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If You Don’t Listen, You Can’t Hear

Terry H. Schwadron

Nov. 27, 2019

The failure to look presidential bad behavior in the eye is upsetting in so many ways beyond a lack of reason in government and the conduct of Team Trump in office.

Feelings that hover between disgust, what-do-you-expect and hopelessness — widespread among people I meet — rises in direct proportion to now-solid Republican insistence not only to impeachment, but to the idea that bad behavior even happened, denying totally the use of the power of the Oval Office to seek favors from the vulnerable Ukrainian president in the form of manufactured political dirt against Joe Biden and son.

Despite a parade of witnesses, and the continuing disclosures of email trails and the rest, to listen to Republicans is to believe that it is all made up. Beyond the actual plot is the matter of refusing to allow Congress access to people and documents, which generally is ignored by these spokespersons.

The preposterousness of Republican arguments in their television campaigns to tell people to look away leave me gasping for reason. I try to write about actions and deeds rather than feelings, but the emotions are becoming fact by themselves — people are fleeing the political discussion in droves because it has become so absurd.

You could start almost anywhere: The chief spokespersons are flipping the actual content of testimony to find the one sentence that muddies the conclusions, are insisting that the results don’t matter because the process to get to this point was too one-sided (not their side), that political day is night. In the last days, Trump was reported to have released the aid just after learning of the whistleblower report, in support of a cover-up move, as well as budget officials working to paper over the move with a mound of emails, and the walkout of two budget officials as a result.

The questions

I’m sorry, but whatever you want to believe about otherwise discounted, debunked information about the Bidens, how does that excuse Donald Trump’s abuse of office? What do the Republicans want from a new investigation of the Bidens other than deflection from the president’s own behavior? With Republicans in control of both houses, why didn’t they go after the Bidens from the get go?

Even if Joe Biden were to drop out of the presidential race out of some fear of Republican censure, how would that explain Trump inviting a foreign country to mix in American domestic politics?

How would the irrational arguments that Trump is making about would-be 2016 interference by some unidentified rogue Ukrainians explain seeking to ruin and disown American diplomats and security officials change the proof that it was Russians to blame, and still to blame?

How would accepting that “the DNC server,” as if this was a single, physical machine, ended up in Ukraine, somehow magically benefitting Hillary Clinton rather than himself, help explain running actual U.S. rogue intelligence and foreign adventurism through personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and “three amigos,” Gordon Sundland, Rick Perry and Ambassador Kurt Volker?

Beyond all that, why are Fox News commentators standing in for the president himself, and calling out Rep. Adam Schiff as “clearly and demonstrably mentally ill” (Tucker Carlson) rather than simply wrong?

Let’s step back here. Yes, I don’t like Trump. I don’t like most of the policies he pushes, I don’t like his derision of ethics, I don’t like his rejection of logic, reason and Science. I don’t like his lack of empathy or his inability to communicate, or his rejection of Truth through Facts over his perceptions of “Fake” statements if he personally does not agree. I don’t like his hypocrisy in office or in his public life.

Yet, I am willing to entertain a discussion of whether vast expansion of presidential powers to encompass a plot to trade White House acknowledgment and military aid for leverage with Ukraine amounts to grounds for impeachment. Republicans, with one eye on polling results particularly in political battleground states, are telling me that they are not.

Brute Force of Majority

The evidence made public is plenty to believe that Team Trump has been running a game on the rest of us. By all that has ever been taught about the role of government, Trump is coloring outside of the lines. There is supposed to be a price.

Yet, where we stand as a democracy right now is support for a Brute Force of Majority in the Senate. We’re supposed to feel lousy about brute force in the House, but Get Over It for senators lining up not only to defeat an impeachment vote, but to deny the reality that brought about the conditions for an impeachment vote.

There is no discussion, there is just slinging of mud. There is no interest in finding fact, only in presenting that fact that tries to one-up the other fact. We cannot discuss the law, the evidence or the value of witnesses. We can only retreat to our divided sides.

Moreover, Republican senators and House members as a bloc are standing firm behind any presidential disdain for subpoenas, for getting rid of Congressional oversight for which they are not the majority, for ignoring ethical misbehaviors and a long list of policies that undercut the U.S. military and American national security. The same senators who insisted on huge amounts of money to rebuild the military and security investments now stand by as national security is being thrown away in the Oval Office — for personal political gain.

Add to all this the reluctance of the public to engage with the facts, to accept so easily the myths being spun in political control rooms. Apparently, Americans don’t want to do the work to figure out the truth here, too willing to blame the media for exaggerated bad news, or even to recognize that parties are using the power of spending millions of dollars to promote falsehoods — or at least misleading narratives.

So, as public attention span wanes for an impeachment trial, Trump will win. Republicans will win. American democracy, values and standing will lose. The Russians are feasting on all this division; it is exactly what they have sought, and Trump’s behavior and actions are delivering it on a golden plate.

Perhaps we should be seeking an America that pays attention.


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Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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