Fox’s “straight news” anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier sprang into action to reassure Fan in Chief Donald Trump that Mitt Romney’s dramatic impeachment vote to convict on abuse of power will not diminish any of Dear Leader’s awesome awesomeness.
Romney gave what may be the speech of his life today as he blasted Trump’s behavior with regard to Ukraine, calling him “guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.” Romney also correctly predicted he’d face a backlash from the right wing and “abuse” from Trump. “Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?” He said. But, he concluded, “I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me.”
In the immediate aftermath, Fox News was respectful of Romney but dismissive of his vote and the courage behind it. I suspect it was an attempt to thread the needle between not offending traditional Republicans who like Romney and keeping the Trumpers pleased as well.
Baier began by acknowledging that the decision was “still reverberating around Washington.” But “the real big vote,” Baier quickly added, “was the witness vote in this trial and once that happened, this, today, is pretty much a foregone conclusion, but history.”
MacCallum did her part for the cause. “Certainly, it was a dramatic, large decision,” she acknowledged. Then she got to work cutting it down. After noting that Romney “will be the first member of a party to vote to convict a member of his own party in the history of the United States,” MacCallum said, “In the large picture, it will not really matter all that much.”
“As a story line today, it’s obviously an interesting one,” MacCallum conceded, before continuing: “I think in the long run, when the vote comes down and the president is acquitted, that will be the big headline that history will pay attention to long term.”
Baier agreed. “I do think in the big picture, it’s kind of a blip for this president who seems to have the wind at his back at this moment.” He said Trump’s State of the Union speech last night “seemed to be effective” and “He’s doing well in the polls. For good measure, Baier said, “Obviously, on the flip side, Democrats are having a tough time.”
MacCallum one upped the reassurance. “We all know how many twists and turns can happen over the next nine months,” she said, “but there’s no doubt that the president goes into today with this acquittal this afternoon, likely acquittal, at four o’clock, feeling really good about where he is and I think Democrats are kind of spinning at this moment, coming out of Iowa, and Nancy Pelosi seemed to, you know, be fraying at the edges a bit last night during that speech, very frustrated with how things are going.” Then, perhaps mindful of how biased she was looking, MacCallum concluded her little Trump pep talk with, “but a lot can happen in the months to come.”
Baier, MacCallum and host Bill Hemmer spoke hopefully that Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin would vote to acquit Trump. They did not. In other words, it was a bipartisan conviction and a Republican-only acquittal.
You can watch Fox belittle Romney’s vote below, from the February 5, 2020 Bill Hemmer Reports.
The positive first:
Romney spoiled the intentions of angry Right Wing pundits and the Pence White House by breaking ranks on a single article and voting with the Dems, who all stood on principle and stayed the course. (More on that later)
Fox News and AM Radio had been counting on all the GOP senators to vote in lockstep, so they could play the whole thing as partisan. And they were desperately hoping a couple of Dems in Red States would cave here and give the a “bipartisan” acquittal. Instead, angry Right Wingers were presented with the opposite scenario – a bipartisan vote to convict on a single article. And as we’re now seeing, the Right Wing is jumping up and down and throwing various tantrums as a result.
For Romney, this wasn’t a hard vote. He frankly has never been a fan of the Pence White House, and he’s voiced that at multiple times. He’s also interested in presenting himself as an “independent” voice, along the same lines as John McCain, as this will give him credibility and it will cement his place as an important historical figure for this era. (If you can’t win a presidential race, you can at least be a memorable politician)
Actual cost to Romney for doing this: A bunch of hatred from the Right in the short term, and a few snubs for the next few months. And then it will blow over and he’ll be back in vogue. Because Romney, like McCain, votes 95% with the other Republicans. It’s only from time to time that he wants to have these small rebellions. And he’s in a safe seat – as long as he wants to run for the Senate, Utah will vote him in. I think he’ll be there for another 20 years, to be honest.
Getting back to the Dems who stayed the course – Sinema and Jones are taking a huge risk here. Joe Manchin is figuring he’ll be fine in 4 years anyway, or he may choose to retire at that point. Sinema will be stuck trying to answer for this to her more Right Wing constituents. And Jones is going to be held accountable THIS YEAR, and he could well lose his seat in the middle of GOP anger at him.
I would say that Sinema and Jones have made much braver plays here. Not to take anything away from Romney’s move, but the consequences are much less for him.
Some pundits on the boob-tube are anxious to present the acquittal as a win for chief T-word, but wasn’t that the expected outcome as from the get-go? In the real world, a sure thing cannot be construed to be a victory, except by a bully. That’s also something that was expected.
My take on the outcome is positive for several reasons, the general one being that the President’s men showed themselves to be a shifty bunch of unprincipled incompetents:
1) During the house hearings, 17 witnesses told the same story over and over again. That was pretty boring, but I kept reminding myself that many (most ?) of them had defied a direct order not to testify. Only two witnesses gave the President some slack; the other 15 did not … all on live TV.
2) The counsel for the President tried their best to draw attention away from the facts to focus on process. This involved a lot of complaining and whining but I heard no rebuttal of the facts.
3) In a stroke of genius, the articles of impeachment were delivered to the Senate only after the Xmas holidays, making it impossible to sweep them under the carpet. (HT to Nancy aka lady-Machiavelli).
4) Senate GOPers, after complaining bitterly (and endlessly), prior to the trial, about the evidence being one-sided or hearsay, refused to subpoena the WH to provide the documents and witnesses that it had refused to provide during the House hearings.
5) The President’s men, when pressed by journalists, provided a wide range of justifications of the President’s behaviour, starting with “the call was perfect: he did nothing wrong” to the exact opposite (“it happened and it was wrong/ inappropriate but it’s not impeachable”). Any parent will recognise that as the weasel reasoning typical of a guilty child caught doing something s/he’d be told not to do.
Not a bad result for a supposedly “lost cause”.
Apologies for the length of this post. But drawing up that list has actually boosted my morale. What happens in the WH does not stay in the USA but affects all of us on this planet.