Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 24, 2020
It’s hard to pick out the best moment for Absurdity around the impeachment trial. In this Twilight Zone-like courtroom reality, there are simply too many choices for Most Absurd.
Like the Oscars, the undramatic competition for the award leans unduly on older, white men, particularly those with preordained decisions already in mind before any outcome.
Certainly, the top three must include continuing claims by Republican senators that they have not learned anything new — after having voted 11 times to deny the admission of new evidence or witnesses beyond the transcripts of the House committee hearings that had led to an impeachment vote.
Then there is Donald Trump, who has been out of town to seem aloof from the fray, boasting to reporters that prosecuting House managers have no documents, but he has them — thus doubling down on the exact obstruction of justice charge included in the impeachment itself.
And then there was the entire presentation, starting yesterday for Democrats and to be rebutted shortly by Team Trump, on whether abuse of office is impeachable or not — overlooking the obvious that even if you believe that history insists on a singular breach of law (which it doesn’t, but which actually does exist here in the umbrella charge of “abuse”) that the House has indeed impeached him.
Indeed, Jay Sekelow, one of Trump’s lawyers, said outright in an interview that his side might be able to use a few of the withheld documents in their favor. How is that fair, helpful or legal? Why shouldn’t that act get the Absurdity prize?
If the president’s defense team is not to going see abuse of office as impeachable, they should instead name an action to be taken in cases of serious bad behavior by a sitting president. But they would fight just as equally against a finding of censure, because Donald Trump is dictating that his defense must be total exoneration.
The constitutional debate really is a blind for the dominance of politics and reelection over the niceties of law. It is a blind for so expanding the powers of the presidency as to redefine the office as free of any oversight whatsoever, and to dismiss the constitutional role of Congress.
There has been plenty of news coverage reflecting the boredom being endured by senators, with reports of Republicans sneaking off the floor outpacing those for Democrats. There has been coverage of who’s drinking milk (Tom Cotton), and who illicitly smuggled in some yogurt (Elizabeth Warren), who’s fallen asleep (Jim Ricsh), who was having a beserk reaction to it all (Lindsey Graham) and who’s actually said he had learned something (John Kennedy).
Still, the overall reaction is that Republicans have heard nothing that changes the predisposition to vote not only against impeachment, but against hearing about any additional evidence or from any additional witnesses.
To me, organized lack of curiosity for those charged with looking at excessiveness in presidential behavior always wins a gold star for Absurdity. The idea that documents of email contacts about withholding money from Ukrainian leaders in a shakedown to win announcement of an official investigation of Joe Biden from statements made at least five years ago, whether classified or not, should not be called to clear the air is Absurd. The idea that the Senate would go through a full hearing of House-collected second-ear accounts without calling acting Chief of Staff Mike Mulvaney or former National Security Adviser John Bolton is simply Absurd.
Among all else, it is Absurd that the Trump White House wanted an investigation announcement into Joe Biden and appointment of his son, Hunter, to a lucrative position at Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and not an investigation, if one was warranted, by the FBI or other U.S. agency.
Presentations by the presidential defense team, which will follow in coming days, already seem to challenge the Absurdity awards. They seem to center on the idea that nothing unusual happened, that there never was a campaign to get to the Bidens, and that even if any of it happened, that it was all within the everyday duties and powers of the presidency.
It is all exhausting, repetitious (to try to catch intermittent tv viewers), and, well, often less than fascinating, mostly because the all the drama of the moment has been removed by a preordained result.
It all goes to show that Might does not produce Right, even in conditions that often touch on the Absurd.