Fails to see that's the whole point: What does unintelligent politics look like?
It has a thousand faces! For our money, Rep. Schiff provided one example as he spoke to Fiona Hill during last Thursday's impeachment hearing.
Hill was born in England, emigrated to the U.S. Two other impeachment witnesses were immigrants too, though each had come to this country as toddlers with their immigrant parents.
Many observers found Hill to be a remarkable witness; we had that reaction ourselves. That said, we groaned when we saw Schiff make the statement shown below. We thought someone as sharp at Hill should have challenged Schiff's assessment:
SCHIFF (11/21/19): First of all, thank you both for being here. Thank you for testifying.Hill came to the U.S. as a graduate student. Vindman arrived as a toddler.
Dr. Hill, your story reminds me a great deal of what we heard from Alexander Vindman. The few immigrant stories that we’ve heard just in the course of these hearings are among the most powerful I think I’ve ever heard. You and Colonel Vindman and others are the best of this country, and you came here by choice, and we are so blessed that you did. So, welcome.
That said, set aside whatever you may think about the testimony they provided. Ask yourself if you agree with Schiff's unfortunate statement.
Is it true? Are Hill and Vindman and other immigrants really "the best of this country?" Because that's what Schiff oddly said.
For ourselves, we thought Hill was a stunningly articulate witness. For that reason, we were disappointed when she let this assessment stand.
It's very, very, very bad politics to make a statement like Schiff's. It's very, very, very bad politics to make such invidious statements.
It's also very hard to defend the accuracy of Schiff's assessment. Are immigrants really "the best of this country?" Are they better, for example, than the people Bernie Sanders praised when he made the statement shown below at a town hall meeting, held with Chris Hayes, in West Virginia coal country?
SANDERS (3/3/17): Well, let me be honest and say two things.Sanders was describing people who aren't immigrants. Beyond that, they don't hold advanced degrees, but Sanders said they were his heroes for the bone-crushing, underpaid service and work they've performed.
I think—and disagree with me if you think I'm wrong on this. But coal in this area has been in decline, I think, since the '70s and the '80s. It's not anything that's new. And I think—
And second of all—and I know not everybody, you know, will be happy with me saying this. But I happen to believe, unlike the president, that climate change is real and it is a threat to all. But having said that, I don't hold this gentleman and the coal miners responsible for climate change. In fact, in fact, these guys are heroes.
I remember, I grew up in a rent control apartment house in Brooklyn, New York, and I will never forget the piles of coal. I don't know if it came from here or wherever it came. You kept my house warm. Thank you.
So you're not—you are not my enemy.
Are the people addressed by Sanders also "the best of America?" Schiff's statement kicked them to the curb, and of one thing you can be sure:
Across wide swaths of red-voting America, that's what people heard.
Our highly self-impressed "liberal" team is amazingly good as such counterproductive politics. Using our many "identity" markers—"race," gender, citizenship status—we now create invidious distinctions in much the way other folk breathe.
Brilliant as Hill so plainly is, we were disappointed, and also surprised, when she let Schiff's assessment stand. That assessment is part of the problem we all [currently] live with, and that problem is very hard to solve.
Our brilliantly self-impressed liberal tribe is often amazingly tone deaf. We don't seem to grasp the way we sound to less highly valued people, nor do we seem to care.
This produces a cluelessness which enables The Problem. With that in mind, we were struck by something Kathleen Parker said in her latest column.
Parker's column appeared in Sunday's Washington Post, for whom she has written for years. She praised the merits of the impeachment witnesses, citing Hill in particular.
As she started, Parker said that "Americans should be gratified by the quality of the people who testified and who actually do the nation’s work abroad." We don't necessarily disagree with that, but we were struck by the part of her column in which she discussed Jim Jordan:
PARKER (11/24/19): One after another, the men and women who testified, subjecting themselves to the sometimes scurrilous scrutiny of political profilers, maintained their focus and their cool. It was grating to hear the screech of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), whose raised voice surely signaled a stretch-and-restroom break for many viewers. While we’re on the subject, can’t the man put on a blazer? Jordan appeared without one, putting in mind a teenager who refuses to play by his parents’ rules.Quite routinely, Jordan strikes us as deeply unfortunate too. That said, we were struck by an unfortunate fact as we sat and watched those hearings:
May I remind him and others that dress codes are intended to show respect for the occasion and for others in attendance? Surely, our congressional leaders owe their constituents—and, in this case, the process—the small personal sacrifice of dressing appropriately. To do otherwise is to telegraph to the world that you think you’re more important than everyone else. Jordan also proved that age and maturity can be mutually exclusive.
There, I got that off my chest. (Parents may clip for personal use.)
Our own team is so far out over its skis in certain respects that Jordan actually got to make several points which weren't completely ridiculous. In several of his colloquies, he didn't even seem to feel the need to yell!
That said, consider what Parker said. Does Parker fail to understand that Jordan's refusal to wear a jacket, along with his patented hectoring tone, is intended to show that he lacks respect for the occasion and for (many) others in attendance?
Does Parker fail to know that that's the whole point of Jordan's demeanor and appearance? Also, that these persistent signals of disrespect are an important part of The Problem—of a problem which is very, very, very hard to address or solve?
We were surprised to see Parker scolding Jordan for his lack of respect. The lack of respect to which she refers is the whole point of his performance.
People who felt disrespected by Schiff's remark—and by three million others like it—feel respected by Jordan's lack of respect. Our team is very, very dumb when it can't come to grips with this obvious fact, and when it can't see the various ways our own team furthers The Problem.
As Parker continued, she praised Hill for certain specific things she said. In our view, Hill was perhaps a tiny bit over her skis when she made the remarks in question, a point we'll examine tomorrow. Conservative voters have heard about that. Liberals voters are persistently shielded from such possible points of concern.
The red-voting public gets propagandized over on Fox. They're hearing all about the ways Hill may have overstated.
Over here, within our own tents, we have our own propaganda too, though we have a very hard time understanding this deeply human fact.
Tomorrow: And now for the rest of the story...