The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, January 31, 2020

The Legal Teams

When I was a software engineering consultant, I was appointed as a technical advisor to the board of a well-funded technology start-up. The board was comprised of a number of very 'heavy-hitter' venture capital veterans. At one board meeting, the company's CEO was discussing the company's law firm, a local firm. As he was talking, a well-known and wizened venture guy interrupted.

"Fire them!" he stated without preamble.

The CEO was nonplussed. "Why?" he responded.

"Because ...," the Venture capitalist waited just a beat. "among other things, the broader tech community judges you based on your legal representation and these guys just don't hack it. Find some real lawyers with the firepower to take you to the next level.

I remembered that as I watched the duel between the House Impeachment Managers lead by Adam Schiff and Donald Trump's legal team.

Molly Hemingway comments:
Instead of turning things over to the effective Republicans who had handled the impeachment process so well on the House side, President Trump instead opted to put together a powerhouse collection of attorneys uniquely suited to address an audience of senators and the American people.

Even among their class of politicians, senators have an extremely high view of themselves and their office. Every senator’s ego must be stroked. They don’t want to feel upstaged, spoken down to, or lectured.

Patrick Philbin, Trump’s deputy general counsel, exemplified the defense team’s deliberate choice to put in front of senators someone who had encyclopedic knowledge of the law and this particular case, someone not there to make a name for himself. Philbin’s humble and bookish demeanor was neither bombastic nor flamboyant as he calmly explained the facts of the case and their significance. The other members of the team were also well chosen to argue their points.

By contrast, House Democrats picked impeachment managers who seemed perfectly calibrated to annoy and grate on those handful of senators whose votes were up for grabs. Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler were the leaders of a group that repeated their highly partisan talking points and used hyperbolic and loaded language. The media loved it, but it went over like a lead balloon with the non-Resistance senators.

The House Democrats accused senators of being cowards who were complicit in a cover-up. They suggested that the senators were unable to vote properly because President Trump would put their heads on pikes if they didn’t vote to acquit. They refused to answer specific and direct questions about whether the whistleblower worked for Biden, was involved in any decisions regarding Burisma, or about his interaction with Schiff’s staff. Even the Washington Post — even the Washington Post — gave Schiff four Pinocchios for lying about his staff’s secret collusion with the whistleblower.

At some point, the difference between the competent and highly skilled attorneys on the White House team and the bumbling and somewhat mediocre team of House managers was so pronounced it was almost embarrassing. It was as if one side belonged in front of the Supreme Court and the other failed to make the finals at a middle school debate tournament.