Some Democrats quietly express puzzlement that, after two weeks of damning testimony, public opinion on impeachment hasn’t shifted.
But the real wonder is why anybody ever thought it would.
Though state-by-state results vary, support for impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump nationwide now averages 47 percent for, 42 percent against; in October, it was 48 percent for, 45 percent against. It’s not “dropping like a rock” as Trump claimed Monday in a typical fabrication, but it’s not growing, either, because Republicans stand faithfully with Trump.
Why? I give you evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham.
On a radio podcast last week — on the same day Gordon Sondland confirmed Trump’s quid pro quo with Ukraine — Graham said those who oppose Trump are “almost a demonic power.” After the host corrected him by saying those who oppose Trump actually are a demonic power, Graham concurred that “it’s a spiritual battle.”
The two went on to agree that it’s a “fact, not our opinion” that “literally three years ago our economy was dead in the water” but is now “just screaming forward.” In actual fact, the economy grew at 1.9 percent in the third quarter of 2019 versus 2.2 percent three years ago.
But if politics is a spiritual battle between God and demons from hell, who cares what statistics from the Commerce Department say — or what any of the impeachment witnesses say?
On Fox News on Sunday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry reported that he told Trump he was God’s choice: “I said, ‘Mr. President, I know there are people that say you said you were the chosen one and I said, ‘You were.’”
Who but a demon could vote to impeach God’s chosen one?
The surest way to make a climate-change denier even more aggressive in his denial is to present him with more science. Likewise, presenting Trump supporters with evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing only makes them more defiant of the demons doing the presenting. Scream about the facts and the damage done by ignoring them until you’re blue in the face (I do), but it makes no difference.
Consider the attempt by Vladimir Putin’s government to frame Ukraine for Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Fiona Hill, who was a Russia expert in the National Security Council, told lawmakers that preaching this “fictional narrative” was doing Russia’s bidding.
Trump responded by reaffirming support for the fiction, telling Fox News that “word is” Ukraine was to blame. Also on Fox News, Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-Louisiana, rejected the intelligence community’s blaming of Russia, saying “it could also be Ukraine.” He called Hill’s statement blaming Russia “her opinion.”
It’s no accident that Perry, Trump and Kennedy all made their claims on Fox News — the exclusive purveyor of news to Republican voters. Fox News’ biggest star, Sean Hannity, assured listeners on his radio show that the Sondland testimony “just couldn’t go any better” for Trump, and he pronounced impeachment “over!”
Helping Hannity make such assertions is Trump’s so-far successful blocking of the release of any documents on the matter, in defiance of subpoenas. Among the documents that might tell a different story: a White House report, identified by The Washington Post on Sunday, regarding attempts to “generate an after-the-fact justification” for Trump’s actions and to justify the legality of what he did.
For all Trump’s falsehoods, his claim that he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue with impunity continues to be proved true. Last week, he betrayed democracy activists in China and those trying to protect children from tobacco — with little blowback. In the impeachment battle, former national security adviser John Bolton refuses to testify even as he brags about how much relevant information he has, while Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, betrays his longtime friendship with Joe Biden to defend Trump’s use of his office to target political opponents.
Now Trump has intervened — again without pushback from Republicans — to make sure there is no punishment for a Navy SEAL convicted of posing with the corpse of a teenage Islamic State fighter. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, admirably, objected — and was forced to resign.
“I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me, in regards to the key principle of good order and discipline,” Spencer wrote. “I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
“My flag and my faith”: A beautiful phrase — and a vanishingly rare sentiment in the age of Trump. Now, love of flag means lionizing a war criminal, and faith ordains that those who expose Trump’s wrongdoing are monsters from the pits of hell.
Dana Milbank is a columnist for The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter: @Milbank.