CNN’s Smerconish Suggests It’s ‘Very Hard’ for Voters to Understand Impeachment

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On Wednesday’s Cuomo Prime Time after the House vote to impeach President Trump, CNN weekend host and Philadelphia radio personality Michael Smerconish took a shot at the American voters by kvetching that, according to polls, support for impeachment has gone down. 

And as for why, he surmised that it’s perhaps because Americans have incorrectly deemed it too partisan, decided to tune it out, and that they’re too busy to truly understand the severity of Trump’s actions.

 

 

Smerconish began by stating that he’s “most interested to see whether the result of today and tonight is a momentum shift” and predicted that more people tuned into the impeachment vote “than at any other point in this process” even though ratings for impeachment hearings tanked after not being very strong to begin with.

He then complained:

SMERCONISH: But here's the question that needs to be answered. Why has public support for impeachment actually declined as the hearings have played themselves out? 

CUOMO: And his approval is up. 

SMERCONISH: And his approval is up.

Alluding to various polls like one from Marquette University of Wisconsin voters and a national Gallup poll, he determined that enough Americans (unfairly) tuned out and were too busy to realize that “the underlying facts are pretty straight forward” (click “expand”):

SMERCONISH: My own theory is most Americans, many Americans in the end because it got so damn nasty, just decided to chalk this up to partisan bickering. Pinnace of partisanship. You asked Maggie what's the headline of the future, that would be mine. I don’t think this was born of partisanship. I think this was born of his conduct and frankly, the underlying facts are pretty straight forward in the end, but it was very hard for people who are working for a living and raising kids and so forth to follow all the names and places and the dates and I think —

CUOMO: So why would that be redound to his benefit? 

SMERCONISH: — I think a lot it have got chalked up to it’s really more fighting going on in Washington. We have an election — here’s the answer to your question — we have an answer on the horizon, let's revolve it at the ballot box. 

But here’s the problem with his thinking: If that’s true and voters decided at various points to tune out the inquiry, then why did impeachment support drop? If they were appalled to begin with, shouldn’t their positions have remained the same through their reprieve from following the news?

Legal analyst Preet Bharara joined in, stating without any evidence that “more people probably paid attention today as we got to the seriousness of the final moment of the vote on impeachment,” “the nation got a little quieter,” and that more would tune in for the Senate trial and that could cause more people to support removing Trump.

Earlier in the discussion, the panel interestingly departed from its usual liberal cheerleading to note the contradictory nature of House Democrats appearing to delay the sending of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate and thus delay the trial.

Bharara conceded that the delay “doesn’t make a lot of sense” seeing as how “the Democrats have been saying I think correctly for a long time we're in a rush, we got to do this quickly, we can't wait, this person is a recidivist, the President can't be allowed to do this again and now you're going to say hurry up, hurry up, we did this before Christmas, now wait.”

Host Chris Cuomo continued along that line that there’s “a little bit of gamesmanship, a little bit of chicken” but also “a little contradictory” behavior from Democrats since “you say he's a threat, a continuing threat, but now you’re delaying.”

New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman agreed “it’s actually a risky play” seeing as how “there have been a lot of competing messages coming out of the House Democrats” by “describ[ing] him as a national emergency over and over again” while they’re going to give Trump a victory with passage of the USMCA.

“Voters do have trouble understanding two things at once sometimes, and I'm not sure how this helps the House case,” she concluded.

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time on December 18, click “expand.”

CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time
December 18, 2019
9:35 p.m. Eastern

PREET BHARARA: It's a little bit of a game of chicken. She wants to know what the process is going to look like to decide, I guess, decide strategically and tactically who she wants to name as manager. I don't understand the speculation that there is for some period of time going to be the idea that you hold back the articles of impeachment because for a couple reasons. One is the Democrats have been saying I think correctly for a long time we're in a rush, we got to do this quickly, we can't wait, this person is a recidivist, the President can't be allowed to do this again and now you're going to say hurry up, hurry up, we did this before Christmas, now wait. That doesn't make a lot of sense either and I don't understand what leverage the Democrats having now successfully got Articles of Impeachment passed. I understand the need and they should want badly to have other witnesses who have been, you know, absent to come and testify, but what is the leverage on Mitch McConnell to rush? I understand what Michael was saying about if you know you have to have the trial, maybe have it super quick even before Christmas, but if there's a possibility that the Democrats say unless these witnesses come forward, we're not going to send you the articles and the prospect then hangs in the air not to have a trial, that's great, that’s wonderful for Mitch McConnell. 

CHRIS CUOMO: Just to be understood, there’s a little bit of confusion out there. No matter when they pass the articles of impeachment over, the President of the United States has been impeached. That process is over. He is not out of office. There is no consequence to his being impeached. Consequence can only come from the Senate. So his being impeached doesn't mean he's out. It means nothing other than that now there must be a trial in the Senate. When is what we're discussing here. What kind of play is this for Pelosi? Yes, a little bit of gamesmanship, a little bit of chicken, a little contradictory because you say he's a threat, a continuing threat, but now you're delaying. So politically —

MAGGIE HABERMAN: I think politically, I think it's actually a risky play. I think the — in the short term it is getting in the president's head and I do think that is to some extent something they want to do. They have done what they can do, they've done the best they can here when the White House has denied them witnesses. 

CUOMO: The guy describing everybody by animal face and he’s disrespecting the dead. I think they’ve done their job. What more do they want?

HABERMAN: I think they want to see more of this and basically let him know if he is going to disrupt the process, they're going to do a version of that. If the White House is going to simply not participate at all in this process, and they didn't, then they're going to abide the same way, but to your point about contradictory messages, I think they're coming to that a little bit late. I think that there have been a lot of competing messages coming out of the House Democrats over the last week. One is about this hurry up and wait thing in terms of moving the articles forward. The other is in describing him in these terms through this impeachment process, Democrats have described him as a national emergency over and over again. And a lot of Democrats would say, even those who weren’t [INAUDIBLE], there was a reason for that and that they had to. At the same time, they are cutting a trade deal with him. So he is a national emergency but they've also given him his chief legislative priority over the last year. Voters do have trouble understanding two things at once sometimes, and I'm not sure how this helps the House case. 

(....)

9:40 p.m. Eastern

CUOMO: She has played strength for strength. So where does that leave her right now, though? I mean, she did the job. You know, this is compelling. This — they keep saying he's a continuing national security threat, that's why you had to do this so quickly and you couldn't fight what they saw as pretentious legal fights over access to these big names who supposedly have the answers for the President. Where's the leverage? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH: I'm most interested to see whether the result of today and tonight is a momentum shift. I have to believe there were more eyes on the proceedings that have just ended than at any other point in this process. But here's the question that needs to be answered. Why has public support for impeachment actually declined as the hearings have played themselves out? 

CUOMO: And his approval is up. 

SMERCONISH: And his approval is up. But with regard to the decline, I mean, you can look at the Marquette study of Wisconsin, most critical state probably of all 50 in the election, the Gallup survey that came out today. My own theory is most Americans, many Americans in the end because it got so damn nasty, just decided to chalk this up to partisan bickering. Pinnace of partisanship. You asked Maggie what's the headline of the future, that would be mine. I don’t think this was born of partisanship. I think this was born of his conduct and frankly, the underlying facts are pretty straight forward in the end, but it was very hard for people who are working for a living and raising kids and so forth to follow all the names and places and the dates and I think —

CUOMO: So why would that be redound to his benefit? 

SMERCONISH: — I think a lot it have got chalked up to it’s really more fighting going on in Washington. We have an election — here’s the answer to your question — we have an answer on the horizon, let's revolve it at the ballot box. 

CUOMO: Causation, correlation in terms of his job approval going up and the impeachment going down. Do you think those just go together? 

BHARARA: I mean, I don’t know. That's a political question. What I know from a — 

CUOMO: And you must answer it, Breet. You have a legal defense —

BHARARA: — from a legal perspective is, public sentiment can change when people pay more attention and the same way that Michael says more people probably paid attention today as we got to the seriousness of the final moment of the vote on impeachment. I think the nation got a little quieter and notwithstanding all the histrionics leading up to it, it's a big deal. It's an important deal. I know Trump makes fun of the fact that Nancy Pelosi says she's prayerful and it's a somber moment, it is. It really is and I felt it. I think a lot of people felt it no matter what side of the aisle you're on. And my question is — to answer your question with a question is if and when there is a trial, if it takes the form that I think the Democrats want with live, compelling witnesses once again, I think more of the nation is going to tune in because the stakes are now higher. Now, it’s a trial.

CUOMO: But it's unlikely. 

BHARARA: You know, Mitch McConnell is a smart guy. I think he’ll try to avoid it and probably has the power to avoid it. But if for some reason you have an actual trial with actual witness who are telling the same story, I think more people will tune in and that’s an open question whether that will change minds. Maybe we're so polarized it won't change minds but that's an opportunity for public sentiment to shift.

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