The single most absurd moment in Monday's impeachment hearing

Democrats and Republicans disagree on whether President Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses. Hear each side lay out their impeachment arguments.

Posted: Dec 11, 2019 3:50 PM
Updated: Dec 11, 2019 3:50 PM

In the course of the House Judiciary Committee's 10-hour impeachment hearing, there were lots of frustrating moments and plenty of odd scenes.

But one moment stood out to me for its pure absurdity -- an exchange between Democratic counsel Barry Berke and Republican lawyer Stephen Castor about former Vice President Joe Biden.

Here it is:

Berke: It's relevant to consider. Sir, would you agree that Joe Biden was a leading Democratic contender to face President Trump in 2020?

Castor: I wouldn't agree with that.

Berke: You disagree with that. So sir, it's your testimony --

Castor: It's too early.

Berke: -- that President Trump did not view President [sic] Biden to be a legitimate contender?

Castor: I don't know what President Trump believed or didn't believe, but it's too early.

Uh, what? Castor, a longtime GOP Hill staffer, is refusing to acknowledge that Biden was even "a leading contender" for the Democratic nomination. Not the leading contender, mind you. Just a leading contender.

This is obviously ridiculous on its face. You can -- and I have -- argued about whether the former vice president is the race's front-runner. And at different times over this year, the answer to that question has varied. But from the moment Biden announced in April that he was planning to run a third race for president in 2020, he has been, at a minimum, one of the front-runnersl

So why is Castor refusing to acknowledge the reality that literally everyone else understands?

Well, at least in part because he doesn't want to give Berke the satisfaction of agreeing with him on absolutely anything. Castor knows that in ceding absolutely no ground, he is winning points among not just the Republican members of the committee but also among the GOP base.

And then there is the fact that Castor knows that if he admits the obvious -- of course Biden was and is a leading Democratic contender for the 2020 nomination -- then it makes it that much harder to argue that Trump's demands in the Ukraine pressure campaign had everything to do with the 2016 campaign and nothing to do with the 2020 election.

See, if Trump knew that Biden could be a potentially strong nominee, Trump's attempts to force the Ukrainians to open an investigation into the former vice president look a whole lot different -- and far worse for the President. Suddenly, he is actively encouraging a foreign power to dig up dirt on a potential general election opponent rather than simply trying to get to the bottom of what an American citizen was doing in Ukraine in the run-up to the 2016 election.

And so Castor says it was "too early" to say whether Biden was "a leading Democratic contender" for the 2020 nomination. Which is patently ridiculous, given both Biden's year-long edge in national polling on the 2020 Democratic race and the fact that we are now less than two months away from the Iowa caucuses.

Unfortunately for all of us, absurd has become the new normal. And it's not showing any signs of changing.

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