Emotional Schiff Speech Goes Viral, Delighting the Left and Enraging the Right
Sheryl Gay Stolberg / New York Times
“But here, right is supposed to matter. It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on earth. No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter any more. And you know, you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country” …
For this instant, we stand at a crossroads. A crossroads as profound as any yet witnessed by our nation in some sevenscore and four(ish) years.
This constitutional crisis we face seems to have invented itself after the fizzle of the Muller Report. Ironically, the crucial phone call having taken place the day AFTER Robert Muller’s Disney Hall of Presidents audio-animatronic™ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.
And now, here we are: the textbook example of an impeachable act (colluding with a foreign power over an internal election, bribery, etc.) combined with an all but open and shut evidence of a crime, but, more tantalizingly, clear evidence that the crime itself stands amidst a thicket of other and related crimes.
But I am happy for this: Adam Schiff’s summation of the three days of testimony was a testament to the power of classical rhetoric: elegant and persuasive speaking combined with a rational and evidential basis. Matter melded to manner, form following fact.
The basis of our democracy, our republic, as had been invented in the rhetoric of Athens. (The Athenians didn’t invent rhetoric, but Aristotle DID define it.) And the ideal of rhetoric that we used to teach in our schools before sophistry and then propaganda and amygdala conditioning (marketing) became the vogue.
It was a profound moment to witness true rhetoric wielded in defense of our republic and the idea which it represents. America is not a nation, but a notion, from sea to shining sea. Ethos, Logos, Pathos: Kudos.
It may well stand at the apex of what it had meant to be an American.
Because I fear that egg is going to roll off the roof. Certainly the “defense” of Mr. Trump will be an endless menstruum of agglutinated fallacies, fantasies and pharisees farcically flouting reason. It will be a food fight of the endless bombast and bomb blast of media wars, winning the news cycle, photo ops, sound bites, bits and bytes, bats and belfries.
And here we are. An historical moment. Perhaps the moment that the republic dies. People say that’s too dramatic, but I don’t think so. Do we NOT remove this combover Caligula, he won’t stop his predations until he installs HIS horse as a senator.
Everyone seems to believe that he will get away with it. That the Republicans of the Senate will put party over country, and their party is now exclusively a Trump property. (Kiss the ring!)
We may not witness full-blown apocalypse, but, as Mercutio said, “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.”
But we will have watched this cast of grotesques of our very own Reichstag voting themselves into eternal irrelevancy. Think of the group photo of McConnell and his cronies hunched over the eternal microphone in the capitol building, and then think of Da Vinci’s drawings of the unhandsomes he had seen.
These small, venal men and women, in service, almost universally, to their corporations and their tycoons, afraid of offending their masters, willing to betray their oaths of judicial impartiality, their oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies, domestic and foreign, colluding WITH all enemies, domestic AND foreign, right Moscow Mitch?
Either way, a future “president” with less legitimacy and even fewer scruples will easily see how to proclaim an eternal national emergency and defy the will of an irrelevant congress, if he or she is cagey enough to pretend (as Augustus/Octavian did) that the Senate has been “restored” and that he/she will now be known only as “first citizen.” No honorifics. Just all power.
We’ve seen this movie before.
The damage may take a few years to metastasize, but it will and it will be fatal to our republic. The serpent’s bite may not be instantly fatal, or even, perhaps, noticeable, but it will be, inevitably, fatal.
We are painted into a constitutional corner and only by removing Mr. Trump (to my mind, Article 2. Obstruction of Congress, is FAR more consequential in the long run than Article 1. Abuse of Power) only by removing Mr. Trump can we obtain a favorable outcome.
And, by “favorable” I mean “non-disastrous.”
And yet, everyone tells me that the final vote, the final outcome is assured.
And I know that every time that everyone is certain what the outcome will be, it is certain that THAT will be the outcome. (Never.)
But we stand here at a moment in history. And the egg trembles ever so slightly in the early morning breeze.