For Senate Republicans, boredom is strategic. For American television viewers, it’s inevitable. Nothing new to see here is a pretty good PR talking point for the GOP on Day 2 of the House presentment on impeachment, and they’re mainly staying on message, The Hill reports:
Republicans are bored — and they hope the American public shares their tedium.
The first week of President Trump’s impeachment trial has been met with regular assertions from GOP senators — as well as outside allies — that there is nothing to see here.
Whether their personal lack of excitement is real or confected, it seems to clearly have a tactical purpose: to encourage voters to pay little heed to what is going on.
In fairness, it doesn’t seem all that confected. Roll Call reports that senators have become visibly bored with the proceedings even apart from promoting the messaging. And the ennui appears to be crossing the aisle at times, too, although it was still mostly the GOP who were visibly bored:
This was the third long day in the Senate chamber of the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, and the 100 senators began to find more ways to pass time while watching the second day of opening presentation from House managers.
Sixteen desks were empty when Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. announced that the House impeachment managers had 16 hours and 42 minutes left to make their case for Trump’s removal.
North Carolina Republican Richard M. Burr handed out fidget spinners to his GOP colleagues before the day’s session began.
Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton spun his purple toy as Schiff explained how the Trump White House hid call records, and at other times throughout the day.
South Dakota Republican John Thune, the majority whip, used the timeless fidget spinner of old — flipping his pen over between his fingers over and over again. He dropped it at one point on to his legal pad, but immediately resumed.
Some of this is just the mechanics of human physiology. It’s tough to sit still for eight hours at a time, even with breaks, to listen to presentations with one’s full attention even on fascinating subjects. In this case, the Senate is being asked to listen to twenty-four hours of a rehash of an argument that the House has made repeatedly over the last three months — and refused to take the time to investigate fully. It’s no wonder that some members of the upper chamber are starting to get a little stir-crazy under the lockdown rules of the trial.
Still, it’s clear that this is also tactical/strategic on the part of the Senate GOP. We’ve heard all this before, they’re sighing for the cameras, and Democrats have nothing new. It would be easy to dismiss that argument if it wasn’t for the fact that the ratings on Impeachapalooza indicate that most Americans agree. The numbers have been declining since the hearings opened in October, and this week’s numbers are the worst yet:
About 8.9 million viewers watched the opening arguments in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial on Wednesday, Reuters reported Thursday, citing Nielsen ratings data.
It’s roughly 2 million fewer viewers than the 11 million who watched the trial on Tuesday, according to the Nielsen data.
The ratings include viewership from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST on ABC, CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and Fox News, according to Reuters.
House Democrat managers lost more than 20% of their audience after Day 1? Oof. Joe Concha puts all the numbers into perspective:
20.5M watched the Kavanaugh hearings
19.5M watched Comey testify before the Sen. Intel Cmte
16M watched Michael Cohen testify Oversight Cmte
13.1M watched Day 1 of the House impeachment hearings
11M watched Day 1 of the Senate trial on Tuesdayhttps://t.co/x8B9RwIePU
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) January 24, 2020
As boring as this might be for the senators in the room, it’s much more so for television viewers. Not even running commentary is holding onto viewers, and one has to wonder just how long the 8.9 million people Wednesday actually watched the proceedings. There’s also a sense here that there’s less at stake here than in the Kavanaugh hearing, and it’s almost certainly correct — since the outcome here seems pretty much set.
However, the plain fact is that the House impeachment hasn’t caught the public’s imagination. House Democrats wanted to turn this into Watergate II, where the methodical and comprehensive investigation of a president gripped the nation. This partisan circus, in contrast, has been basically an exercise in the same hyperbolic speculation and hearsay that plays every day in Washington. The American viewing public clearly is no more into reruns than Senate Republicans.