“Son, this is a Washington, D.C., kind of lie. It’s when the other person knows you’re lying, and also knows you know he knows.”
This from Allen Drury’s novel “Advise and Consent.”
The 1959 account of conniving and blood sport in a high-profile Senate confirmation won the Pulitzer in fiction.
For a modern-day masterwork about deceit in the Senate, however, turn to Donald Trump’s “defense” in his impeachment trial. Call it “Obstruct and Conflate.”
“No evidence to convict,” says that defense. Disregard the evidence presented to the House by the most credible raft of witnesses any inquiry could assemble.
Well, then, “Not impeachable.”
Let’s just say that “no evidence” and “not impeachable” are not compatible in any way.
Either Trump did exactly what testimony and the transcript of a certain phone call clearly demonstrate, or he didn’t.
Which is it, Republicans?
Apologists less inclined to lie outright say, “OK, he did it. It’s not that big a deal.” That depends. Is it a big deal that that the Government Accountability Office found the freeze on military aid to Ukraine violated the law?
Ah, but he freed up the aid eventually, they say. Yes – freed it up the moment a story in Politico revealed the troubling matter and Congress pressed for answers.
In the light of those two incompatible arguments, the Republicans have nothing.
The most amusing defense comes from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who when defending Trump appears to channel Tom Cruise in “Rain Man” defending his socially impaired sibling.
Addressing the phone call that got this whole thing started Trump, Graham said, “If he thought he was doing something wrong, he would probably shut up about it.”
The Rain Man defense, by the way, is built around another lie the Republicans have trotted out, that this is just about one phone call.
Such a claim is an insult to the good name and hard work of one Rudolph Giuliani, who at this very moment continues his years-long labors to make rain out of “a favor” his boss requested from Ukraine’s president to help Trump cheat on the 2020 election.
No, no defense whatsoever. As Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said, the case against Trump “hasn’t been rebutted at all, except by the president’s middle finger.”
We are going to hear from the president that he’s been fully exonerated by his Senate partisans. It must be nice to be on trial when you have supped with, campaigned for and in many cases donated campaign funds to jurists.
We hurt for the Republicans who had to sit, cell phones idle, for three days to hear the hard facts about the corruption of The Chosen One.
They complained about repetition. So boring.
“So be it,” said a scathing Washington Post editorial. “GOP senators intent on exonerating the president without bothering to fairly consider the case against him should at least be forced to face the reality of his abuses.”
A telling, and unique aspect of “Advise and Consent” is that Drury’s novel doesn’t identify any character by political party — that parties bleed and blend across lines depending on what senators believe to be right.
This is what happened to end Richard Nixon’s presidency, when Republicans like Sens. Barry Goldwater, Howard Baker and more acted pursuant to the facts.
Trump’s “acquittal” will be remembered forever as pure partisanship, a “Washington, D.C., kind of lie.”
No matter what Trump apologists say, it will be Rep. Adam Schiff’s intonations which are jackhammered into history’s eardrums.
“Sometimes I think how unforgiving history can be of our conduct,” he said, “if we do a lifetime’s work with the most wonderful legislation and then (are) remembered for none of that.”
Today’s Senate Republicans long will be remembered for giving cover to one conniving man at the expense of what the founders constructed with a document written of, by and for people. Donald Trump happens only to be one of those.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.