Via the Federalist, I’m torn. On the one hand, Chris Hayes’s populist argument in the clip is appealing. If average Americans can be forced to sit attentively through a trial while on jury duty, our rulers should bear the same burden.
On the other hand, allowances must be made in a gerontocracy, buddy. If we’re going to elect octogenarians to Congress — and we do, routinely — then we can’t complain when sleepy time interferes with their duties.
Although I’d be curious to know if it’s the oldest senators who have been most prone to taking breaks so far during the trial or the ideologues of all ages on each side whose minds were made up about the Ukraine matter the day the first stories about it appeared in the news.
Either way, there’s no denying that the Senate’s rules about attendance are being bent, if not broken:
The agony of the senator-jurors had begun to show the night before, with widespread but more subtle struggles to pay attention to opening arguments. Gum-chewing, snacking, yawning and alleged napping could be seen throughout the cramped chamber…
Within the first hour, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia could be seen at his desk in the back row, leaning on his right arm with a hand covering his eyes. He stayed that way for around 20 minutes, then shifted to rest his chin in the same hand, eyes closed, for about five more minutes. Despite the late-night votes, Warner’s day had started as scheduled at a 10 a.m. Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Crow, a military veteran speaking on the impact of Trump’s holdup of military aid to Ukraine, had trouble holding the Senate’s attention. Some senators left their seats and headed to cloakrooms, stood in the back or openly yawned as he spoke. At one point during his address, more than 10 senators’ seats were empty.
Dianne Feinstein, age 86, decided to call it a night at 8:45 p.m., about an hour before House Democrats wrapped up their presentation. I doubt Republicans will even move to have her disqualified. Why would they, when some of them are destined to knock off early too?
Even senators in attendance are restless:
As the sun set over the Capitol and staffers started to sort of dinner plans for a scheduled 6:30 p.m. half-time recess, the mood did indeed grow restless on the floor. Some seized on projected videos and slides as an excuse to leave their desks and move closer. Others wandered; at one point, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey stood hunched over his desk chair and then took leave and sat in the rear of the chamber in seats typically occupied by staff.
It wasn’t just Democrats showing signs of weariness as the only the first day of opening statements came to a close. Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana at one point crossed his arms and paced at the rear of the GOP side. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah leaned all the way back in his chair and stared at the Senate’s ceiling. At one point, half of the entire back row of Senate Republicans was standing behind their chairs just to stretch their legs.
“Impeachment fatigue,” Time magazine calls it. And it’s not just a problem within the Senate:
Primetime numbers from last night on impeachment are really telling in terms of American apathy/fatigue/frustration of the whole process as we move to the Senate: Total average viewers from 8:00-11:00pm: Fox News – 3.51 million; MSNBC – 2.53 million; CNN – 1.51 million.
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) January 22, 2020
Feinstein leaving early is a bad look for Dems but if in fact it’s mostly Republicans who are ducking out then that seems like a good talking point for both sides. Democrats can cite it as proof that the GOP isn’t taking the trial seriously and thus the eventual acquittal is illegitimate. And Republicans can cite it as evidence of their contempt for the case against Trump. “We’ve heard it all before, they’ve got nothing. Why dignify it?” Everyone wins!
Except Susan Collins, I guess. The more Republicans disengage from the proceedings, the harder she’ll have to strain to show voters that she’s taking it seriously even if they aren’t. Which, I suppose, makes it that much more inevitable that she’ll vote to call witnesses.
Two clips here, one of the MSNBC panel and the other via Julio Rosas of CNN anchor John Berman delivering a similar lecture this morning. “I guess it’s not like the future of the Republic is at stake,” says Berman. “Oh, wait, it is!” Is it?