What on Earth was the point of the first day of the House Judiciary Committee hearings on impeachment?
The House Intelligence Committee hearings in November told a coherent story. Public-spirited career personnel and a Purple Heart Army officer were aligned on one side; venal and untruthful political operatives aligned on the other. Each witness was called for a reason.
A televised hearing in a high-stakes political contest is not a classroom seminar. It is not convened for the benefit of the already well informed. It is a show: a show that succeeds or fails according to whether it catalyzes the second-most-attentive and third-most-attentive tiers of citizens.
The Republican minority on the Judiciary Committee understood this basic rule. For all their intellectual and ethical limitations—and those were excruciating—Republicans on the committee arrived with a clear message. These hearings are a farce. We refuse to respect the most basic rules of decorum, and we grant permission to all like-minded Americans to dismiss them as thuggishly as we do. Ugly, but clear and comprehensible.
What was the majority’s message?
Well before the first preposterous interruption, well before the first wince of exasperation on the face of Chairman Jerry Nadler, the majority already knew that the hearings would be heckled, interrupted, and sabotaged by a minority acting in bad faith. The more damning the evidence against President Donald Trump, the more obdurately that minority would deny everything, and the more outrageously that minority would behave. A scholarly discussion under such circumstances was doomed before it started. Instead, the camera revealed a contest that pitted the earnest but weak against the perverse but unyielding. Guess who won?