- - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A straightforward message can emerge unintelligible when whispered around a circle. Much more distorting than a children’s game, apparently, is the free-flowing art of diplomacy. Destruction-minded Democrats hope to deploy disagreements over every murmur and recollection of a phone call to evict President Trump from the White House. Reasonable people may disagree over meaning, but only the senseless would angle for impeachment.

Hearings in the Democrat-controlled House Intelligence Committee featured testimony Tuesday from subpoenaed witnesses with some knowledge of events that President Trump’s enemies have seized upon to ignite the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Democrats charge the president attempted to trade armaments in return for Ukraine’s cooperation in an investigation into dealings between Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Burisma Holdings, an energy company in which Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, was involved.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, assigned to the National Security Council, told committee members in a televised hearing that he stood by his assertion made earlier in a secret session. Given Mr. Trump’s stature as U.S. president, a congratulatory phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky represented a “demand” for help probing the Bidens. “What I heard was inappropriate,” he testified. Jennifer Williams, a State Department employee assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s office, chimed in that she found the call “unusual.”

Former National Security Council official Tim Morrison and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker took their own shots at explaining how twists and turns in the diplomatic pipeline leads to differing views of intentions.

Once upon a time, proper party etiquette was defined by the likes of Emily Post. Alas, nowadays the president is expected to rely upon manners approved by Democrats and their agents squinting from the corner.

The new rules are not sitting well with the Trump White House, which responded to the House’s witnesses with a statement: “The President is in charge of setting the foreign policy of the United States, not unelected bureaucrats. The president has every right to conduct American foreign policy in whatever way he sees fit and is not in any way obligated to follow bureaucratic talking points written by staff.”

The line between “appropriate” and “inappropriate” is a matter of opinion. Accordingly, Democrats have sought to cast the president’s supposed crimes in legal lexicon. First, they tried “quid pro quo.” Since few Americans speak Latin anymore, they next experimented with “extortion.”

Lately, the charge has morphed into “bribery,” but betting the ranch that a different term won’t materialize would be a mistake. Republican committee member John Ratliffe used his allotted five minutes of microphone time to point to a one-foot-tall, 3,500-page stack of testimony transcripts and note that committee witnesses only uttered “bribery” once, and it was in relation to the Bidens.

If the B-word doesn’t produce the intended effect, Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has a C-word to hurl at the president. In fact, he already has done so, while delivering a weekend speech before the California Democratic Convention: “We are a majority in one House and we will become the majority in the other, and we will send that charlatan in the White House back to the golden throne he came from,” said the man from the Golden State.

What matters to political purists is not perception of fairness, but results. Thus far, public opinion has been fluky — opposed to mixing domestic political matters with affairs of state but less certain about the wisdom of upending the government over an offending phone call.

A recent ABC News/Ipsos poll finds that a hefty 70 percent of respondents says Mr. Trump was wrong to ask a foreign head of state to investigate his political rival. Of those, 51 percent believe the president should be impeached and expelled from office. Another 19 percent say while the president’s actions were wrong, and he should either be impeached and left in office, or neither impeached nor removed. Finally, 25 percent said he did nothing wrong.

In contrast, a Rasmussen poll found the president’s approval rating rose from 46 percent to 50 percent during the course of last week’s impeachment hearings, before settling back to 48 percent Tuesday. Democrats have wrung these inconclusive measurements out of their hearings despite Ukraine’s president denying he was the victim of a quid pro quo, extortion or bribery.

The president’s adversaries say buzz plus blather adds up to an impeachable offense. It doesn’t.

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