There were two TVs on in the gym. The one in the front – where all the training goes on – showed two teams from somewhere else battling for a ball.
The one in the back, with no sound, no captions, was focused on the House impeachment managers.
No one was watching.
“Boring,” one of my otherwise-very well-informed friends said.
I think, from what I saw, the House managers put together a very strong case. As a Los Angeles local, I was especially pleased with Rep. Adam Schiff’s advocacy. But I have to be honest.
In the Anita Hill days, I never walked by a TV that wasn’t tuned to the Clarence Thomas hearings with everyone in sight watching. As for myself, I stopped everything, lest I miss a minute of outrage.
I was old enough for the Watergate hearings, which changed history as the nation watched. Tapes? You had to see it.
The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings? I never turned off the set. Glued – a nation was glued.
But something is wrong here.
I was the only one at the gym looking at the screen. The man at the desk saw me looking. No, I didn’t really need headphones. Quiet is nice.
They’ll be counting how many people are watching these hearings but don’t believe it. Even at my house, it’s playing in the background, and while I get up now and then to see who is talking, I never stay very long.
It’s not that there is no case for impeachment. How can President Donald Trump’s violating federal law by putting his partisan political interest ahead of foreign aid appropriation that Congress intended for Ukraine not be a high crime and a misdemeanor? Actually, what he did was a felony. As for high crime, I think most of us agree that whatever former President Bill Clinton’s other accomplishments, his impeachment will henceforth be known as the first act in a hypocrite’s quest for the spotlight.
And as for my old friend Alan Dershowitz [I got my start in brief writing with Alan when I was a young professor at Harvard, with virtually no experience as a lawyer], I don’t know how you get yourself out of the pretzel of comparing a man who tried to split hairs too finely when asked about an extramarital relationship [surely the only man in history to ever do so] with a president’s conditioning foreign aid for a desperate country on the country’s opening a public investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. It was not because he developed a sudden concern for how the children of top officeholders profit from Dad’s position. It was partisan politics.
But we all know that.
The Senate hearings are boring because they are only being held to try to create political moments that will help Democrats, including the future party presidential nominee.
The Republicans may defect on witnesses to prove that they have been fair, but no one in that room is going to deviate from partisan lines. And that’s what’s boring. You pretty much know what everyone is going to say. And you pretty much know how everyone is going to vote.
We are not watching a trial. Not one senator sitting there is listening carefully so he or she doesn’t miss a single word. So why should the folks at the gym, or friends with trying jobs or families to raise, watch the Senate go through the motions?
To me, that is what is so troubling about this process.
It plays into the Republican line that this is just a partisan exercise. It’s boring because they have already made up their minds, which is exactly what a jury is not supposed to do.
The television blares on. The more days it blares, the more likely people are to catch some of it. The Republicans have made clear that they want this to be over, the Democrats that they want it to last. The hearings may not have the attention of a polarized nation, but there are actually people [unlike the senators] who aren’t part of the polarized crowd, and many more who will be encouraged or discouraged by what they see.
That’s what Republicans are afraid of. Trump is vulnerable.
And somebody may be watching.