By Newt Gingrich
Some people have written that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing checkers while President Trump is playing chess.
After a few weeks of watching what Senator Ben Sasse called “a partisan clown show” and watching Chairman Adam Schiff earn four Pinocchios from the Washington Post for lying, I have reached a different, more disturbing conclusion.
Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats cannot play a game which requires more than one step.
Even a game as simple as Tic-Tac-Toe requires you to think beyond the opening move. You must ask what your opponent will do and then constantly modify your plan to meet the challenge of your opponent’s effort to win turn-by-turn.
In military planning, a sound principle is to always ask of each plan “and then what?” This was the principle most profoundly violated in Iraq in 2003. We knew we could execute the first move – replace Saddam Hussein quickly and decisively – and we did just that. The initial anti-Saddam operation took 23 days. However, we failed to ask, “and then what?”
If we had planned to simply decapitate the dictatorship and rapidly turn the country over to the Iraqi people with the regular Iraqi Army and police forces intact, we had the right size force and the right campaign.
However, if we had intended to profoundly change the power structure and shift considerable authority from the Sunni to the Shia population, then we needed four or five times as many troops and a totally different attitude.
With General Tommy Franks we got the first result exactly as planned. With Ambassador Paul Bremmer, we attempted the second goal without increasing our forces or changing the thinking of our systems. The result has been an unnecessary 16-year nightmare which is still not over.
Speaker Pelosi is drifting into her own unintended nightmare.
Holding partisan hearings, working with the left-wing media to leak and lie about President Trump, trying to weaken the President for re-election would all make sense as a strategy of attrition. It would maximize the advantage of the left-wing media-Democratic Party alliance and minimize any downside risk.
However, by moving from investigation to impeachment, Speaker Pelosi just gave up all of her advantages and opened up a nightmare for the Democrats.
It all comes from not thinking through the follow-on steps.
First, an impeachment process inherently raises questions of fairness and sets up a standard which opens the Democrats up to charges of hypocrisy and cheating. Having a leaker transformed into a supposed whistleblower only works as long as the news media doesn’t get aroused enough to dig into the facts. (“Leaker” is a more accurate term, since he or she did not know anything first-hand on which to blow the whistle and simply leaked hearsay while using the term whistleblower for publicity and legal protection).
The Kavanaugh hearings should have been a warning about the shift in standards. Judge Kavanaugh could have been subjected to smears in the media as long as they didn’t rise to the level of an official investigation. The minute the smears became the subject of an official investigation, the standards changed even for much of the left-wing media. The length of time Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff knew about an allegation suddenly became a national story. Reporters began tracking down potential witnesses and undermining the credibility of the accuser. Day-by-day, Judge Kavanaugh became stronger and his accuser grew less believable. Then, in desperation, the Left produced less and less believable secondary accusations. The Republicans, who controlled the Senate Judiciary Committee, insisted that the drama play out until it became clear that Judge Kavanaugh was being smeared. Today he is Justice Kavanaugh.
Speaker Pelosi and the House Democrats seem to have forgotten two key steps in shifting from investigation to impeachment.
First, the House Republicans, the Trump White House, and the non-left media (and to be fair even some leftists in the media) are now demanding a higher standard of accountability and fairness in establishing due process. The 2019 Democrats look pathetically unfair and dishonest compared to both the Democratic controlled impeachment process of 1973 and the Republican controlled impeachment process of 1998.
To go back to the so-called whistleblower, it is inconceivable that he or she will remain anonymous. Accusing the President of the United States of a “high crime” to use the Constitutional standard in secrecy is absurd. It violates every principle of facing your accuser which was the reform to replace the Star Chamber on English common law, which was abolished in 1641 for abusing power.
As a practical matter, the continuous leaks (The New York Times apparently knows the person’s name, identity as a Democrat, and who they worked for) will guarantee that the person be identified in the media in the very near future. If, as currently suspected, this person turns out to be a Democrat who was actually talking with Democratic presidential candidates, his or her credibility will be destroyed for the average American.
This relates to the other flaw in Pelosi’s game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Even if the Democrats can keep the accuser’s name secret in the House and secure an impeachment, how could they possibly think it would remain secret when the Republican controlled Senate took up the case? The answer, of course, is that the identity will be revealed and the Democrats’ effort will be revealed as a partisan absurdity.
Furthermore, if this impeachment effort gets to the Republican Senate, do the Democrats really think no one is going to ask Hunter Biden what he did for $600,000 a year from a Ukrainian natural gas company? Do they also think no one is going to ask former Vice President Joe Biden if he really had no idea his son was earning such a sum in Ukraine when he threatened to withhold more than $1 billion in aid unless the prosecutor looking into his son’s company was fired?
Even during the Democrats’ opening move of this game of Tic-Tac-Toe, they are losing ground and looking more and more incompetent and dishonest.
If the House Democrats move forward, and Republicans get our second move in the Senate, Pelosi will regret the day she learned to spell impeachment.
This is what the absence of planning and thinking ahead does to you.
So, the truth may be that the Tic-Tac-Toe analogy is generous. A tougher view may be that Pelosi is playing solitaire. In politics and warfare, that is a losing game.