Two factors that shield Trump

As the news media dig deeper into the circumstances of the Ukrainian affair, in which the transcript of a July 25 telephone call between Donald Trump and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy show that Trump asked the Ukrainian for a favor, two factors that favor Trump are coming fully into view.

First, the current nature of the news business produces a relentless quest for new “breaking news” — more and more and more detail — even when the main facts of a development are firmly stablished.

In the Mueller inquiry, this was further complicated by what may be termed the “criminalization” of the impeachment process, where political judgments became subordinated to the details of proving guilt of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

This process has worked to Trump’s advantage, as only new news gets media attention. In essence, only the newest “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” get high profile coverage in the media.

The older crimes or abuses tend to get forgotten in this political process dominated by the new news, the latest outrages. Consequently, High Crimes and Misdemeanors such as the ten instances of obstruction of justice detailed with overwhelming evidence in the Mueller Report tend to be forgotten, or viewed as politically not viable grounds for impeachment. Here the political judgments of pundits and legislators looking to elections substitute for serious analysis of real “High Crimes and Misdemeanors”.

A second factor amplifies the effects of the first, and also has the effect of helping Trump. That factor is that politicians, including Democrats critical of Trump, are basically seen on Television or quoted in the newspapers as they are reacting to the “breaking news” developments of new news.

In short, Democratic lawmakers become mere passive responders to new news developments.

The net result is that no one among the Democrats—with the possible exception of Joe Biden occasionally on the campaign trail—is summarizing and repeating the narrative of the principal crimes and abuses committed by the president over time.

If the Democrats understood the psychology of mass communications, they would be repeating that story every week, fitting new developments into an increasingly powerful overarching case against Trump.

This they do not do.  They do not know how to get through to ordinary people, or those in Trump’s corner who believe his lies and distortions.

Yet only if they build an overarching narrative, only if they tie new developments into such an overarching narrative, and repeat that narrative as often as Trump mentions The Wall, will they have a chance to reshape the playing field in ways which might facilitate Trump’s removal, whether through impeachment or the 2020 election.

The great risk of focusing on the Ukraine affair in isolated fashion is that it may be viewed as isolated old news by the time the impeachment trial starts in the Senate.

The Trenchant Observer



About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.