Let’s start here: Mitt Romney is not the hero you crave. Lisa Murkowski is not that hero. Susan Collins is definitely not that hero. They’re all the same craven hacks they were a month ago, and despite whatever little nuggets of hope they drop, they know Mitch McConnell will whip them into bloody quivering heaps if they place so much as one tentative foot out of line at a moment that actually matters. That’s why, when the rubber meets the road, you get mewling drive like this from Romney:
“I think the Democrats make a mistake when they cry outrage time and time again. If everything is an outrage, then nothing is an outrage.”
Would Romney like to hear from witnesses like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, which—and these words are so basic that they don’t deserve typing—would be a hallmark of a fair trial? Sure, sure, and if you get him in the right moment he might even nod thoughtfully at the idea that any trial without it is, from the start, a total joke. But will he fight for it when the critical moment arrives? Hell no! These people are scared for their lives, they barely know how to navigate political waters now that Trump is their captain, and in the end they’re always going to do what they’re told. Don’t fall for the myth of the reasonable Republican.
So, the trial started Tuesday and ran into the wee hours in the hope that nobody would be watching. Let’s check in on how it’s gone down so far:
A divided Senate began the impeachment trial of President Trump on Tuesday in utter acrimony, as Republicans blocked Democrats’ efforts to subpoena witnesses and documents related to Ukraine and moderate Republicans forced last-minute changes to rules that had been tailored to the president’s wishes.
In a series of party-line votes punctuating 12 hours of debate, Senate Republicans turned back every attempt by Democrats to subpoena documents from the White House, State Department and other agencies, as well as testimony from White House officials that could shed light on the core charges against Mr. Trump.
So there you go. We could waste our time analyzing the rest of the byplay from Tuesday, but why bother? The Republicans aren’t going to give the Democrats a clear shot, they sure as hell aren’t going to introduce witnesses that would probably implicate Trump in ways that would even stretch their powers of rationalization and whataboutism, and it’s all going to end with a sad whimper sometime around 3 a.m. when only the most outraged witnesses are still awake and fuming.
(There is, however, some good comedy, as when John Roberts broke in after some nasty back-and-forth to lecture everyone that “they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.” I wasn’t watching, but I hope that line brought down the house.)
There’s exactly one good thing that will come from this “trial,” and it won’t be Trump being tossed from the White House. It will be the latest bit of incontrovertible proof that the Republican party is knotted together by rank corruption to the point that they know nothing else. It’s another tool in the toolbox with which to hammer them in November and beyond. This is so obvious that even the densest sections of the American electorate can see it, and it will chip away and chip away to the point that, hopefully, it will wrench the presidency from an oaf and turn Mitch McConnell into a minority leader.
To understand the trial that way is to gain a measure of peace. Don’t worry about the short-term outcome, because that can only go one away. Worry about what it says to the American people when Trump walks free. It might even be better, robbing him of his grievance appeal and casting him as a crook who got away with it, and deserves his electoral retribution. Republicans are cheaters—that’s the message. Repeat it loudly and often, and this farce of a Senate trial might end up being worthwhile after all.