On its face, the 16-hour period allocated for senators to ask questions of the House managers and President Donald Trump’s legal team seemed likely to be the most interesting and informative portion of the ongoing impeachment trial.
But when the Q&A period actually began, it rapidly became clear that we were unlikely to get any sort of thoughtful debate regarding the case at hand.
Instead, senators on both sides asked “questions” of their preferred side – Republicans of the Trump team, Democrats of the House managers – designed to either a) allow riffs on preferred talking points or b) respond to talking points put forward by the other team. (There were very occasional breaks with that pattern, usually with the names of Republican Sens. Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins attached to them.)
I’m not exaggerating here. There were multiple instances even in the early stages of the Q&A where the question submitted by a senator was, and I am paraphrasing, “Do you have anything you want to say about the argument the other side just made?”
(Sidebar: It reminded me of political discussions I have attended where a questioner grabs the mic, spends five minutes explaining what they think about a topic and then asks the speaker: “So, do you agree?”)
Hour after hour it went more or less like this. The world’s greatest
deliberative body reduced to adolescent point-scoring over whether or not the President of the United States should be removed from office.
It was everything wrong with our politics. Two sides deeply entrenched in their views and with zero interest in engaging the other side in any sort of thoughtful conversation or debate. So convinced of the rightness of their views that they don’t want to waste time by considering any others.
The Point: There’s no political body immune these days from the reflexive partisanship that has seized us all. That was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt Wednesday, when any expectation for thoughtful debate was extinguished within moments.