In any successful effort – from business to sports – timing is often a most critical factor. It is equally true in politics. Setting aside the debate over issues and the process of impeachment – and looking only at the calendar – Democrats appear to have no strategic sense of timing.
Their political clock appears to have gone kerflooey early on. Simply put, they waited too long. By September or October, most political pundits figured that impeachment was off the table. They reasoned that there was just not enough time to run a comprehensive and compelling case for impeachment before January of 2020 – and that running impeachment into the election year would be very bad for Democrats. Those pundits were right.
Why so bad?
First of all, lateness makes impeachment the dominant news story of the day – taking much-needed media exposure from that gaggle of presidential candidates. It would be particularly hard on those Democrat senators running for President, since they will be forced to sit silently in the Senate chamber for days – maybe weeks – while their opponents are out on the hustings.
It would also raise the question as to why it is necessary to create so much division, so much drama and trauma to remove a President just weeks before the American public can cast its opinion in an election. It makes the Democrats appear to place partisan political interests ahead of the decision of the people in 2016 – a decision the left-wingers hated from day one.
This also ran the impeachment hearings into a season in which our national legislators have a lot of time away from Washington – ostensibly celebrating holidays of peace, love and unity. In a very real sense, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was leading a team of congressional Democrats who were playing the lead in “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” – and Thanksgiving, too.
This crammed-schedule rush-to-judgment meant that the impeachment process had to continue even as President Trump attended the NATO summit in Europe. Pelosi announced that she would not criticize a President while he is overseas – as has been the bipartisan tradition. Her congressional lieutenants, however, were non-stop in their attacks on Trump – even criticism of everything he said or did in Europe. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler launched his impeachment hearings while Trump was in Europe. Very bad timing.
Ironically, Pelosi’s back-patting announcement actually made the rest of the Democrats – and their media allies – look worse by ignoring her example – insincere has it may have been. Had Democrats allowed for more time to deal with impeachment, perhaps they could have hit the pause button for a few days and adhered to the old policy that partisanship ends at the water’s edge.
Trying to squeeze an issue as important as impeaching a President into an arbitrary condensed timeframe meant they would have to go off halfcocked. Law Professor Jonathan Turley made that point during his testimony before the Nadler committee. According to Turley, the evidence against Trump is neither complete nor compelling – and certainly not enough to remove a duly-elected President from office.
While there are certainly enough Democrat votes to impeach Trump on a purely partisan basis, more time and more evidence may have prevented the defection of a few Democrats. Pelosi previously said that impeachment must be bipartisan. So far, it is not. Not one House Republican voted to launch the impeachment inquiries – and it is unlikely that any will vote to impeach. But a few Democrats did vote against launching the impeachment – and some have already announced their intention to vote against the Articles of Impeachment. In other words, the only thing bipartisan is the OPPOSITION to impeachment.
Democrats could have – and should have – taken the time to compel the witnesses they, themselves, declared to be critical. Had they begun the impeachment process earlier, Democrats could have waited for the federal courts to resolve the issue of presidential executive privilege. That is the proper constitutional method of resolving issues of “powers” between the White House and Capitol Hill. In the Nixon impeachment, it was the Supreme Court that ordered the all-important tape recordings to be released to Congress. But Democrats left no time for that.
Instead, they are short-cutting the process – claiming that they have sufficient evidence of wrong-doing by Trump to proceed with Articles of Impeachment. They do not. By trampling over all considerations of timing, Democrats have painted themselves in a corner and have to now live with that reality.
In sending half-baked – no, unbaked – Articles of Impeachment to the Senate, the House Democrats are going to look very bad as the trial proceeds and ends in Trump’s acquittal. By short-circuiting the process, Democrats have given the Senate even more reason – and greater credibility – in acquitting Trump. That is as likely an outcome as is the Democrats’ vote to impeach.
There is an expression that “timing is everything.” It may not be everything, but it is a lot more than nothing – a lesson that Democrats are about to learn.
So, there ‘tis.