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