Friday, November 15, 2019

Outrage Fatigue Is Donald Trump's Greatest Weapon Against Impeachment

It was August 2016.  Newly coronated Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had just pivoted from calling John McCain a coward for being shot down over North Vietnam to characterizing Khizr Khan as a simpering Hillary Clinton puppet, Khan's wife Ghazala as an obeisantly silent slave and their son, Humayan, who sacrificed his life to a suicide bomber on an Iraqi roadside to save his comrades, as a needless casualty of a war that would never have been fought had he been president.  The full extent of the horrors the reality television star and faux billionaire was capable of unleashing if he improbably was elected still were only an abstraction, but I warned for the first and not last time against taking Trump's demagoguery for granted.   
Little even did I know, and a kind of outrage fatigue has taken hold in the intervening three-plus years.   That fatigue has now become perhaps the most effective weapon of the beleaguered president and his congressional Republican sycophancy amidst impeachment hearings that further reveal him to be everything we had feared and more. 
One fatigued media outlet called the momentous public testimony this week detailing Trump's attempted extortion of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig nonexistent dirt on father and son Biden a "big yawn," another "more like the dress rehearsal for a serious one-act play than the opening night of a hit Broadway musical," another "consequential but dull," while yet another grouched that "fireworks and explosive moments were scarce." 
As if describing Trump's blatant self dealing in scrupulous detail should be some kind of Netflix series.  
But it was the really fatigued Chris Cillizza of CNN who took the booby prize for saying that the witnesses who were methodically depantsing the president, including William Taylor, George Kent and Maria Yovanovich, "lacked the pizzazz necessary to capture public attention." 
Okay, so the media flunks yet another test of how to cover Trump by stooping to the role of reality television show critics.  This is an especially grave failure because these examples singing Trump's tune are music to the ears of the president and his defenders.
In the course of that pizzazz-deficient week of testimony, Trump immigration point man Stephen Miller was revealed to be the white supremacist we've long suspected him of being, Trump welcomed fellow tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdogan into the Oval Office where they had a chuckle about Turkish atrocities against the Kurds trapped in northern Syria after Trump had abandoned him, and there was yet another round of environmental protection rollbacks.   
None produced barely a blip on the media's radar, and you had to dig really deep to find mention of a smug Erdogan making a big deal of returning Trump's fatuous October 9 letter to him after he withdrew U.S. troops from northern Syria in which he warned, "Don't be a tough guy.  Don't be a fool.  I will call you later."   
And so Erdogan, like Kim Jong-un of Korea, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Xi Jinping of China and, of course, Vladimir Putin of Russia, played the president for the fool he is. 
But the week was not without at least some pizzazz. 
Sean Spicer put on a bravura swan song performance in tangoing into the sunset on "Dancing With the Stars." 
Trump provided the zing Yovanovich may have lacked by attacking her while she testified in a slam-dunk case of witness intimidation.   
Oh, and Roger Stone, Republican dirty trickster and longest of Trump's longtime advisers, was found guilty of lying to Congress and tampering with a witness concerning his involvement in WikiLeaks' release of Russian-hacked Democratic emails in the 2016 election.  Stone will likely join former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen in doing prison time, but it should be noted that none of the three were charged with being directly involved in the Trump campaign's collusion with Putin's cyberwarriors to throw the election.   
Nor has any other American as Trump has skated in what arguably is the crime of the century.  (All of that noted, the Stone conviction is a big win for Robert Mueller, whom I took apart just the other day.)    
Whether congressional Republicans can play us like fools through their divert-and-distract impeachment hearing maneuvering will go far in determining whether the president's abuses of power stand and reveal the once vaunted but now battered American system of justice incapable of holding accountable a monster like Trump. 
We simply cannot wait for another Blue Wave to do the job.           

1 comment:

Dan Leo said...

Here's a problem with these hearings for hoi polloi: you have to pay attention to understand what's going on, and you have to keep a lot of Ukrainian surnames straight. They're not simple in the way that a semen stain on a dress is simple.