Notes from Senate Impeachment Trial – #2

Speeches over; questions next

By Dr. Larry Fedewa (January 28,2020)

Some impressions as the trial completes phase one and prepares for phase two:

  1. The first take-away is the comparison between the two presentations. The House speakers were on a mission and they showed it. They were obviously playing to the television audience more than the senators. Their rhetoric was graphic, at times crude (particularly Mr. Naylor). Their tone was passionate, sometimes angry. Their body language was tense. The exception was Mr. Schiff, who proved himself an effective and articulate advocate, who appeared convinced and convincing, especially in his opening summary. In his final speech, however, some of the earlier polish seemed to have worn off as he spoke of the President in personal and insulting terms, dripping with hatred.
  2. The President’s team overall was much cooler in manner, with the exception of Mr. Sekulow, who supplied the passion, sometimes slipping into anger. White House Counsel Patrick Capilione was quietly and rationally effective, in the sharpest contrast to the House team. I found his manner more effective than Sekulow’s. Anger in the Senate chamber seemed a bit out of place.

In terms of the arguments on their merits, I, like many others, found the House case full of assumptions, presumptions and very weak. Of course, I had the same reaction to the original testimony, so my reaction was not surprising that I reacted to the trial presentation which was derived from and actually re-used large portions of the House footage.

The basic issue was the definition of “crime”. The House wants to call such terms as “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” crimes meeting the standard of the Constitution. That standard is admittedly brief – “treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors”. However, the application of common sense to this description, as pointed out by the founders’ commentary, demands that “crimes” must be specific and provable. Otherwise, the charge is simply a matter of opinion and therefore indefensible. Such are the terms of the current articles approved by partisan House.

The President’s team had their moments. Particularly damning was the recitation of the case against Joseph and Hunter Biden. Three lawyers split the presentation into Overview (Sekulow), Facts (Pam Bondi) and Conclusions (Eric Herschmann). It is hard to believe that the elder Mr. Biden can continue to attract support for his presidential bid after such a graphic, detailed and public recitation of the case against him.

Also notable was the presentation of Alan Dershowitz, who spoke to the constitutional standard of impeachment. His explanation was replete with citations and quotations and delivered in such a rapid-fire style that it was like trying to get a drink from a fire hose. The prominence of the speaker, however, added a certain level of authority to the argument. In view of his status as a lifelong Democrat, it is doubtful that his performance swayed any Democrats.

Today’s defense of the President ended with a plea to the Senators from Mr. Capilione to preserve for the American people the right to vote for their president, and to vote “for what in your heart you know is right”. As one of the commentators observed, however, politicians rarely vote what is in their hearts, preferring to vote for their best political advantage – a cynical remark which is unfortunately all too often true.

The overall impression of this entire exercise appears to be a gigantic waste of time and resources because the entire body of the Senate knew the outcome before the whole drama began. Namely, they will almost all vote the party line, and nothing said in this whole charade will change more than a few votes.

The only true exceptions to this outcome will be those politicians who believe that they cannot be re-elected if they vote with the party or have already decided not to run again. This whole business has to be changed to accurately reflect the momentous responsibility involved in an impeachment vote for both the immediate present and future American generations. I don’t know how that can be accomplished, but it is imperative that this process not be allowed to destroy America’s electoral process.

 

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