I'm beginning to understand the Republican base better. After listening to three days of Trump's lawyers talking, I feel like I got more stupid with each passing word until they finally ended. I now have an idea what it must be like listening to "Fox News" and Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh and Alex Jones and Michael Savage all the time.
It was quite a remarkable thing. I sort of expect lying from these above and from Trump with his 16,241 lies documented by the Washington Post. And I expected Trump's lawyer to deflect attention and spin stories, but -- as lawyers in a trial setting in front of the freaking Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, I really, truly honestly didn't expect them to actually lie. And worse, to knowingly push literal Russian propaganda.
And of course they know it's a lie to say that Ukraine may have hacked the 2016 election, because they're not Trump, and because Putin didn't tell them, and because they're not total idiots, and because they know every U.S. intelligence agency says that Ukraine didn't. Yet push that Russian-driven misinformation like Russian dupes -- or "useful idiots" as the Russian term goes -- they did.
And repeating what can only be describes as lies that had been contradicted under oath during the House impeachment hearing, and which news story reported very clearly -- like the evidence that Ukraine knew long before Trump's phone call that U.S. aid was being withheld. And that Republicans didn't have access to the "secret" impeachment depositions. (They did, they got to ask as many questions as Democrats did, and the transcripts of it all were released.) And that Trump wasn't given an opportunity to have his lawyers cross-examine witnesses in the House impeachment hearings. (He was, but turned it down.) And that Adam Schiff intentionally misquoted Trump in the House impeachment hearings. (He didn't, he made very clear that he was paraphrasing Trump for dramatic effect.) And more. Much more.
And again, to be clear, this isn't lying to the press or the American public (which is Not a Good Thing, even though life under Trump tries to normalize it). This is lawyers lying during a trial presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
But beyond the lies and Russian propaganda, it was three days of mischaracterizations, distractions, deflections, subverting and mind-numbing journeys into charges so deeply off-topic (like suggesting that former President Barack Obama should be the one on trial, for some unexplained, albeit bizarre reason) and convoluted legal theories so twisted that even they themselves noted that most legal scholars don't agree.
On and on and on and on they went, defending Rudy Giuliani for a quarter of an hour, rising in angst again Hunter Biden who -- it must be stated, since Republicans opted not to -- is not an elected official, is not a government worker, and is not involved with politics in any way other than birth, but is just a private citizen, yet apparently aggrieved Trump so much that it caused him to try to get a foreign nation involved in investigating him, though clearly not aggrieved enough for Trump or any Republican elected official to ever once ask the U.S. Justice Department or any GOP-led Senate committee to investigate him or even raise a single concern, until his father announced his candidacy to run against Trump.
On and on and on it all went, as you could feel the effort doing its best to make you feel as stupid as possible. Thank heavens that God created the mute button, and that the Senate had to take periodic breaks, and that it would always adjourn and come to an end each day, rather than have the Senate equivalent of All Night Radio. And thankfully too I actually followed the news before the trial, so I was able to say, "Hmm, wait, no, that isn't true" and keep a solid, grounded foundation through it all.
To be clear, I am certain Republicans were bothered by the 21 hours of Democratic House Manager opening statements. But that reaction was generally based on disagreeing with it, insisting there wasn't enough evidence to prove the case, believing that the charges weren't impeachable. It was not because Democrats were lying, were delivering Russian propaganda, were going off on empty tangents that had nothing to do with the Articles of Impeachment, and weren't presenting facts germane to the case. Two totally different matters. One -- we don't agree with you. The other -- see if you can come through this hell hole of head-banging digressions, misdirections, obfuscations and lies with your view of reality intact.
But I came through it, fortunately. Yes, there's more to go, but the speeches are over. And I survived. And came away with a deeper understanding of why so much of the Republican base is the way it is. If this is what you listen to throughout the day, every day, day after day for weeks and years, it explains the results of the 2012 study by Farleigh Dickinson University that showed people who watch Fox News knew less about current events than people who don't watch any TV news at all.
It explains the results. What it does not do is excuse them.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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