There seems to be some common tactics folks fall back to when they find themselves losing an argument or unable to defend a position they have staked out. 

Those blessed with rhetorical skills and masters of debate construct persuasive arguments most often by presenting substantive facts in a logical fashion, appealing to the higher values of their audience. When deconstructing the position of another, they identify the fallacies of logic or facts of the argument being made. 

Those who are less blessed may fall prey to some rhetorical traps when confronted by an absence of flaws in fact or logic. In extreme situations, some may resort to tactics that border on intellectual dishonesty in an attempt to steer attention away from the issue. 

The theatrics this week exhibited by the president's staunchest defenders in Congress appear to be examples of the latter. No longer able to present substantive arguments in defense of the president in the wake of damning testimony from credible witnesses, they have resorted to political stunts to distract from the issues rather than engage.   

Testimony presented by William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was summoned from retirement to extend a lifetime of service to his country, apparently undermined the president's primary defense against allegations that he abused the power of his office for personal political gain. The president and his ardent supporters have relied on the now familiar and repetitious refrain: There was "no quid pro quo."  

As an aside, federal law makes it a crime to solicit "a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value" from "an individual who is not a citizen of the United States." That crime has no requirement there be an exchange of favors or goods, solicitation is the crime when the other factors are at play. 

Still clinging to "no quid pro quo" as the unified defense strategy, that note eventually began to sour as a growing chorus of career civil servants stepped forward with evidence that seemed to leave those who attended the depositions stunned. Those hearings are open to both Republican and Democratic members of three congressional committees and members of their respective staffs.

Disarmed and left defenseless by facts, House Republicans adopted a new strategy on Wednesday. About 30 or so interlopers stormed the secure facility on Capitol Hill where House committees have taken the depositions of career civil servants and some political appointees who are said to have knowledge about the president's threat to withhold military aid from Ukraine for personal gain. 

They gathered outside the secure facility to complain about the secrecy of the deposition process despite the fact there were some among them who are members of the committees and had attended the closed hearings. It is likely some of the congressmen complaining this week about closed-door depositions defended the practice not long ago when the House Select Committee conducted closed-door depositions while investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. 

None of those who took part in these antics defended the president against the key allegations that prompted the impeachment inquiry, but that wasn't the point. Their message was delivered in an attempt to muddy the water and confuse voters.

Is that what passes for public service these days? 

D.E. Smoot covers city/county government for the Phoenix. 

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