The Democrats' impeachment pseudo-event
by Michael Barone
| November 20, 2019 11:59 AM
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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events is the title of a 1960s book by historian and Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin. Pseudo-events, he wrote, are staged solely to generate news media coverage. Real events, in contrast, involve independent actors and have unpredictable outcomes.
It’s not difficult to say which category the House Democrats’ impeachment hearings belongs in. It’s a classic pseudo-event stage-managed to prod sympathetic media into running predictable stories. Inconvenient questions from Republican members are blocked. Even the name of the original “whistleblower” is concealed, though no law requires that, and the stage managers know who he is.
Yet on the front pages and cable news, this pseudo-event is crowding out two genuine events of potentially world-shaking importance and uncertain outcome.
President Trump is going to be impeached by the House and will not be removed from office by the Senate. But the potential for regime change — or regime rigidification — resulting from the prolonged rioting in Hong Kong and recent protests in Iran is hugely consequential and entirely unpredictable.
Foreign policy analysts classify nations as either upholders or disruptors of world order. The disruptors in the years after World War I were Germany, Italy, and Japan. The upholders failed to prevent them from triggering World War II. Since the end of the Cold War the major disruptors have been China, Iran, and Russia. Now the first two are facing vigorous protests and regime-change threats.
The six months of protests in Hong Kong reflect a rejection of China’s increasingly authoritarian state which, armed with artificial intelligence and face-recognition technology, threatens an Orwellian eradication of freedoms.
Will dictator-for-life Xi Jinping crack down violently in Hong Kong, as Deng Xiaoping did in Tiananmen Square in 1989? It's not clear. There would be costs internationally, but China today is growing less dependent on exports to the U.S. and advanced countries. That’s partly due to Trump’s tariff threats but also because Chinese wages are no longer rock-bottom and its labor force is shrinking.
So as China disengages from America, Xi may be willing to endure the backlash from a violent crackdown in Hong Kong. How does America deal with a more hostile and less economically connected — and potentially much more disruptive —China? Both houses of Congress passed unanimous resolutions backing protesters’ demands, but beyond that it’s not clear that anyone knows how to influence the regime’s behavior.
On Iran, Trump and the Democrats have opposite positions. President Barack Obama signed a nuclear agreement with Iran, which he hoped would lead to friendly cooperation in the Middle East — hopes that were never fulfilled. Trump renounced the agreement and has squeezed the Iranian economy, possibly giving rise to the current protests. They’re serious enough that the mullah regime has largely shut down Iran’s isolated internet.
Will this lead to regime change? Iran’s “green” protests of 2009, largely ignored by the Obama administration, didn’t. These may not either. But history shows that peaceful protests can sometimes topple a tyrannical regime, even though it’s hard to predict just when. Ronald Reagan envisioned the fall of the Berlin Wall and Daniel Patrick Moynihan the collapse of the Soviet Union, but neither knew those things would happen in November 1989 and December 1991.
It’s possible that the regimes of post-Mao communist China and the mullahs’ Iran might collapse after 40 years of tyranny. Or, less happily and more likely, these regimes may sweep aside the protests and last for centuries, like so many Chinese dynasties and Persian monarchies. Real events have uncertain and possibly momentous outcomes.
Not so for the impeachment hearings. Witnesses are heard complaining that Trump subverted the “formal interagency policy process” and that he pressured — “bribed” is the focus-group-determined but inapt verb that Democrats are now using — Ukraine’s government for political gain. But Ukraine is not a formal U.S. ally, and Obama refused to provide it even defensive weapons when Russia seized its territory in Donbass and Crimea. Now we’re told that Trump should be ousted from office for a two-month delay in delivering those weapons.
“The executive power,” Article II of the Constitution states, “shall be vested in a president of the United States of America.” That president, as the career diplomats testifying have acknowledged, has no obligation to follow “interagency” processes or consensus. It’s hard to avoid concluding that Democrats who detest Trump seized on this weak pretext for impeachment when and because the charges of Russian collusion they brandished for three years turned out to be baseless.
Polls show support for impeachment declining. Americans, it turns out, don’t have to read Boorstin to recognize a pseudo-event when they see one.
https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/impeachment-polls/Thucydides said:Interesting how so many really important things are being drowned out by "the narrative"
Thucydides said:Interesting how so many really important things are being drowned out by "the narrative"
PPCLI Guy said:You are right of course. Corruption? Not an important thing. President acting like an Emperor and ruling by fiat? Not really all that important. The loss of any prestige, anywhere, whatsoever? Not so much. Allies? Nah. Standing up to tyrants (or even being one)? Nope.
Tell me what is important again? Tax cuts for the wealthy? Destroying the environment? Making the rich richer? Further gerrymandering the vote? Divided a country once united? Cheapening the gleaming city on the hill? Pandering to tyrants? Are those the important things? I keep forgetting what I'm supposed to thing - guess I should check Fox / Breitbart / Infowars.
I think that the Impeachment show is silly, and that the Democrats have made a huge mistake...but let's not let their incompetence bestow even the slightest bit of legitimacy on the actions of this White House.
A pox on all of their houses.
Worry rises in military over Trump's decision-making
By Barbara Starr and Nicole Gaouette, CNN
Updated 7:10 PM ET, Wed November 27, 2019
A long-serving military officer put it bluntly, telling CNN "there is a morale problem," and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the President's behavior.
Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump's sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria. But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump's intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored.
Fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer wrote Wednesday in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump's intervention was "shocking and unprecedented. ... It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices."
Trump had upped the ante at a rally on Tuesday by issuing an extraordinary declaration that he took action in the face of "deep state" opposition. In fact, senior Pentagon officials had been unanimously opposed to the President's intervention because they believed it would undermine military discipline and order.
The President's comments and his intervention -- at the urging of Fox News commentators -- reflect another worry among military leaders that Trump continues to be influenced by the network in ways that encourage him to politicize the military, an institution that is meant to stay above the political fray.
Top military leaders say they are concerned about Trump's divisive rhetoric and politicization of the military. They also tell CNN they worry the President's mercurial management style -- often expressed through tweets -- may be undermining national security by making military planning increasingly difficult.
QV said:In the absence of any real evidence, there sure is a lot of carrying on what a racist and insane person President Trump is. Are we measuring him by the high ethical bar of Clinton, Kennedy, or LBJ? Or maybe perhaps the even higher bar of the SNC plagued, found to be unethical, blackfaced, alleged groper of a PM we have re-elected?
If he is such a racist, why does his approval keep rising among black Americans? If he is so insane that on a Trumpian whim he will destroy the world with a launch of nukes, list me all the unnecessary wars he's committed US troops to.
CNN and CBC is not honest journalism.
QV said:, why does his approval keep rising among black Americans?
Remius said:African Americans but since you mentioned it, his approval rating isn't exactly going up. But it is stabilised at an awesome 10%...
November 8, 2018
Remius said:I won't call him a racist based on his approval rate among African Americans but since you mentioned it, his approval rating isn't exactly going up. But it is stabilised at an awesome 10%...
QV said:. . . Are we measuring him by the high ethical bar of Clinton, Kennedy, or LBJ? . . .
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
(a guide for Global Leadership)
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
•Don't hit people.
•Put things back where you found them.
•Clean up your own mess.
•Don't take things that aren't yours.
•Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
•Wash your hands before you eat.
•Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
•Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
•Take a nap every afternoon.
•When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
•Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
•Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
•And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
[Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum.
mariomike said:My ethical bar for leaders is they calm more chaos than they create.