Rep. Adam Schiff's near-tears as he adjourned the public impeachment hearings last week make more sense now. There wasn't any there there, and it didn't end as Schiff had fantasized. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch didn't break down and cry, Sondland didn't fold the way he was supposed to, Lt. Col Alex Vindman came off like a snippish wonk instead of a war hero.
In the heat and noise of the hearings, it was different. The very fact that public hearings were taking place was enough to rattle the right and energize the left. Now, with the benefit of a few days of relative silence, the verdict is clear: Schiff failed. He knew it as he gaveled the hearings closed.
If you watched any mainstream TV over the weekend, you likely saw the left on defense, essentially saying, It wasn't as bad as it seemed. Schiff took to CNN to chat with Jake Tapper yesterday, and his hemming and hawing underscored the nullity of the hearings.
Tapper: "Do you think President Trump should be impeached?"
Schiff: "I want to discuss this with my constituents and colleagues before I make a final judgment."
Ha! This, as Tapper points out, from the very man who claimed that Trump's alleged misdeeds "are far more serious than what Nixon did." Regardless of Schiff's accusations, he doesn't have the evidence to back them. Worse for Schiff, his reticence to condemn the president underscores his lack of options now that his bluff has been called.
Schiff himself admitted to Tapper that time is of the essence, that he can't drag out the process endlessly. Translation: Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Schiff he has a set timeframe. Pelosi will not allow continued hearings to overshadow and steal energy from Democratic efforts to identify and build support for presidential and congressional candidates. So much for option #1.
When asked point-blank by Tapper, "Do you think President Trump should be impeached, one might reasonably expect Schiff to reply strongly in the affirmative. Instead, he minces. "I want to discuss this with my constituents and colleagues before I make a final judgment."
When you remove all the wishy-washiness of it, Schiff's statement is quite stunning. After playing ringleader to the circus-like hearings, Schiff can't even muster a public call for Trump's impeachment? That is a clear signal that Trump's desire for a Senate trial was the equivalent of shouting "Check!" in a chess match. It's not "checkmate," not yet, but the Dem's fear of what would be uncovered in a fair and balanced Senate trial is clearly more than Schiff wants to take on.
What are Dems left with? Censure. It's the smart move. Lose some face instead of having the mask ripped off entirely. Get back to the business of running the country. And despite what senators running for the Democratic nomination say about supporting impeachment, you can be sure none of them want to be pulled off the campaign trail. The physical presence of Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris would be required every day during a trial.
It's an unpopular opinion, but I'm going to predict censure over impeachment. Polls show that the support for impeachment has turned sharply. The only way to get right the ship for Dems is to show some restraint and recognize reality.
It remains to be seen if they have the ability to do so.
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