Adam Schiff's 'Trump Show': Was it a hit with the undecideds?

Adam Schiff's 'Trump Show': Was it a hit with the undecideds?
© Greg Nash

Like much of what passes for drama on television these days, I, along with millions of other Americans, knew how the impeachment show would end even before it began.

The faux drama — produced and directed by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint MORE (D-Calif.) after House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Pelosi, Democrats using coronavirus to push for big tax cuts for blue state residents US watchdog vows 'aggressive' oversight after intel official fired MORE (D-Calif.) green-lighted the project — almost certainly will end when Democrats in the House impeach President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE and Republicans in the Senate refuse to find him guilty.

The ratings were pretty good for the premiere episode but, as the show got more and more tedious, the audience dropped off — a possible indication of how much the electorate cares about impeachment. Take note, Mr. Schiff.  

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And there’s something else most Americans knew early on: The show was never about actually removing the president from office before his term ends, as enticing a thought as that may be to Democrats.

The show was mainly about dirtying up the president, making him unappealing to moderate swing voters next year. Would they really want to cast a vote for a president who was … impeached?

It’s a good question, the only part of this show that we don’t know the answer to.

We do know how Democrats and Republicans feel about impeachment, but what about those swing voters? Will they find the president’s behavior more impulsive and foolhardy than usual, and therefore worthy of impeachment? Or will they wonder why the Democrats couldn’t wait less than one year for the next election?

If the president is as horrible as Schiff and others think he is, why not let the voters impeach him next November? Wouldn’t that be far less polarizing, far less traumatic to a nation already dangerously divided?

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We can’t say for sure at this point, but the show designed and scripted to hurt the president may wind up helping him. The final reviews won’t be in for 11 months. But several polls already show that support for impeachment has gone down since the TV show began.

After listening to one witness after another, a reasonable person could come away believing that there was indeed a quid pro quo; that President Trump, through his surrogates, was strong-arming the young, new Ukrainian president, sending a message that he either announces an investigation into Trump political rival Joe BidenJoe BidenSome Sanders top allies have urged him to withdraw from 2020 race: report Sunday shows preview: As coronavirus spreads in the U.S., officials from each sector of public life weigh in Trump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' MORE or he doesn’t get an Oval Office meeting with the president and desperately needed U.S. aid to fight the Russians. 

Whether that’s an impeachable offense or merely improper is another matter. 

For the record, none of this is to excuse the president’s many shortcomings, regarding his phone call with the president of Ukraine or a gazillion other matters. Rather, it’s a warning: If Democrats think they can launch a partisan impeachment inquiry with the next presidential election less than a year away, then watch what happens if the next Democratic president so much as drops a chewing gum wrapper on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

One would hope that Republicans would be more restrained than Democrats currently are. But don’t bet on it.

It’s unclear if producer/director Adam Schiff gave any thought to that before launching his TV show.

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and an analyst for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.