Most everybody has some subject about which they know more than the average bear. These resident experts may be content just knowing that they know, or they may feel compelled to parade their knowledge for all to see.
The hasty and often careless use of social media to communicate in what passes today for writing gives ample opportunity for the grammarians in our midst to cringe and, in some cases, correct. These are the folks who can shoot down someone’s whole discourse on Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax or anything at all to do with Donald Trump by pointing the use of “there” when it should have been “their.” A discussion of the Oxford comma is likely to bring on a paroxysm or just a downright hissy fit. These are my people.
Lord knows I love a math geek, too. An analysis of probabilities, statistics, and polling trends are aphrodisiacs to us, particularly when it’s our patron saint, Stephan of Kornacki, who’s at the big board.
So it was that I was hoping for at least one nerdy hot constitutional scholar to be a witness in the impeachment hearing this week before the House Judiciary Committee. After all, it seemed like it might be a pretty dry discussion of what bribery and high crimes and misdemeanors actually meant at the framing of the Constitution.
And I got my wish in the form of Noah Feldman, who looks like a cross between Ralph Fiennes as Charles Van Doren and Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes. He was already on a roll in his opening statement when he said, “The word ‘high’ modifies both ‘crimes’ and ‘misdemeanors.’” All right, Professor Feldman, you got me.
I was holding on to that one when Congressman Doug Collins, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee used “irregardless” in one of his diatribes. Then Republican counsel Paul Taylor’s pronunciation of “nepotism” with a long “e” rather set my teeth on edge. Thankfully, the Republican’s scholar on the witness panel, Jonathan Turley, referenced scholarly “necromancy” in relation to the Founding Fathers—one of those rarely used words whose appearance is always welcomed with one part pleasure and one part discomfort.
But it was Pamela Karlan, another testifying constitutional scholar, who managed the most controversial wordplay when she said, “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.” Uh oh. Though this was in relation to the constitutional prohibition against the United States granting titles of nobility, any one paying attention knew immediately that the Republicans had just been given something they could use. And they did.
To comment on the comment is pointless and actually tedious. What happened afterwards was more interesting, particularly the response from the First Lady. So let’s go down that path.
I can totally see Hillary Clinton watching her husband’s impeachment hearings, surrounded by notepads, lawyers, and advisors. I can even see Pat Nixon in front of one of those ‘70’s televisions with a record player and a built-in bar. If she needed Johnnie Walker to keep her company, so be it.
What I can’t get a picture of is Melania Trump glued to the tube. Nor can I see her composing the angry tweet that came out of @FLOTUS, decrying the invoking of Barron’s name in the proceedings. What I CAN see is the First Lady and her son being deployed as a shield to protect her husband in the midst of his impeachment hearings.
Assuming she’s aware of that and approves, that is strictly her business. In which case, the tweet could have been shortened to “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.” (Any mother I know, angered in this way, would have said “and using MY child to do it.”) But the first sentence—“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics”—just doesn’t make sense when that child, in that tweet, is being used for political purposes.
There was a fourth panelist—Michael Gerhardt. He didn’t say anything noteworthy. He just spoke eloquently about why Trump should be impeached. But, who’s got time for that?