Rushin' Roulette

#16: Plus why you shouldn't put your hope on Tulsi

The Wham, Bam, Thank You Ma’am Impeachment: Do you think the Democrats need to rush impeachment (as they’re currently doing)? I don't. There are three reasons usually given for why they can't afford to wait:

1) If impeachment proceedings run on too far into next year they'll interfere with the Democratic presidential primary.

2) "Impeachment fatigue" might set in as the process drags on.

3) Impeachment might be a political loser, at least in some quarters. Get it over with to limit the damage. Or, as Rich Lowry put it, "Pelosi doesn’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time on impeachment, holding her vulnerable members hostage to an initiative that may not play well in their districts and ticking ever closer on the clock to the beginning of the campaign season."

Sounds reasonable, especially to someone (like me) who thinks impeachment should be a loser.** But does the logic hold up? Let's take the three alleged reasons one by one. (I'm assuming here that Pelosi's House will impeach, and, as expected, McConnell's Senate will acquit.***):

The primaries! The primaries!:  Maybe the senators in the race will be unable to campaign 24/7 if they have to be back in Washington for a trial. But, really, is it of utmost importance that Democrats give Sen. Klobuchar a fair shot at a last minute Iowa surge? If impeachment were a political winner, Dems would recognize Fairness for Ambitious Senators as the secondary concern it is.  And aren't there other ways, nowadays, to reach voters besides actually shaking their hands? There are still local debates and jet planes— and surrogates and the Internet. Plus, impeachment is an near-equal opportunity hobbler -- six senators will be forced to juggle, and non-senator Biden is likely to be damaged when his son's Ukraine sleaze gets aired in the Senate. That means, of the major candidates, only Buttigieg is an obvious beneficiary of the scheduling jam. If he gets the nomination, will the senate trial be why? No. A Buttigieg Iowa win will have an asterisk.

Voters, meanwhile, have the bandwidth to follow two circuses at once — to decide what to think about Trump and whom to run against him. . That's just an application of the Feiler Faster Thesis (FFT), the idea that not only does information move faster these days but that voters are comfortable processing this information more quickly. Finally, it’s perfectly possible for Democrats to pick a decent nominee even if Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina don’t maintain their customary wildly disproportional influence.

Fatigue: Dems are worried about the "potential onset of impeachment fatigue"? Potential? My god, if you weren't fatigued two months ago you're not going to be fatigued now. (This is another FFT implication: we get fatigued more quickly because ‘news’ stops being new more quickly). Isn't it more likely that voters will get fatigued, then reinterested, then refatigued, then reinterested?

Anger. Fatigue. Depression. Boredom. Acceptance. The Kubler-Ross stages of impeachment!

Damage Control: Suppose impeachment is a loser for Dems. Not just because of boredom, but because of substance. The closer we get to the election, the worse the substance looks—as the claim that Congress should just let the voters decide becomes stronger. But does that mean Pelosi has to end the impeachment process in February to give enough time for vulnerable Dems to make constituents forget about its defects? Does that really take eight months? Maybe eight months was what you needed in earlier days -- but the FFT suggests Congress could end the hearing in April, May, or June and still have plenty of time to ‘change the story’ and give the electorate something else to worry about.

I find myself reluctantly thinking this seemingly deranged anti-Trump prescription of Endless Impeachment — "continue holding impeachment hearings indefinitely" — might not be quite as deranged as it first appeared. Sure, not "indefinitely: -- at some point Democrats need to cut off the inquiries and give their candidates time to talk about health care and crime and wages and the other issues the average swing voter cares about. And they have to leave the time for a McConnell-led Senate trial.

But they can let their show run longer than Pelosi seems to think.

** — Democrats are taking what basically should be a very embarrassing front page newspaper story for Trump and working themselves up into thinking it's a"high crime." There was at least enough legitimate cause to investigate the Bidens — what did Joe’s son’s client get for all that money? — to take the case out of the “high crime” category. [See third item here.]

*** If the Senate might actually convict Trump and remove him, that would change the calculus — but not in favor of rushing, since Senators seem unlikely to convict on the basis of the evidence Rep. Schiff has presented. On the other hand, an actual conviction anywhere near the elction seems like a disaster for Republicans — it would accurately be perceived, by the fabled “base” — as an attempted disenfranchisement. (And unless Trump were also banned from public office, it also might result in pressure to keep him as nominee and even his boomerang re-election in November.) This consideration might impose a hard "impeach by" date of late spring, perhaps. But, again, the FFT suggests Dems have more time than they might think, in part because even “base” voters will get ‘over it’ faster, in part because ‘only 6 months until the election’ now seems like a much longer time — perhaps a near-eternity.


Culti Gabbard: Many of my political allies have become enamored of Tulsi Gabbard's contrarian race for the Democratic nomination, especially her anti-interventionist stand. She even occasionally says sensible things about immigration. But she has a big problem, which is her legacy in Science of Identity, a cultish offshoot of Hare Krishna founded by a man named Chris Butler (most famous for his former anti-gay teachings). You can't prove Gabbard is a member of this cult — I’m not saying that! — but read these three articles and see if you don't get the creeps. (Sample, from Kerry Howley in New York magazine: “No one I spoke to with personal experience of the group, including Tulsi’s aunt, thought it possible that Tulsi Gabbard had somehow left Chris Butler’s sphere of influence …”) It doesn't help that her aides and husband(s) also have Butler "ties," at least through their parents. And it really doesn't help if Gabbard continues to answer questions about Butler with the accusation that it's all just anti-Hindu bigotry.

There's a way to respond effectively to charges of cult membership — even if you're still in the cult! It's to say something like: 'Guru X was very important to me at one stage of my life. He taught me a lot. I've changed my mind on many things since then. But I still value his wisdom." This doesn't seem to be Tulsi's Way. And that can be expected cause her huge damage if she actually surges in the primary, and the cult semi-undernews becomes the focus of mainstream media attention.

To be sure: After Trump, it's hard to assert with any confidence that something will doom a candidate (Putin? Pussy?).

Also, don’t ask me about Charlie Peters! I still value his wisdom.


Kf Reports from the L.A. Auto Show: Fifty years they've been waiting for a mid-engine Corvette. The concept’s been teased every so often with leaked designs [see slideshow], some of them beautiful, that were never manufactured. Now it's finally, actually here, and it's hideous—busy and cheesy. Sad!