The President’s impeachment problem: Not what he says, how he says it
Trump’s opponents, who seem to have a stronger disdain for the Chief Executive than any other presidents have experienced, often quote the president. All to prove a point. Then those anti-Trumpers add their own re-phrasing and interpretation. They believe that their re-phrased interpretation will allow them to convince the public that their position is the right one. That they have a moral obligation to tell America what President Trump was trying to say.
Much of the success that the Dems have had with this strategy results from the President’s style. Because of the somewhat unique way he expresses himself, the public is often unclear as to exactly what he tries to say. The Dems position is presented more clearly.
The July 25th call.
The most glaring example of the Dems re-phrasing abilities was the Adam Shiff re-phrasing of the famous July 25th telephone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky of Ukraine. Adam Schiff presenting the re-phrased interpretation of that call.
In that call, Trump wanted to find out if the newly elected Ukrainian President was serious about reducing corruption. Trump also wanted some help with an investigation that was looking at interference and corruption by Ukrainians to influence the 2016 US presidential election and corruption that might have involved any Americans.
Shiff’s interpretation was much different than Trump’s stated goals.
Shiff was convinced that the president was willing to withhold aid until Zelensky did Trump a personal favor. According to the transcript, after discussing the purchase of military hardware, Trump says,
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine.”
Trump later saying,
“The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you ·can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.”
For someone whose roots go back to Queens New York, and who has succeeded in the business world, “do us a favor” has a certain, not necessarily nefarious, connotations. It is a way to build relationships. By doing a favor, one party extends itself beyond an on-the-surface relationship.
The other party feels grateful and often obligated to reciprocate. Thus a relationship builds.
Adam Schiff re-phases Trump’s words.
Shiff rephrased Trump’s words to fit the impeachment narrative. Schiff said the “essence” of Trump’s message was,
“We’ve been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I’m going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it.”
Schiff’s re-phrase created the perception that Trump wanted Zelensky to provide some negative information about not just a former vice-president but rather a future political opponent. Because Trump speaks the way he does, Schiff’s re-phrase appealed to Trump opponents and even some independents.
Suppose Trump had phrased his comments like this:
“We have a situation that we may need some assistance to resolve. As we discussed, I can see that you are committed to reducing corruption. I know that a Ukrainian citizen has already been convicted of interfering in the American election in 2016. There is also some indication that members of the prior US administration may have had some involvement this and perhaps some other corrupt activities. The US would greatly appreciate any effort you could give to assist with the investigation. The attorney general and my personal attorney would like to discuss this matter further with you.”
In that case, there would be little doubt about Trump’s intentions.
Even after the current impeachment nonsense ends with Trump remaining as president, the Dems re-phrasing will continue. Although Trump’s background makes a more tactful presentation of his position very difficult, he could help himself by speaking more clearly and more politically correct.
The President probably doesn’t want to hear that.
Michael Busler, Ph.D. is a public policy analyst and a Professor of Finance at Stockton University where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Finance and Economics. He has written Op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years. @mbusler www.facebook.com/fundingdemocracy