Impeachment hearings are a lose-lose proposition

Published 7:44 pm Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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By Rich Manieri

I’m not sure who to believe anymore.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman, and impeachment hearing ringmaster, Adam Schiff (D-Cal.) says he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower.

President Trump says he’s “too busy” to watch the hearings on television.

Each claim seems a bit far-fetched.

There are multiple reports that members of Schiff’s staff had secret meetings with the whistleblower. And we all know it’s unlike the president to miss, much less ignore, anything said about him by the media or his political opponents.

So, we hunker down with a bag of chips to watch the hearings to see if our side is winning. Meanwhile, America loses.

This process, such as it is, is so polluted by partisanship that I have very little confidence we are ever going to get to the truth which, after all, is what this is supposed to be about.

Instead, these hearings are an exercise in groupthink. Either the president is being railroaded or he’s already guilty and all that’s left is to fill in a few blanks.

Impeaching a president is a big deal. It doesn’t happen very often – four times in the history of the republic, though Richard Nixon resigned before the vote. It would be nice if we could trust our elected representatives as responsible stewards of such a gravely serious procedure.

But we can’t, and it’s their fault.

Our political discourse has plunged to such depths as to make it nearly impossible to accept anything we see or hear at face value. Many, if not most Democrats blame the president for this. Fine. To be clear, Trump doesn’t help himself by his bombast and name-calling. He has several nicknames for Schiff including “little pencil-neck.”

On the other hand, Schiff’s motives seem less than pure when he holds a series of secret hearings and declares, before any official impeachment inquiry, that the president is guilty.

On Tuesday, a day before the public hearings began, Schiff told NPR that he sees several impeachable offenses in Trump’s recent past, including bribery.

This is the same guy who, a year ago, told anyone who would listen there was “ample evidence” to prove the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.

“There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time,” Schiff said last December.

Due process is a fine idea, unless we really, really dislike the accused.

The media doesn’t help matters. If you watched the coverage on CNN and Fox News, you’d swear there are two hearings going on simultaneously; one that cements Trump’s guilt and another that exonerates him.

Most of the mainstream media declared Trump guilty long before his phone call with the president of Ukraine and well before the Mueller hearing. The New York Daily News, for example, wrote in a March 2016 editorial that “it’s not too early to start” the process of impeaching Trump.

It’s not breaking news that we don’t trust politicians and the media. The Congressional approval rating is hovering around 25 percent and, according to the latest Gallup poll, only 13 percent of Americans have a “great deal” of trust in the media when it comes to reporting news accurately and fairly.

And somehow, we’re supposed to trust the reporting on the current impeachment hearings. It doesn’t work that way.

If bias confirmation is enough to satisfy us, hearings marked by partisanship and grandstanding, followed by a healthy dose of agenda-driven reporting will do nicely.

But if we’re actually interested in getting to the truth, we’re pretty much on our own, though I am beginning to wonder if anyone really cares.

Of course, we should care. This is important. But there is a point at which the voices, on both sides, all sound the same – like Charlie Brown’s teacher.

According to a Reuters poll last month, 54 percent of independents agreed that lawmakers “should focus on fixing important problems facing Americans, rather than focusing on investigating President Trump,” while 34 percent disagreed.

The Democrats are taking a big risk by bringing this investigation to television. If those poll numbers are accurate, Americans who will decide the next election don’t seem to have the appetite for the political version of Friday Night SmackDown.

I realize that comparing the work of honest, dedicated Americans to a well-choreographed, public spectacle featuring trained actors is a bit unfair.

My apologies to professional wrestlers.

RICH MANIERI is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at You can reach him at