The impeachment news conference went off as scheduled this morning at 9 a.m. ET. The USMCA news conference also went off as scheduled — just one hour later. Various lefties are WTF-ing on social media over the timing: Why would Pelosi follow up a plea to remove Trump from office by handing him the biggest bipartisan policy win of his presidency, something he’ll surely run on next fall? She was asked about the timing. Watch:
— CBS News (@CBSNews) December 10, 2019
The criticism on Twitter was harsh:
Pelosi has literally scheduled back-to-back press conferences to announce articles of impeachment against Trump and then support for his trade deal.
This is insane. What is the message here pic.twitter.com/QGlHjM7JOK
— Will Stancil (@whstancil) December 10, 2019
Pelosi has successfully run an impeachment while simultaneously burying its urgency and significance. It's amazing. Outside of political Twitter and cable news, Americans aren't really talking about this event, which should be the biggest news story in 40 years. https://t.co/ZNgjQqFdHu
— Brandon Friedman (@BFriedmanDC) December 10, 2019
If you wanted to convince voters that impeachment was just a partisan box checking exercise for Trump's most stubborn opponents, a brief distraction from the earlier plan, you could hardly do better. https://t.co/JEFeD1QlaP
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) December 10, 2019
The timing was no coincidence, she says in the clip, pointing to the fact that the term is ending and that delicate trade deals like this one are potentially “perishable” since they require buy-in from America’s trade partners. But that doesn’t explain why the news conferences had to be scheduled back to back. She could have done impeachment this morning and USMCA late this afternoon, or tomorrow morning. It’s as if she’s *deliberately* stepping on her own impeachment message.
Much of the freshman class won their seats after campaigning on an ambitious domestic agenda of health care and economic issues and long resisted endorsing the progressive push to oust Trump. And now they’re facing a multi-million dollar GOP ad campaign accusing them of focusing solely on impeachment without much help from Democratic outside groups to push back…
Pelosi has privately signaled to her leadership team and vulnerable Democrats that she doesn’t want impeachment to be the last vote the House takes before leaving for the two-week holiday recess, according to multiple lawmakers and aides…
“The only thing I want to see a timeline on is HR 3 and an infrastructure bill. I don’t give a shit about timelines for anything else besides those things,” a defiant Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) said this week, referring to the drug pricing bill, when asked about a possible impeachment vote.
Pelosi’s given up on impeachment. Not in the sense that she’s not going to follow through on it — they’re definitely going to impeach him — but in the sense that any further effort expended to try to win over Republicans and make the impeachment push bipartisan is futile. Schiff’s hearings didn’t convince any GOPers in Congress and they’ve scarcely moved the needle on public opinion, unless they’ve moved it slightly towards Trump. Pelosi’s worst fear about impeachment, a huge popular backlash against her party, hasn’t happened (yet?) but there’s obviously nothing left to be gained politically by investing more in it. They’re going to do it, but as perfunctorily and low-key as possible. And to the extent they can change the subject to matters that will play better politically, like the can-do Dems passing bipartisan trade legislation, they will.
Like I said Friday, the biggest risk to House Dems isn’t that swing voters conclude impeachment is some giant frame-up of the president. That’s unlikely with opinion stuck at 50/50 or so. The big risk is that they conclude that Democrats have no agenda beyond harassing Trump after big promises last fall about health-care reform, infrastructure, you name it. Benjy Sarlin’s right in what he says here about the midterms:
Related, practically no one ran on impeachment or even broader Trump scandals. It was a huge deal for D’s that Trump’s subsequent behavior changed their mind, but it’s not baked into their political appeal back home at all. https://t.co/zE72tiirQ0 pic.twitter.com/j8nsD5OAv3
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) December 10, 2019
They can hold the majority next fall if they’re known as the Trump-Hating Democrats. They might not be able to if they’re known as the Do-Nothing Democrats. That’s what today’s timing is about. I think Pelosi scheduled them the way she did in order to give moderates in her caucus easy ammo for when they’re inevitably grilled by constituents about getting “bogged down” in impeachment. Not only are we not bogged down, the moderates can say, we announced the biggest trade deal in a generation literally an hour after revealing the articles of impeachment against Trump. Policy is the Democrats’ main business, impeachment is the side hustle, not vice versa: That’s Pelosi’s message.
And it may pay off on the big vote to come. The more policy wins she hands the moderates to tout to their voters back home, the easier it is for them to cast a tough vote for impeachment. “Sure, you may hate me for wanting to remove Trump,” they’ll tell voters, “but we continued to work with him the whole way and got X, Y, and Z done. Imagine what we can do with a more agreeable president in 2021.” If they end up with nothing to show for themselves on policy, that’s when voting to impeach becomes very risky in a purple district. Why send a Do-Nothing Dem back to Congress when you can send a Republican?