Let the game of chicken begin!

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.

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.


  1. says

    So who will win this game of chicken?

    You will notice that the house has made no effort to shut off the money-valve for the DoD or any of the senate’s favorite programs. Why not? Could it be that they care about the “optics” of a government shutdown more than all their pretty words about preserving democracy?

    The house could absolutely bring the government to a halt. Yet, they do not. Because they are also in on the $cam.

  2. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Marcus

    Why would the Dems want to bring the government to a halt?

    US politics often make no sense to me and bringing the government to a halt makes no sense to me in general but even less right now.

  3. Ridana says

    I want them to withhold it until they get an agreement, but McTurtle will have his way. He’ll agree to terms, then once he’s got the docs in hand, renege on the agreement and do what he wants, just as he’s always done, all the while crowing about his duplicity being a strength, the way he’s recently been bragging about holding up Garland’s nomination. Then he’ll blame it on the Democrats.

  4. machintelligence says

    Ridiana @4
    If Mitch does that, I hope the gloves really come off. Begin impeachment proceedings with different charges, like Bribery and Obstruction based on the Mueller report.There is nothing preventing the Democrats from doing so. If that isn’t enough, do it again.
    Lather, rinse, repeat up until election day. Republicans never gave up on Benghazi.
    If the Republicans want a political war, now is the time to give them one.

  5. Who Cares says

    Bad publicity is why they won’t do it. Gives easy munition to the republicans about this not being about a president who did something wrong but the president being a republican.

  6. brucegee1962 says

    There is no nuance in American politics; whoever can state their position in the fewest words, wins the war of public opinion. That gives McConnell the upper hand. He can just say “We’re ready for the trial,” and there’s no way that Pelosi can explain her position with fewer words than that. So he wins.

    @1 Marcus, that’s also why Dems don’t dare risk a government shutdown. This has been shown to be a political bomb — the only way to win with one of them is to make it look like it’s the other side’s fault. That would be tough to do in this position.

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