It hardly bears repeating any more, but Speaker Nancy (Don’t Make Me Turn This Car Around) Pelosi doesn’t make many bad moves. (These Politico quotes from Tim Ryan, who challenged her for Speaker and who subsequently got whipped like a red-headed mule, are nothing if not an important validation of this.) She is playing the current moment like a master, and I say this as someone who had doubts all along about holding back the articles of impeachments from the Senate.
Mitch McConnell’s speech to the Senate on Thursday proved me wrong about it. He really had nothing, mainly channelling Louie Gohmert outtakes and, with every one of those he spun out, he handed Pelosi more leverage. His partisans claim that, sooner or later, he’s simply going to call the question. Some Democrats seem nervous about this, too. I don’t think he’d dare. For the first time, I think, several worms have turned.
Bear in mind, thanks to the intervention of an automobile into my daily affairs, this is all speculation based on information gleaned from only those sources available to the rest of y’all. But I think McConnell made a huge mistake earlier when he pretty much announced that the oath he’ll have to take as a juror in a Senate trial isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell. (Lindsey Graham is in a similar box.) It’s hard to make the case that the House process was slipshod when you’ve pretty much admitted the Senate process is a sham. That gifted Pelosi and her team with leverage that they didn’t previously have.
And, as cynical as all of us are these days about the Supreme Court, it would be interesting to ply Chief Justice John Roberts with some sodium pentothal and ask him how he feels about presiding over a trial in which two of the “jurors” have lit up their contempt for their constitutional obligations in pink neon. The “jury” has announced that it’s already pretty much in the bag. Until proven wrong, I’m going to wonder if Roberts’s institutional instincts might not rebel at presiding over a kabuki.
Now, it sounds like the articles won’t be heading Senate-ward until after the first of the year. That’s a change. Recall that the entire trial was supposed to be over by the middle of January. This latest development seems to indicate a newfound resolve from the Democrats and a kind of nervous uncertainty among the Republicans. That includes, perhaps, McConnell himself, who a) would like to remain Majority Leader, and who needs senators currently in dodgy re-election races to do so, and b) isn’t the most popular politician in his home state his own self. And if their line of attack—from the president* on down—is that the House is afraid to send the articles over, that Pelosi can be bluffed into a mistake, it should be fairly clear by now that they need a better plan.
I watched an interview Senator Jon Tester of Montana did with Katy Tur on MSNBC. Tester’s state likely is going to vote Republican in presidential elections until his great-grandchildren are working the family farm. But Tester was quite clear that he is on board with whatever Pelosi—and the Democratic leadership in the Senate—decide to do.
And that’s something else that’s changed in the last week. Outside of Jeff Van Drew, Collin Peterson, and half of some guy from Maine, the Democratic members of the House who were supposed to be timorous about the whole impeachment business have proven themselves to be winter soldiers of the first rank—especially Elissa Slotkin of Michigan and Joe Cunningham of South Carolina. Meanwhile, there are somewhere between four and eight Republican incumbents in the Senate who have to be casting phasers-on-stun side-eye down Pennsylvania Avenue in the general direction of Camp Runamuck. McConnell has more potential mushiness in his caucus than Pelosi turned out to have in hers, and Pelosi doesn’t have a half-maniacal president* in her ear, either.
All of this doesn’t make conviction and removal of the president* any more likely than it was before Wednesday’s vote, but it’s not something you can hand-wave away, either. The cliches that sustained the impeachment narrative are no longer operative. Worms are turning.
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