Why we need to take a breath as we watch the public impeachment hearings: Opinion

ABC News political analyst Matt Dowd: Don't treat this as a 'game'

November 15, 2019, 6:23 PM

As we come to the end of the first week of these historic public impeachment hearings regarding President Donald Trump, let us see where things stand and what we have learned.

Let us keep in mind the American public is not looking at these hearings as a microwave meal. They will wait and see what the full course is before coming to conclusion, as all of us should as well.

However, I want to highlight five points on the outcome of the initial phase of impeachment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and colleagues wait for the arrival of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch during break in a hearing on Capitol Hill, Nov. 15, 2019, in Washington.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

First, these three public servants -- William Taylor, George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch -- who testified all did America proud in sticking to the facts and speaking in a calm, measured way. Though we knew most of the evidence of wrongdoing they laid out, their public testimony drew a vivid picture of the behavior of the Trump surrounding Ukraine without delving into partisan drama.

These three state department officials are owed respect and admiration in the courage they showed in standing up for American ideals.

Second, if the goal of the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee was to slow down the train headed toward a vote for impeachment in the full House of Representatives, then their effort wasn't successful.

There was no argument they raised or facts they presented that would cause the Democrats in the House to not move forward. They were left arguing process and not able to push back on the substance of the allegations against Trump.

Third, while the Democrats were successful in building the blocks towards impeachment of the president, they were not able to crack the strong wall of Republican support of Trump. And without cracking that wall, and we shall see if ahead they are able to, the vote in the House is likely to be completely along partisan lines. Then it will move to the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority likely won't vote for conviction.

Rep. Will Hurd and Rep. Elise Stefanik listen as Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington on Nov. 15, 2019. Behind them are Rep. Mike Conaway, (L), and Rep. Michael Turner.
Erin Schaff/The New York Times via Redux

Fourth, though the GOP leadership in Washington is still fully behind the president, we won't know if Republican voters around the country moved at all in being open to impeaching Trump until we get further along in the process. And that movement is key if the Democratic leadership desires impeachment to be a bipartisan effort.

Keep in mind though that Republican voters began to leave Richard Nixon during the Watergate hearings long before the GOP elected officials started abandoning him.

My guess is after this week, GOP voters will not have moved much away from Trump.

Fifth, in the coming days the Democrats will need to settle exactly on the specific ground on which they would vote to impeach Trump. There seems to be a variety of fronts on which they're gathering evidence and discussing, and soon they will need to tell the public the clear elements.

Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, testifies before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2019.
Jim Bourg/Reuters

For the Republicans, their defense of the president is unclear and confusing, and this will need to be cleaned up if they are going to have any attempt at forestalling an impeachment vote in the House.

Some Republicans are saying the president did something wrong, but that he shouldn't be impeached. Others have said the president did not do anything wrong. Others still are just venting about the process.

Let us not draw too many conclusions just yet, either on the substance or the politics, and allow the process to keep unfolding in the coming weeks.

And we should all push our elected officials and the media to not treat this as a game or a reality show, and call us to the profound importance of this time and to focus on substance and not style or drama.

We should take our cue on that from the three public servants who testified this week.

Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.

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