The Steps We Take

The House impeachment managers.

This is a story I’ve already told and may, in my dotage, tell yet again, but the trial taking place in the U.S. Senate has me harkening back to my high school days on the speech and debate team.

My debate partner Erik and I were in our first round of three at one of the Grand Junction high schools, getting ready to debate nationalized health care (in the late ’70s) against another team of two from a different school. The judge, possibly a college student or first-year teacher, reached for a cigarette and asked, “Does anyone mind if I smoke?”

The fact that she was already putting the cigarette in her mouth should have been my clue, but she asked, so I answered: “Yes, I mind.” She put the cigarette away and, although I didn’t see it, must have gone straight to her scoring sheet and put a “1 minus” next to ethics for Erik and me.

The debate hadn’t started; Erik and I were not rude or unethical in any fashion; and she had asked, but it wasn’t the answer I was supposed to give, so we got the worst score she could award — before we even started.

The difference between that story and what is happening in the Senate this week, besides the magnitude of importance, is that the House impeachment managers already know going in that their score is going to be forfeit with too many of the jurors.

To be fair, they also knew the score was going to be favorable from at least half the jurors — this impeachment has very few impartial observers. But this has not stopped the House managers from mustering an extremely convincing case — so convincing that Fox News reportedly averted its — and its viewers — eyes when the video evidence got rather overwhelming. I’m sure it was only out of consideration for their viewers’ rather delicate sensibilities and not because they were afraid it would make certain people look bad, possibly incontrovertible.

The one step I think the impeachment managers should take that I don’t think they will is a parade of 140. If it were me, I would bring in every last Capitol police officer who was wounded on Jan. 6, along with the family members of three men who did not survive — one with his head smashed in by a fire extinguisher and two by suicide. I would bring them in, require that Sen. Josh Hawley look up from his paperwork in his new seat in the gallery where he can prop his feet up without a care in the world, and ask every senator who turns out to have been 58 steps away from a “very fine” mob bent on destruction, violence and possibly death — every senator who was separated by that goaded, MAGA-hatted mob by the thinnest of blue lines, many of them without weapons, some of whom are now missing fingers, or an eye, who sustained broken ribs and slipped discs, who died — and I would ask that each senator in turn look these defenders of their own lives in the eye and say, “My need to stay in office is more important than your sacrifice. MAGA!”

Because, sadly this is what this all about: political calculation. Because in this process there are far too many who are more worried about courting the Fox viewers, whose eyes have been averted from the worst of the sedition by a network that really doesn’t seem to know the bounds of shame.

On Jan. 25 columnist Michael Gerson, a Republican until 2016, wanted to know, “Would Republican senators still want the country to put these events behind it if 20 Capitol Police officers had been beaten to death rather than one? If Pelosi had actually been zip-tied and held hostage? If Pence had been murdered? At what point would executive incitement of a violent mob to intimidate the legislative branch meet GOP senators’ exacting standards for conviction? For what similar actions by a Democratic president would they allow bygones to be bygones?”

As of yesterday we can further ask, what if Officer Eugene Goodman had not turned Mitt Romney around as he unknowingly headed toward the howling mob? What if that same Officer Goodman had not led rioters to the left and they had turned right into the senate chamber? What if Mike Pence had not been removed in the nick of time? Watching Nancy Pelosi’s staff members hurry, on silent security camera footage, into a conference room not long before the criminal element tried to get in that door but gave up, was harrowing.

I think the thing all these senators should be asking themselves is: If this cream of America’s crop whose votes they want so badly had made it into the Senate and House chambers while still fully occupied, how many of them do you suppose might have stopped to try to distinguish between Democrats and Republicans? They were after Mike Pence’s neck — might not have Ted Cruz’s done in a pinch?

On Jan. 22, former Congressman Will Hurd (R-Texas) noted once again that Republicans have lost seven of the last eight popular votes for president and said if his party wants a future, it needs to drive out conspiracy theories and those who perpetuate them. He wrote, “If you elevate a flag that has someone’s name on it to the same level that you elevate your national flag, then you are not a patriot; you are part of a cult. When we put our hands on our hearts, we pledge allegiance to a flag, not an individual. The flag represents a nation founded on a perpetual goal to form a more perfect union, not a commitment to any one person.”

The cultists in the U.S. Senate should be deeply ashamed, as they watch this extremely well-presented case, particularly when contrasted against the prosecution, I mean defense, I mean, I know who I’m supposed to be representing, sort of, but I’m just going to sit up here and ramble like I never participated in extemporaneous speaking in high school speech and debate and it really doesn’t matter what a stumblebum I look like because chances are still really high that my client is going to escape his second annual impeachment conviction once again even though it’s likely that no one in America is going to give me part of the credit.

There’s some smoking going on in this senate chamber, that’s for sure, but at least I know my ethics are solid. I just wonder how many senators can say the same.

It’s 12 minutes out of your day to watch this. It’s the least we all can do.

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