By Robert A. Vella

Politics can be very complex and difficult to understand, and it is especially so in today’s hyperpolarized America.  Politicians are extremely wary of being too candid in public, and that is why they use rhetoric as a means to convey messages to targeted audiences.  Sometimes rhetoric reflects genuine concerns, and sometimes it is downright dishonest.  But in all cases, rhetoric is intended to effectuate a desired result.  Politicians who excel in the art of rhetoric are generally much more successful in their careers than those who don’t.  This is and always has been the nature of politics, and it is probably the main reason why the profession is so universally disliked.  People tend to admire integrity and straightforwardness, and politicians typically do not rate highly on such scales.

However, it is people’s misunderstanding of politics that is the real problem.  Most folks have not studied rhetoric in school, nor have they been in the public spotlight where rhetorical speech is an occupational necessity.  When I hear people assert that government won’t change until we start electing “moral” candidates, I cringe in disbelief.  Morality is in the eye of the beholder, and it is painfully obvious that we humans disagree quite passionately about what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  Politicians are no different.

But, ethics is another matter.  Although we can’t dictate what people think, we can require people to behave according to common laws and rules.  You might not see driving over the speed limit as immoral, but you are certainly aware that it is illegal.  While you might see it as a harmless offense, the state definitely sees it as a public hazard.  This is the fundamental difference between morality and ethics.  In the realm of politics, it is ethics which we must be most concerned about.

Regarding the presidency of Donald Trump, his morality or immorality is irrelevant.  In fact, he might be the most amoral politician I’ve ever seen.  Conversely, Trump’s egregiously unethical conduct is extremely relevant.  That is why he was impeached and is now facing trial in the U.S. Senate.

As Republicans in the Senate are torn between their political self-interest and their constitutional duty, we will examine this week’s stunning developments with respect to rhetoric and ethics.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with his caucus behind closed doors in reaction to the leak of former National Security Advisor John Bolton‘s book manuscript which directly contradicted President Trump’s impeachment defense.  Trump’s defense team also abruptly concluded their arguments yesterday because the leak was so damaging and because their performance has been so poor (to say the least).  Adding insult to injury, a new opinion poll was published just before Republican senators went into their meeting showing that 75% of voters want witnesses to testify in the trial.  Right from the outset, McConnell has opposed witness testimony and documentary evidence because he knew that it would only further expose Trump’s guilt.  Instead, he has tried desperately to ram through a quick sham trial to exonerate the president.

An impeachment trial with no witnesses nor evidence is obviously unethical and easily perceived so by the American people.  McConnell is really sticking his neck out here because there is no guarantee that he’ll be able to achieve it, and that possibility of failure emerged shortly after the meeting.  The Wall Street Journal first reported, and it was subsequently confirmed by other news agencies, that McConnell couldn’t garner enough votes from his caucus to block witnesses including Bolton who appears very eager to tell his side of the story.

Although I’m not privy to the source of the WSJ report, it seems unlikely that it would have come out if McConnell had wanted to keep it secret.  If he was the source, either directly or indirectly, he probably was trying to send a rhetorical message or messages.  He might have wanted it to inform the White House that his sham trial plan was in trouble, and/or he might have wanted to use it as a warning to Republican senators who are leaning towards allowing witness testimony.

Regardless, this situation remains fluid.  There is still time left for McConnell and the Trump White House to pressure undecided Republican senators into submission.  But, I don’t think anyone knows for sure whether that will happen.  Everyone is nervous, and none more so than Trump.  Earlier today, the White House informed Bolton that he couldn’t publish his book.  Whatever happens in this trial, the voters are watching… and, November is fast approaching.

From:  GOP Doesn’t Now Have Votes to Block Witnesses

WASHINGTON—Republican leaders said they don’t currently have enough votes to block witnesses in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, people familiar with the matter said, after his legal team concluded its efforts to counter Democrats’ charges that the president abused power and obstructed Congress.

On the third and final day of presentations by the Trump legal team, lawyers tried to cast doubts on the importance and credibility of allegations by former national security adviser John Bolton about the president’s motives for freezing aid to Ukraine. Republicans had hoped to wrap up the trial with an acquittal of the president by this week, but Democrats have said Mr. Bolton should appear under oath to offer a firsthand account of the president’s motivations for freezing aid to Ukraine—a matter at the heart of the impeachment case.

At a meeting of all Republican senators late Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said the vote total wasn’t where it needed to be on blocking witnesses or documents, the people familiar with the matter said. He had a card with “yes,” “no,” and “maybes” marked on it, apparently a whip count, but he didn’t show it to senators.

From:  Support for witnesses in Senate trial at 75 percent: poll

A large majority of voters say the Senate should allow witnesses to testify during President Trump‘s impeachment trial, according to a poll from Quinnipiac University.

Of those surveyed, 75 percent said they think that witnesses should be allowed to testify in the trial. Along party lines, 49 percent of respondents who identified as Republicans said that they thought there should be witness testimony while 95 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents said the same.

The growing call for witnesses from Democrats has hit a fever pitch following a New York Times report on former national security adviser John Bolton‘s book manuscript in which he says the president told him not to release military aid to Ukraine unless Kyiv investigated his political rivals.

From:  Poll: Majority of Americans against Trump invoking executive privilege in impeachment trial

A majority of American voters are opposed to the prospect of President Trump invoking executive privilege to block new witness testimony in the Senate impeachment trial, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll.

The survey, which was released on Wednesday, found that just 26 percent of voters think the president should be permitted to cite executive privilege to stop certain former and current administration officials from testifying. Meanwhile, 57 percent said that Trump should not be allowed to invoke executive privilege.

Among that pool, 86 percent of Democratic respondents said that Trump should be barred from invoking executive privilege when it comes to new witness testimony. An additional 57 percent of Independents said the same. Just 25 percent of GOP respondents agreed that Trump should not be allowed to cite executive privilege in the impeachment trial.

From:  John Kelly: ‘I believe John Bolton’

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly on Monday evening said that if media accounts of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book are accurate, then he trusts the explosive claims made by his former colleague.

“If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton,” Kelly told a crowd in Sarasota, Fla., speaking as part of the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture series.

From:  Trump trial gets more pointed with Bolton book at the center

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial shifted to sharply pointed, back-and-forth questioning Wednesday as Republicans strained to contain the fallout over John Bolton’s forthcoming book, which threatens their hopes of ending the trial with a quick acquittal.


That publication date is now in doubt. The White House on Wednesday released a letter to Bolton’s attorney objecting to “significant amounts of classified information” in the manuscript, including at the top secret level. The former national security adviser and his attorney have insisted that the book does not contain any classified information.

The White House action could delay the book’s publication if Bolton is forced to revise his draft.

White House seeks to block publication of Bolton’s book, demands classified info be removed first

Trump’s Defense Team Discounts Bolton as Republicans Work to Hold Off Witnesses

Trump team warns vulnerable senators: Stand strong or prepare for an endless trial

Next in the Trump impeachment trial: 16 hours of questions. How that will work

Eliot Engel says Bolton implied Yovanovitch ouster was improper

Parnas Lawyer: Giuliani Delivered Graham Letter Calling for Sanctions on Ukrainian Officials

Collins launches Georgia Senate bid, setting up GOP clash

Trump allies target African American voters with new tactic: Cash giveaways

Today’s other news

Trump Signs USMCA, Sealing Political Win With Bipartisan Deal

Court decision casts doubt on dozens of U.S. refinery biofuel waivers

Robocall crackdown: Justice Dept. accuses several U.S. companies of being complicit in foreign scams

US Archives confirms it won’t take steps to certify ERA

U.K. Allows Huawei to Build Parts of 5G Network

15 thoughts on “A shakeup and a shakedown for Republicans in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump

  1. I have called Trump immoral, but I meant it in an ethical sense. Some may judge moral and immoral in a religious or an “eye of the beholder” sense, but I’m not religious, and “eye of the beholder” can be thrown at even the most objective observer. To avoid confusion, I can see where it is better to call Trump unethical rather than immoral, because to argue that it’s just a matter of semantics gets us away from the real issue….and Trump and his sycophants like nothing better than to divert from the real issue.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’m hoping the actions of Republican senators here make them pay a price come November. They are truly far more despicable, corrupt, and “ugly” than I ever believed they were or could be–and I REALLY thought they were despicable before all this.

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I believe that the study of rhetoric should be a compulsory subject at school. Not in the least, because it’s necessary for young people to spot demagogues at first sight. No free republic can hope to survive without active citizenship.

    Liked by 3 people

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