more witnesses, she may not be able to resist.
Links of the week
Decide Trump’s Fate at the Ballot Box – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Feds file criminal charges against jail guards responsible for watching Jeffrey Epstein – Julie K. Brown and Daniel Chang, The Miami Herald
Nearly 400 children rescued and 348 adults arrested in Canadian child pornography bust – Daniella Silva, NBC News
Pennsylvania Senate passes Down syndrome abortion ban bill – Marc Levy, Chicago Tribune
Why are poor Americans more patriotic than their wealthier counterparts? – Francesco Duina, The Guardian
DNA test shows Hunter Biden is father of Arkansas woman’s baby – Frank Lockwood, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Wikipedia’s Anti-Israel Editors Unmasked: Group launches effort to combat anti-Israel bias on internet’s largest encyclopedia – Adam Kredo, The Washington Free Beacon
Will Someone Ask Joe Biden about Obama’s ‘Concentration Camps’ at the Border? – David Harsanyi, National Review
This Gene Technology Could Change the World. Its Maker Isn’t Sure It Should: Kevin Esvelt came up with a way to use gene editing for gene drives, a technology that could change the ecological fate of the whole world. How does one scientist deal with the potential ramifications of his own creation? – Shayla Love, Vice
Louisiana governor election has a lesson for both parties – Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times
Warren Relies on Rationing in Medicare for All Plan: Cost-cutting measures would likely lead to long wait-times, limited care – Charles Fain Lehman, Washington Free Beacon
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire piece of the week
WASHINGTON — Expressing surprise that he was featured so prominently in a rival’s literature, presidential candidate Cory Booker was reportedly taken aback Wednesday after discovering his picture dozens of times on official Pete Buttigieg campaign materials. “It would have been nice if someone from the Buttigieg team had reached out to me before they plastered my face all over these mailers,” said Booker, flipping through a brochure featuring numerous photos of the New Jersey senator giving a thumbs-up and shaking hands with Buttigieg.
Thanks for reading!