Impeachment 2: Why It Didn’t Work

What mystified me most about the Democrats’ impeachment strategy back in January was why Adam Schiff was allowed to talk for so long.

In baseball (sorry friends overseas), after you’ve had a bruising playoff series, you sometimes face the question: Do you start Game 1 of the World Series with your tired ace pitcher, or do you announce the day before that you’re going to your bench for a well-rested, lesser known pitcher that the opponents’ lineup is not expecting?

Schiff was our ace, but we had already seen plenty of him during the hearings in the House, and by the time they got to the Senate, Fox News had already defined him for the Republican following – and not in a flattering way. I thought for sure the Democratic leadership would pull a switcharoo at the last minute and make someone else the lead impeachment prosecutor.

Rep. Adam Schiff

Schiff got high marks from fellow liberals, notably my favorite up-and-comer Preet Bharara, but we had heard his good guy rap already. Most minds were made up, and Trump was keeping the heat on the few who were wavering. I thought the best person to carry that message would have been one of these Gulf War vet guys who was holding down a volatile swing district, maybe a Clintonian good ol’ boy.

They could have kept Schiff on the team to deliver the deepest, most precise punches, but made an overall case that was more like, “I’m with you, boys. I was skeptical too. Do we really have to impeach? Unfortunately we do…” If we had taken this tack, we might have peeled off one or two more.

John McGiver as Senator Jordan.

Adam Schiff reminds me of Senator Thomas Jordan in The Manchurian Candidate – the one whose very name makes Angela Lansbury blurt out “The Communist?!” A cerebral liberal whose kindness to lost-in-the-anticomminust-psychic-wilderness Raymond Shaw gets rewarded with murder, he is, like Sellers’ portrayal of the U.S. president in Doctor Strangelove, both reminiscent of Adlai Stevenson and slightly effeminate.

Earlier in The Manchurian Candidate, when Shaw commits a test murder against his newspaperman boss, the man is wearing his deceased wife’s nighty in bed for warmth. (Jim Backus in Rebel Without a Cause also has a prominent scene wearing a feminine apron, it was a trope at the time.) When Shaw kills Jordan, he is holding a quart of milk exactly breast high, the bullet entering his chest through the carton, and the milkman of human kindness dies.

The macho Right loves to think it knows how to “dominate” the unruly, Hobbesian world that the Lockean Left is too effeminate to handle, but should we really let them decide who our caucus’ impeachment managers are? If we want to win, yes.

Does that matter now? Arguably, no, but if we had peeled off one or two more votes, the lasting damage may have helped get a few more votes out of those croakers this spring, through the virus, the Black Lives Matter uprising, and what might still turn into a constitutional crisis. And let’s remember in the future, it’s not about how we sound to one another, it’s how we sound at the V.F.W. in Milwaukee.

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