The Conservative Media Impeaches Taylor and Kent
President Trump’s impeachment hearings began on Wednesday, and after some fairly partisan opening statements from congressional leaders, we were introduced to the proceedings’ first two witnesses: William Taylor (our U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine) and George Kent (a deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs).
Both men were there by subpoena, and answered questions on what they knew of (and had previously expressed concerns over) the hold Trump placed on Ukraine’s security assistance, as well as the president’s controversial communications with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. (Much of the Democrats’ stated basis for impeachment is the implication that the congressionally approved assistance was contingent on Zelenskiy digging up political dirt on Joe Biden).
Taylor and Kent seemed to quickly establish themselves as credible, highly competent individuals — men who’ve served their country honorably, and under multiple administrations. And early in their testimony, they even gave supporters of President Trump some nuggets to cheer for:
Not good for the Democrats’ narrative:
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) November 13, 2019
But as things continued, and the two described their concerns over the president’s irregular maneuvering (which included the firing of an ambassador, and Rudy Giuliani leading a politically-motivated “investigation” under the mantel of U.S. foreign policy), it became clear that their testimony was rather compelling…and potentially damaging to President Trump.
That didn’t stop some on the right from continuing to find bright spots:
Rep. Ratcliffe just asked the most important question of the day: Was there anything in President Trump’s July 25th phone call that was impeachable. Neither witness said yes.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) November 13, 2019
Of course, pretending that this was an important exchange is rather silly. Ratcliffe’s question is a perfectly legitimate one when asked of the Democrats holding the impeachment hearings, but not of the witnesses. Taylor and Kent were subpoenaed fact-witnesses, called on to testify to what they know. They aren’t the ones pursuing impeachment, nor are they burdened with having to make that determination.
To Fleischer’s credit, he didn’t attack the credibility and character of the witnesses. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for some of his colleagues in the conservative media.
While the hearings were underway, Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, tore into Taylor and Kent, calling them “deep state” operatives and “professional nerds who wear their bow ties, and they have their proper diplo-speak.”
“These guys are simply ticked off that they were not listened to,” Limbaugh added. “They are ticked off that they were not heard… There hasn’t been anything but a bunch of self-important, narcissistic, ‘we run the world’ kind of guys really ticked off that they were ignored, that they were not listened to.”
This went on for some time. Here’s a little more:
“They are from a different world, and it’s a world where they think they are in charge. It’s a world they think they run. They don’t get to determine foreign policy. But in their world, they do. In their world, they are in charge of foreign policy. They believe in their own superiority. They believe in their own competence and importance with a complete cluelessness.”
For a little perspective, one of those “clueless” “self-important nerds” (as Limbaugh referred to him), who had the gall to express his concerns over what he believed to be improper government conduct, is a former captain and company commander in the U.S. Army, who voluntarily served in Vietnam. I’m talking about Taylor, who also happened to earn a Bronze Star and an Air Medal for valor.
Regardless, Sean Hannity shared Limbaugh’s sentiment on his own radio program:
“What you’re really watching are these nerdy guys that don’t know President Trump, never met with President Trump, that speak to the European Union ambassador, make interpretations out of his conversations that actually contradict his testimony, and obviously they have a level of self-importance that is just nauseating to me.”
Aside from the obvious takeaway — that it’s pretty darned funny for Limbaugh and Hannity to be calling anyone “nerds” — it’s interesting that they appeared to be reading from the same script.
Hannity, carrying that script over to his Fox News show, later called the two witnesses “self-important” and “uncompelling.” He said they “seem to care more about Ukraine-first policies than America-first policies.”
Mark Levin, a guest on Hannity’s show agreed, describing Taylor and Kent as “two homeless guys.”
On Tucker Carlson’s show, guest Christian Whiton called the witnesses “deep state crybabies” and said they “looked like people who sat by themselves at recess.”
Carlson himself described them as “washed up bureaucrats.”
Fox News’s Chris Wallace had a very different take earlier in the day, saying that “William Taylor was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president.”
This royally upset frequent Trump defender, Sean Davis of The Federalist:
Not really surprising given that Chris Wallace is every bit as deranged with Trump hatred as the nuttiest guests on CNN or MSNBC.
Taylor was a sanctimonious bore who provided zero evidence of anything beyond his disdain for Article II of the Constitution. https://t.co/LFtuuJkmoz
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) November 13, 2019
Yes, Davis, who prides himself as someone who exposes unfair media narratives, said that Chris Wallace, one of the most evenhanded national journalists we have, “is every bit as deranged with Trump hatred as the nuttiest guests on CNN or MSNBC.”
You can’t make this stuff up, folks.
There’s a perfectly reasonable (and probably effective) argument to be made that what Trump did doesn’t rise to the level impeachment, and that the Democrats are pursuing this initiative for purely political reasons. But as is often the case with the conservative media these days, it’s not enough to simply make such an argument. Anyone of notoriety who puts forth potentially detrimental information (or even detrimental commentary for that matter) on this president must be both discredited and burned at the stake.
This serves as a regular reminder that Trump Derangement Syndrome goes both ways, chronically suffered not just by those who can’t find anything right with the president, but also by those who can’t find anything wrong.