Impeachment by Focus Group
David Catron
by
A Democratic focus group (YouTube screenshot)

Anyone following the increasingly desperate Democratic impeachment effort will by now be aware that they have exchanged the term “quid pro quo” for “bribery” and “extortion.” They rebranded President Trump’s alleged offenses, according to a Washington Post report, after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted a number of focus groups to test their messaging. The use of a marketing tool for something so serious confirms that, for the Democrats, impeachment is just another election strategy they hope will get traction if they dumb down the narrative. This betrays breathtaking contempt for the nation’s institutions as well as the voters.

That the new Democratic messaging strategy originated with their low regard for the intelligence of the electorate was made plain by Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) on NBC’s Meet the Press. Chuck Todd asked the congressman why they had stopped using “quid pro quo,” and Himes replied, “No. 1, when you’re trying to trying to persuade the American people of something that is really pretty simple … it’s probably best not to use Latin words to explain it.… We’ve got to get off this ‘quid pro quo’ thing because it’s complicated.” In reality, it isn’t complicated at all, and the Latin term isn’t why the voters are unenthusiastic about impeachment. They know what the Democrats are up to, and they don’t trust them.

As the latest Monmouth poll put it, “While there is growing public support for an inquiry, the public is not very confident with the process to date. Just 24% say they have a lot of trust in how the House impeachment inquiry has been conducted so far, 29% have a little trust, and 44% have no trust at all.” A new Politico/Morning Consult poll released just as the public hearings began found that 81 percent of voters said “there is no or little chance they will change their minds.” It’s difficult to believe that Adam Schiff’s partisan conduct in last week’s hearings will improve public trust. The Democrats nonetheless parroted their focus-grouped words: “bribery” and “extortion.” Last Thursday, Nancy Pelosi joined the chorus:

The devastating testimony corroborated evidence of bribery uncovered in the inquiry and that the president abused power and violated his oath by threatening to withhold military aid and a White House meeting in exchange for an investigation into his political rival.… The bribe is to grant or withhold military assistance in return for a public statement of a fake investigation into elections. That’s bribery.

This claim may play well in focus groups, but it has no real application in the context of the Democratic impeachment inquiry. First, the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters obligates Ukraine to provide the U.S. assistance with the investigation and prosecution of corruption. Consequently, even if President Trump demanded that President Zelensky investigate Burisma Energy and Hunter Biden, it would amount to nothing more sinister than a request that Ukraine honor that treaty. It can’t be construed as bribery because Trump released the military assistance with no “public statement of a fake investigation.” Moreover, as Andrew C. McCarthy writes at the New York Post,

[T]o establish a bribe, corrupt intent must be proved. While it would obviously have been preferable if Trump hadn’t singled out the Bidens, it is nevertheless permissible for presidents to encourage countries receiving American aid to investigate and root out corruption. Indeed, the legislation authorizing aid for Ukraine actually directs the executive branch to certify that Ukraine is making such efforts.

As to the Democratic definition of “extortion,” it has no meaning in foreign relations. All nations use economic pressure to affect the behavior of other countries. The proper word for this sort of pressure is “sanctions.” At present, for example, we are using what the Democrats call extortion against Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Qatar, Syria, Sudan, and Venezuela. The “extortion” we have imposed on Russia includes the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, signed into law by President Trump to bolster his predecessor’s flaccid response to the invasion of Crimea. Presumably, the president signed that bill to reward Vladimir Putin for rigging the 2016 election in his favor.

This brings us back to the series of Democratic conspiracy theories that have been deployed by the Democrats against President Trump. Before the Ukraine “scandal,” they accused him of colluding with the Russians, defying the Emoluments Clause, violating the separation of powers doctrine, obstructing justice, ignoring security clearances, engaging in tax evasion, and exhibiting such erratic behavior that only the 25th Amendment could save the nation. They assured us that the Mueller investigation would uncover skulduggery that would make the preceding pale by comparison. When that 22-month snipe hunt finally ended with Robert Mueller’s maundering testimony, they needed a new scandal.

Miraculously, an anonymous “whistleblower” filed a complaint about a “disturbing” phone call in which the president had committed yet another evidence-free offense. Trump had, we were told, attempted to arrange a quid pro quo deal whereby he would receive dirt on a potential 2020 opponent in exchange for security aid for Ukraine. But the storied stupidity of the American voter prevented “quid pro quo” from going viral, and the Democrats turned to their ever-present consultants. They conducted the inevitable focus groups and produced a new crop of calumny that included such buzzwords as “extortion,” “bribery,” “abuse of power,” and “corruption.” The voters just yawned.

The voters understand that the latest “impeachment inquiry” is just a campaign strategy for the Democrats, who assume they are idiots. They know the people running this circus despise them and intend to fundamentally transform the nation’s institutions into something irreconcilable with individual liberty. It will, however, take more than focus groups and a few new talking points. America isn’t listening anymore. That’s what 2016 was all about. Another dose of reality will be administered in 2020.

David Catron
David Catron
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David Catron is a recovering health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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