By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – Day one of the impeachment hearings found both sides trying to control the narrative. So we put their efforts to the truth test.

Start with House Intelligence Committee ranking minority member Devin Nunes, who was peddling a common theme among the president’s defenders.

“Ambassador Taylor testified that President Trump was the first president to see that Ukraine was afforded Javelin antitank weapons. This was a very strong message that Americans are willing to provide more than blankets. This was the Obama administration’s approach.”

This spin is designed to undercut the claim that Trump was willing to jeopardize Ukrainian security when he froze their military aid. How can that be when he was the first to arm them up?

But while it’s true the flow of lethal arms sales began under Trump, the claim that Obama-era aid was limited to blankets is false. Ukraine did receive hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment under Obama, despite concerns about escalating the crisis in its early stages.

Now, the Democrats:

“If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?” asked Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. “The issue that we confront is the one proposed by the president’s acting chief of staff [Mick Mulvaney] when he challenged Americans to ‘get over it.'”

While the Republicans want to dissipate public backlash by playing down the whole episode, Democrats want to use these hearings to whip up voter anger.

Schiff’s framing of the issue is correct, impeachment is ultimately a political act in search of public support. But it’s not at all clear a majority won’t ultimately shrug all this off.

According to this summary of relevant polls, longstanding resistance to impeachment flipped when the Ukraine story broke, but support for it is still under 50 percent with opposition polling close behind.

There’s a reason why the Democrats are scheduled to complete these hearings at what passes in Congress for warp speed – they’re worried the public will burn out and lose interest, which seemed to happen during the Mueller investigation. Meanwhile, the GOP strategy is to throw dust in your face as you watch.

Who has the better game plan?

Stay tuned.

Jon Keller

Comments