Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On With The Show

"This is a moment in American history where the arc of justice will either be bent forward or it will be bent backward.  So everyone who wants to see it should have the chance to see the whole story."
Bill Moyers, former PBS journalist and commentator

Public impeachment proceedings for President Donald Trump begin today.  The major news outlets are airing it, as well as all of the major networks.  If you are able, take the time to watch or listen.  Don't listen to the propaganda from Fox News that the proceedings aren't legitimate.  Impeachments by nature are a political proceeding, not a legal one.  They are a political mechanism to remove a president for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.  That has always been vague.

And there has been clear evidence of at least high crimes and misdemeanors on the part of President Trump.  This particular inciting incident involves a clear abuse of power in pressuring a foreign power to investigate a political rival.  I firmly believe there is as much, if not more basis for the impeachment of Donald Trump than there was for Richard Nixon.

Look at past impeachment proceedings.   President Johnson was impeach for trying to abruptly and improperly replace a high ranking executive member in violation of the Tenure of Office Act.  President Nixon was investigated for impeachment because of obstruction of justice and abuse of power in trying to get dirt on political rivals.  President Clinton was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in trying to cover up an affair.  Of that entire list, the allegations against Trump are only missing perjury, though given his record on truth telling, that may not be hard to establish.  After all, one reason given for him not testifying before Mueller was that his handlers did not believe he could testify without perjuring himself.

The public proceedings will hopefully lay out the full case for the America people.  I realize that even these public proceedings will not do anything to change the minds of those loyal supporters.  But they demand to be observed.  They demand our attention, just as the previous impeachment proceedings did.

I, too, join Moyer in hoping that PBS reverses course and re-airs the impeachment proceedings in prime time.  While they are airing them live, they are being aired at a time when most Americans are at work.  Or at school.  At a time when few will be able to take in the full proceedings and instead will rely on filtered clips from the news program of their choice.  If they pay attention at all, it will likely be through the same wind tunnel news program that affirms their own current political beliefs.  It will not be the actual source material.

During Watergate, PBS did re-air the broadcasts in prime time, so that the base of the American public could watch the proceedings as they unfolded, just a little delayed.  These re-broadcasts helped shape PBS and the national discourse on the proceedings.  It allowed America to come to its own conclusions.

"Over the course of 51 days and nights, millions of viewers watched as the story of the Watergate break-in, the cover-up, payoffs, and dirty tricks unfolded before their eyes. The evidence was undeniable: Richard Nixon, the President of the United States, had abused the power of his office, corrupted the rule of law, lied persistently, and obstructed justice.

Other networks carried the hearings, too, but what set public broadcasting apart was the decision to air them twice a day: live, in real time as they happened, and then via videotape in prime time every evening, when people who had spent all day working could come home, watch the drama play out without intrusive commentary, and become a part of the process of judgement. One viewer wrote: 'I arrive red-eyed and sleepy to work and I don’t care.' "

PBS is dumping the re-broadcast on a digital sub-channel, PBS World.  Something most of us have never heard of.  One has to wonder why.   Is it pressure from the Trump administration?  Is fear of the executive branch finally too much?  Nixon threatened to pull funding, but PBS at the time did not back down.  Is the current leadership of PBS too timid for our times?

Or perhaps its a different problem.  Tonight PBS is airing Nature, Nova, and Life From Above.  Are ratings to blame?  Is PBS too concerned with keeping their viewers on these programs that they won't interrupt?  Too concerned with keeping us entertained instead of truly informed?

Maybe we really are in Postman's nightmare - entertaining ourselves to death.

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