Republican senate leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of the fact that he plans to use the Senate trial on impeachment as a pro forma exercise in which he uses his party’s majority to ram through an acquittal as soon as possible without calling on any witnesses or even presenting any defense. Then he and Donald Trump can claim a great and glorious victory. In fact, he has proudly boasted that this is his goal. If that were to come to pass, one can already write Trump’s tweets: “It was the greatest acquittal in the history of the world.” “I am the most innocent person the world has ever seen.” And so on. You know the dreary script by now.
But he may have made a mistake in publicizing his strategy too early because now Democrats are suggesting that the articles of impeachment not be forwarded to the Senate by House speaker Nancy Pelosi until McConnell agrees to rules that make the process more like the trial it is supposed to be and less like the farce that he and Trump envisage. This idea began to be floated after McConnell revealed his strategy and Democratic leaders seem to be slowly warming to the idea. Pelosi has shown no sign of starting the trial process by naming the impeachment managers to guide the process and Congress is due to go on its holiday recess tomorrow.
Trump is clearly unsettled by this move because his whole ‘defense’ has been to seek a quick trial because he knows what the result is going to be. It appears that he is now he is trying to find ways to force the issue.
POTUS lawyers are looking at various options for proceeding if House doesn't send articles of impeachment to the Senate. POTUS doesn't want it to be left hanging that he was impeached and nothing was done by Republicans to defend him in the Senate.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) December 19, 2019
Lindsey Graham, one of he most unprincipled and shameless opportunists in American politics (and that is saying a lot) is having a hissy fit at the idea of a delay in the trial. For his part, McConnell seems to be resorting to playground dares in order to have the articles sent to him, because he cannot force the Speaker to do so.
“House Democrats may be too afraid to even transmit their shoddy work product to the Senate,” said McConnell. “Looks like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country, and second guessing whether they want to do to trial.”
Pelosi has shot back, calling him a “rogue leader in the senate” working alongside a “rogue president”.
So who will win this game of chicken?
It seems to me that the Democrats hold the upper hand and should simply hold out by denying McConnell what he and Trump so desperately want. If the Republicans have already decided to march in lockstep to acquit the president, what is to be gained by allowing them to go through the charade? Trump has been impeached, only the third president in history to be so judged, and that stain cannot be erased. The Republican attempt to partially achieve absolution by a quick acquittal should not be enabled. Calling for a fair trial is the high road the Democrats should walk on. Trump and McConnell are used to getting their way and react badly to being thwarted.
But I am not hopeful that the Democratic leadership will hold out for very long. The leadership consists of establishment politicians with no taste for the kind of rough-and-tumble politics that is necessary when you have a wildly unstable and unsuitable president with his coterie of enablers who think nothing of lying and cheating and breaking all the rules and traditions and norms to get their way. We have long past the time of genteel politics and polite words and have entered the equivalent of a street fight with metaphorical knives and guns involved. There will have to be concerted pressure on the Democratic leadership by its base to prevent them from unilaterally disarming in the name of ‘comity’ and ‘civility’, words that have long since ceased to have any relevance because the ships with those names sailed a long time ago.
In playground fights, the person who dares another to do something or risk being called a coward is usually in the weaker position because they have no other way of forcing the issue. The person who resists the dare is the stronger one because they think they are doing what is right and do not care what others may think. Let’s see if Pelosi has what it takes in this playground brawl.