Margaret Valenti writes on the partisan rants and other sustained speeches given by members of Congress during the public impeachment hearings. They inhibit the effectiveness of the public hearings, which should provide the public with more facts and information about the dealings between the White House and Ukraine.
There is a lot still unknown that will come out of these impeachment hearings, yet so far it feels as if the U.S. public is getting a front row seat to watch their government ripping at the seams. While these hearings are important to those who can tune out the aggressive back and forth banter from across the aisle, those aggressive back and forth moments take up most of the screen time along with long monologues aimed at keeping these politicians in power.
Devin Nunes went to attack the Democrats when he said that “it’s unfortunate that today and for most of next week we will continue engaging in the Democrats’ day-long TV spectacles instead of solving the problems we were all sent to Washington to address . . .We now have a major trade agreement with Canada and Mexico ready for approval, a deal that would create jobs and boost our economy . . . meanwhile, we have not yet approved funding for the government, which expires next week. along with funding for our men and women in uniform. Instead, the Democrats have convened us once again to advance their operation to topple a duly elected president.”
While a lot of the bickering seems to be coming from the Republican side of things, the Democrats are certainly not immune or above taking the bait.
Adam Schiff (D-Cal), often referred to as “Shifty Schiff” by Donald Trump, opened the proceedings on Tuesday, he stated that “if the President abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — it will be up to us to decide whether some of those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”
What this back and forth is doing is wasting the public’s valuable time and impeding not only their desires to watch the hearings but also their need to access valuable information about the actual events and interactions between the President of the United States and the Ukraine government. Most often, it seems to be Jim Jordan (R-OH) who is providing much of the banter in the room. He stated that “this is scary, what these guys [Democrats] are putting our country through. It is sad, it is scary, its is wrong.” Clearly, that statement is an attempt to make sure that the public knows that the impeachment is the Democrats’ fault, not a result of concerns surrounding the President’s actions. That statement does nothing to inform anyone.
The banter is not just coming from the hearings, it is also coming from the President. As Adam Schiff said during the Marie Yovanovitch hearing, “what we saw today is, it wasn’t enough that Ambassador Yovanovitch was smeared, it wasn’t enough that she was attacked, it wasn’t enough that she was recalled for no reason, at least no good reason … But we saw today, witness intimidation in real-time by the President of the United States, once again going after this dedicated and respected career public servant in an effort to not only chill her, but to chill others who may come forward. We take this kind of witness intimidation and obstruction of inquiry very seriously.” Obviously, Trump’s goal is to distract from the information coming out of these hearings as well.
If these hearings are not effective in laying out the truth and a real cause for impeachment, which seems to be the direction they are heading, President Trump will continue to run for reelection and probably win.
Politics of Impeachment Do Not Achieve Justice
It is a ceremony. The fact that the impeachment process is a political one was never clearer to young voters than right now because these hearings are being displayed live on major news programs. For many, this is the first and perhaps last time they will witness an impeachment, at the moment when the government is at its most divided. Since that seems to be a growing number of the Democratic party’s base, it seems that there is an impasse.
How do you go about not being bullied or a bully while remaining strong, fending off disinformation from all sides, and conduct hearings that will inform the citizens about possible crimes committed by the President, his administration, and his associates? It almost seems like too big a job, or perhaps an impossible job in this time of great divide.
It is not as if the process of impeachment can stop altogether. More people need to testify. More people need to be held accountable. The country needs justice. Yet, it is impossible to know whether anything good will come out of this? How much does the Constitution truly matter to most people? While it gives people in the U.S. what they know as their everyday lives, the effects go largely unnoticed. It is as if it is supposed to be there, how could it not be? Like air.
When Democrats claim they are upholding the values of the Constitution, they are doing that because that is their job, that is what they have been elected to do. On millions of television screens for the next couple of weeks, the people of this country deserve to see a government deciding over how to best serve justice to the Constitution and the people of this country, not bickering on the sidelines.
A political showdown or an informative fact-gathering session?
Presenting the evidence is all these hearings should be for, and yet it feels more like a political showdown than an informative fact-gathering session. None of the behavior seen on television screens across the country would stand in a court of law.
In fact, if this impeachment makes it to the Senate, it is a requirement that the Senators must remain silent while members of Congress present the evidence and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the case. The Founders drew up very detailed outlines about impeachment trials in the Senate as opposed to the vague rules about what should happen during the hearings in Congress.
As for the Republicans, the mission is clear. To discredit everyone and everything that is against the current administration in the White House. Fill the hearings with noise so that no truth comes out. In the end, history will mark them as the ones who tried to sideline justice. They are screaming at the top of their lungs, filling the air with so much noise that it makes it hard to hear anything productive in these hearings. Often there are moments when the congresspeople interrupt the witnesses, as is what happened with Gordon Sondland Wednesday, multiple times.
Devin Nunes (R-CA) accused the Democrats of trying to “topple” the Trump presidency, further stating that “these hearings are not designed to uncover new information, they’re meant to showcase a handpicked group of witnesses who the Democrats determined, through their secret audition process, will provide testimony most conducive to their accusations.” By going on this rant, however, Nunes makes it even harder for anyone to hear the testimony of the witnesses. Any time not spent asking the witnesses questions is time wasted in these hearings.
From the threats to the shouting of accusations that fill every empty space, it is hard to focus on the facts of the case, which is all these impeachment hearings should be about. Nothing in these hearings should be about opinion, yet it is largely agreed upon that impeachment is a political process, not a lawful one.
Still, the impeachment hearings should be a more productive and thought out, educational process than the ones currently happening live on television screens across the country. At the core of impeachment seems to be the desire to “partisanize” the government, not deliver the facts to the public, which is not what the government should be, but ultimately what it became amidst the current two-party system that constantly lashes out at each other.
What their “filling the air with noise” does is prevent those who need it the most from really hearing the testimonies. Any swing voters will now be caught between two bickering sides and may decide that both options are ridiculous because they refuse to hold productive hearings. Regardless of whose fault this is, something needs to be done to fix the way these hearings are playing out. Otherwise, these hearings will change public opinion as much as the Mueller Report and subsequent hearings did. Which means that not much will happen – the Republicans will not prove the President’s innocence and the Democrats will not prove his guilt.
Stop The Partisan Politics Now
What is worse is that most Democrats in Congress did not want to bring a formal impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump. They believe they were forced, unable to ignore the complaints of the Whistleblower. Who knows how many Republicans will cross the aisle by the end of these hearings? However, a vote to remove Trump from office does not seem likely given the Republican majority in the Senate.
If these hearings could be effective at all, everyone needs to control their banter, keep their opinions to themselves, try to discern the facts and work towards achieving truth and justice, regardless of the results. Let the speakers give their testimony and do not fill the air with rants and soliloquies. What the country needs right now is a strong government, not one being torn apart at the seams on live television. As the chosen leaders of our federal government, they need to get it together.