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Impeachment Diary Day 3: Make It Stop

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Senate Television via AP

Who crafted these rules? Who thought it was a good idea to let the House managers just go and go and go and then hand it to the President’s defense team to do the same?

This is not how formal debate works. This is not how courtrooms work. Even diehard Democrats and political junkies are feeling a tranquilizer dart to the neck as we slog through three days of Orange Man Bad.

To be fair (and fairness is this impeachment’s buzzword), when the Trump side gets its three-day window, that’s going to get tedious as well, and I love those guys.

Say what you will about the ponderous hearings in the Democrat House; there was actually some back-and-forth as one side took a few minutes and then the other side took over, usually with pointed observations about what was just said.

No such creative tension here. My eyes are glazed by hour-number-whatever featuring slide-show-number-whatever making the same points Democrats have made for months. Wouldn’t this be more galvanizing for everybody if Adam Schiff or his chosen colleague delivered an hour of argument, followed by a Jay Sekulow rebuttal?

And when the Trump defense gets its turn, peeling me away from the Saturday NBA slate, wouldn’t we enjoy an hour of Pat Cipollone lamenting the absurdity of it all, then handing the talking stick to Jerry Nadler? I know “enjoy” is a shaky concept here, but I’m just trying to stay awake. The full uninterrupted load from the House Managers followed by the entirety of the Trump team response obviates any opportunity for engagement and contrast, which I believe might make the Trump argument resonate even more strongly.

But, we have what we have this time out, so as Friday’s continuing prosecution unfolds and a weekend defense draws near, we hear that the Trump team has been watching closely and adjusting its strategy based on what it is hearing.

That sounds great, but my dog knew what the case against Trump would be when the gavel first came down. Opposing it seems to feature some choices:

Short or long? Give me short. Let the brevity of the defense serve as a reflection of the unworthiness of the charges. Don’t scrimp on content, but be efficient; one full day should be plenty to torpedo the assertions which have been made and remade, shaped and reshaped, phrased and rephrased since Wednesday morning.

Broad or specific? Give me broad, as in the absurdity of impeachment spurred by a phone call, the speculation necessary to paint it in sinister terms, the vagueness of “abuse of power” and the illegitimacy of “obstruction of Congress.”

And as the defense prepares to hone its attention to the task of swatting away the continuing push for witnesses, it should make clear that there is no golden testimony which can confirm the House Managers’ cavalcade of suspicions—that Trump did not care about Ukrainian corruption, that he feels his powers are limitless, that his sole purpose was to cheat in order to pad his 2020 re-election prospects.

Those will remain unsubstantiated assertions. The Trump attorneys will contest them, and then we get Senators’ Question Time, which should be positively riveting by comparison. Democrats will challenge the President and his team; Republicans will challenge the consistency and tactics of the Democrats. Somewhere in the wake of those sixteen allotted hours, we will get our answer on witnesses.

If Mitt Romney and his fellow preening moderates can see their way clear to agree with their colleagues (and most of their voters) that we’ve seen quite enough testimony and it’s time to vote, this whole thing could wrap next week.

If they insist on opening the witness floodgates, there is no guarantee of what John Bolton or any other desired Democrat witness might say; nor do we know how a subpoena might play out for Hunter Biden or the infernal Whistleblower who has treated us to this entire drama. 

In other words, next week might feature an element wholly absent this week: unpredictability.

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