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Right Opinion

Impeachment Moves Forward to Nowhere

Peggy Noonan · Jan. 18, 2020

Impeachment is moving forward and going nowhere. There is new information but it doesn’t really tell those who’ve paid attention anything they didn’t know. Putative administration operative Lev Parnas said on “The Rachel Maddow Show” Wednesday that the president knew everything about efforts to lean on Ukraine. But this was clear in testimony throughout the impeachment hearings. His own ambassador to the European Union said it! The ambassador to Ukraine knew she was being schemed against, lost her job because of it, and spelled it out under oath.

It’s icing on a cake that’s already sagging. The president will be acquitted for a host of reasons, from partisanship to a prudential judgment that his actions don’t warrant removal with a presidential election 10 months away.

What did Speaker Nancy Pelosi gain by playing her monthlong game of peekaboo, waiting to send the charges to the Senate? She withheld from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell papers he didn’t wish to receive and she saw that as leverage? It appears she was playing for time as investigators tried to develop more evidence. But again, for what? The president couldn’t look more guilty.

Meantime impeachment as a dramatic and distinct event lost all momentum. In the month after the House vote the story lost lift, then got lost in the Iran drama. This second stage feels not like the continuation of the first but a brand new second impeachment, which a lot of people will experience as overkill.

On the creepiness of the signing ceremony for the impeachment articles: Modern presidents have always held such ceremonies and signed big, happy legislation with many pens. Lyndon B. Johnson liked clutching bunches of them in his thick, meaty fist and handing them out personally. But the impeachment of a president is a grave and unhappy event. It’s not celebratory. Enacting triumphalism was shallow and looked like a tell. Why pens, why not a scalp?

Serious people understand the implications of things. Impeachment has now been normalized. It won’t be a once-in-a-generation act but an every-administration act. Democrats will regret it when Republicans are handing out the pens.

To the Democratic debate Tuesday night in Des Moines.

It contained my favorite panel-candidate moment of this cycle.

Bright young woman journalist: “Sen. Sanders, I do want to be clear here, you’re saying that you never told Sen. Warren that a woman could not win the election?”

Sanders: “That is correct.”

BYWJ: “Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”

Warren: “I disagreed.”

It was like Judge Judy on drugs:

“Ernie, did you hit Peggy on the head?”

“No, of course not.”

“Peggy, how did you feel when Ernie hit you on the head?”

The moment went uncorrected. This is why people hate the press.

I found myself watching Elizabeth Warren. She has proved she can take a punch and throw one (“Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections.”) Of the candidates in their 70s she’s the highest-energy and most indefatigable. Actually she’d have high energy for a 50-year-old. All candidates now have to be actors but she’s a good one, telling her stories over and over, her voice growing husky at the moving parts.

Her challenge is not that she’s a woman, it is her policies, and maybe something else. I watched the debate with a man who’s a sophisticated observer with no dog in the fight. Ms. Warren was doing her magical thinking about how universal Medicare won’t cost people a thing, it’s all savings with a few small tax increases on people we don’t like. I asked aloud, “Does she believe what she says or does she know it’s make-believe?”

He considered: “She did.” he said. That sounds right, that she started with belief but at this point sees the holes in what she’s saying. She’s caught, because she’s said it too often and now can only repeat it.

Bernie Sanders has the same magical thinking about the cost of things, who’ll pay, and what effect that will have on the nation’s life. But he gets away with it because he’s a declared socialist. His supporters don’t want realism and his foes don’t expect it. Ms. Warren says she’s a capitalist with a critique, so she faces a different burden.

There was also in the debate a kind of detachment from real life. A voter asked: “How will you prioritize accessing quality affordable child care?” The candidates were indignant that women can be held from the workforce by the high cost of child care. Pete Buttigieg vowed to get “federal dollars” involved, and spoke of stunted careers. Ms. Warren said, “My plan is universal child care for everyone.” She told of how she was almost forced “off track” by child care problems. Mr. Sanders said, “Every psychologist in the world knows 0 through 4 are the most important years of human life, intellectually and emotionally.”

No one spoke with compassion for parents, for mothers who forgo the earnings and status (“I have a job”) and relationships (“I’m not lonely all day”) of having a job to stay home with kids under 4. No one said that actually a lot of parents think the most important thing is to stay home and raise the kids, that many struggle to do it, and we might want to help them. No one noted we don’t give any particular honor to those who stay home, even though our culture depends on them.

What seemed to guide all the answers was a technocratic assumption that it’s best for little children to be raised by well-compensated strangers as mom is absorbed into the workforce, where she’ll finally achieve full self-actualization.

It was all so … cold. And detached from real life as many live it.

Meanwhile in full-employment America, Donald Trump is taking out terrorists with drones and announcing trade deals with China and seemingly weathering every storm. In the China ceremony Tuesday, in the East Room, after a booming “Hail to the Chief,” with a palpable sense of triumph filling the room, with the golden frames of the great portraits shining, Mr. Trump rolled off the names of the CEOs in the audience. There were a lot! It was in a way a fabulous celebration of the riches produced by capitalism. But it also seemed an almost sinister declaration of the intimate ties between great U.S. corporations and the federal government. The CEO of Boeing is here, the chief of eBay. “How’s General Electric doing, Nels?” “Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips, you’re doing fantastically well!” “I made a lot of bankers look very good, but you’re doing a great job.” “Ken Griffin, Citadel, what a guy he is.”

It was reminiscent of the scene in “The Godfather: Part II” where Fulgencio Batista hands around the solid gold telephone. “I’d like to thank this distinguished group of American industrialists for continuing to work with Cuba for the greatest period of prosperity in her entire history. Mr. William Shaw, representing the General Fruit Company … Messrs. Corngold and Dant of the United Telephone and Telegraph Company … and of course our friend Mr. Robert Allen of South American Sugar.”

We all think our breathless recitations of the latest revelations matter but I don’t know, it keeps feeling like 2016. Only this time with full employment.


Republished by permission from peggynoonan.com.

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