The first day of President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial didn’t actually end until the second day of his impeachment trial — 2 o’clock in the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 22.
When I awoke later that morning, I asked my wife, “Have they stopped talking yet? Please make them stop.”
But no one could make the Democrats stop, at least not until Rep. Adam Schiff’s remarkable, heartfelt closing on Thursday night, which felt like Paul Newman delivering his final “justice in our hearts” argument in “The Verdict.”
But it took a long, labored time for the Democrats to get there.
By Wednesday afternoon, they were at it again. Schiff spent two hours and 15 minutes on what he called his “introduction.”
That’s an “introduction”?
No, no. An introduction is, “Mr. Laurel, meet Mr. Hardy.”
Schiff’s long speech was followed by the remainder of the platoon of Democratic managers taking their full turns. And then it was Schiff again. And then more of the other Democrats. Until finally, mercifully, the second full day of the impeachment trial ended so late at night that some Republican senators were surreptitiously mocking the Dems’ strenuous efforts to rid the nation of the 45th president.
For example, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reportedly expressed his devotion to the great constitutional crisis at hand by sending some of his Senate pals little slips of paper mocking the Democrats like a fourth-grader passing notes in class and hoping Miss Grundy doesn’t catch on.
Maybe Sen. Paul becalmed himself long enough to hear Schiff’s plaintive closing Thursday night, a plea for his colleagues to distinguish simple right from wrong.
“If right doesn’t matter,” said Schiff, “we are lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”
It was deeply moving, and maybe it made up for an awful lot of lumbering hours that tested everybody’s patience.
The Dems have the facts on their side. But did they help or harm themselves by belaboring them over so many hours?
I thought I had their strategy figured out during those long stretches. They’d talk so long and repeat themselves so many time that the Republicans would finally throw up their hands and say, “Enough! Please stop! We’ll do whatever you say if you’ll just stop!”
Of course, as this is written, early Friday morning, we haven’t even begun to hear the Republicans lean into the body of their own Trumpian case – if, in fact, they have one.
If they had a defense to offer, wouldn’t they offer it? They could bring in witnesses, they could bring in documents, they could bring in all the stuff defendants bring in when they’re on trial.
But, as everyone in America must know by now, these Republicans have resisted such standard defense mechanisms. They’re locked into a kind of willful ignorance. They prefer to go with the simple power of their majority. Morality be damned, history be damned.
And America, get over it.
The Republicans have lined up behind this president of theirs, and they’re ready to defend him no matter what the available facts and all previous testimony and all previously released documents and all logic make clear.
And that clarity is in order to cheat his way to another election, Trump was willing to sell out thousands – maybe millions – of lives of Ukrainians desperate to hold off Russians who have already killed roughly 15,000 people.
The president was ready to hold back $391 million in military aid promised by the U.S. Congress unless the Ukrainian president agreed to broadcast a phony investigation into the Trump’s Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Can Americans hold onto that simple act of Trump’s moral degeneracy while we have these mind-numbing speeches from the floor of the U.S. Senate?
Here’s one theory on the Democrats’ endless speechifying, and the endless repetition. Maybe they’re thinking the same way the cable news stations think. On routine news days, these stations run the same stories hour after hour, repackaging them slightly so they can run “Breaking News” headlines, in the theory that it’s a completely different audience every hour or so.
There are plenty of Americans who tune in here and there, who catch a few words and then flip to “Jeopardy” or “Judge Judy.” Those folks don’t have a vote in these impeachment proceedings, but they’ll vote in November.
Maybe they’ll remember the pleas for a fair trial back when those such as Rand Paul were passing out notes.
As for that audience which will soon vote on impeachment – the 100 U.S. senators – if these speeches continue to drone on, we’ll have both sides throwing up their hands in surrender, declaring, “Please stop talking! We’ll do anything!”
Maybe that’s the only way to reach compromise.
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” was reissued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.