It’s hard to say which has been more difficult to endure, Rep. Adam Schiff’s tedious and deceptive performance during the Senate impeachment trial or the emetic accolades it has received from the “news” media. By some marvelous coincidence, dozens of major news organizations were able to conjure but one word to describe it: “masterful.” Indeed, this adjective has been used so frequently by so many outlets during the past 48 hours about Schiff’s soporific speeches that a cynic might draw the conclusion that it came straight out of a blast email sent by the Democratic National Committee. One of the most nauseating examples was published by CNN:
On a strategic level, Schiff’s presentation was masterful: it was eloquent, thoughtful and — most importantly — restrained. While he invoked everyone from Alexander Hamilton to John F. Kennedy, he never slipped into histrionics or hyperbole, which any trial lawyer knows can backfire. Instead, he methodically went through a timeline of the President’s alleged improper conduct.
Evidently, more than a few Democratic senators found Schiff’s performance somewhat less riveting than the people at CNN. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for example, incurred the wrath of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow by leaving the Senate chamber and going home in the midst of Schiff’s final oration of Wednesday evening. The talking heads called on her and other senators (several of whom dozed off) to resign if they were unable to sit and listen to the House managers for eight hours. Like all lefties, Hayes and Maddow tend to blame the customer if the product isn’t selling. They and the rest of the media insist that Schiff’s performance was Ciceronian:
He may be “shifty Schiff” to Donald Trump and his allies, but any fair-minded impeachment watcher will tell you that Schiff did a masterful job detailing the building blocks of Trump’s corruption with regard to Ukraine, the lies he told along the way, the cast of enablers who sought to hide the truth — and finally, the public servants who came forward to testify about what they witnessed.
This is the wisdom of Eleanor Clift, who implicitly admits that it is possible to be unimpressed by Schiff’s rhetorical genius, yet cannot imagine that such observers are “fair-minded.” That she admires the way he detailed “the lies” President Trump has allegedly “told along the way” is particularly ironic considering that it is Schiff himself whose gift for prevarication rivals that of the Clintons and even Sen. Elizabeth Warren. In fact, the only real news to emerge this week from the impeachment circus is that Schiff has been caught in yet another of his trademark whoppers. This stretcher, as it happens, is about the “new evidence” that he has been teasing recently.
On Tuesday Politico reported, “House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff appears to have mischaracterized a text message exchange between two players in the Ukraine saga, according to documents obtained by POLITICO.” Predictably, as Mark Hemingway points out at RealClearPolitics, Politico embedded this latest evidence of Schiff’s congenital mendacity in the all-too-familiar “Republicans pounce” trope. Hemingway goes on to note that the Fourth Estate has frequently been forced to perform this service for Schiff. But what else can they do for a man who is, as the New York Daily News puts it, so … masterful:
In a masterful two-and-a-half-hour opening statement, lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff laid out what’s at stake, making clear why the country can’t just wait until November to vote Trump out of office: He’s invited foreign interference in elections multiple times, and his behavior demonstrates his willingness to use all levers of government to interfere with legitimate attempts to prevent further abuse of power.
Jonathan Bernstein at Bloomberg, you will be surprised to discover, agrees wholeheartedly with the crack journalists at the Daily News. He heaps praise on Schiff for his persuasive argument concerning why the senators should remove President Trump from office and was particularly impressed with the California congressman’s use of graphics and video clips from the House impeachment hearings. He goes on to gush that Schiff even used “just enough poetry to drive home the importance of the president’s actions.” All of which, in Bernstein’s mind, means that Congressman Schiff’s performance can be adequately captured with only one adjective:
Schiff began the House impeachment managers’ case for the conviction of President Donald Trump with a masterful opening statement in the U.S. Senate.… In a bit over two hours — especially impressive after a session that ended well after midnight on Tuesday — Schiff did an excellent job of weaving together the basic facts of Trump’s attempt to pressure a foreign government to help his 2020 re-election campaign.
The Fourth Estate’s fawning over Schiff’s performance during the Senate impeachment trial won’t enhance his skills as an orator and advocate, which simply don’t equal his zeal for getting President Trump. He is a masterful liar who long ago learned to control his body language and voice production such that his most outrageous lies seem plausible. Yet, as E. Donald Elliott wrote in this space Thursday, “Schiff provided absolutely no factual support for the crucial premise on which his entire case depends.” In the end, the evidence is against him and his mendacity will destroy his credibility. He’s the same Schiff on a different dais, and every senator knows it.