The big breaking item this afternoon is that after weeks of delays, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has finally decided to send President Donald Trump’s articles of impeachment over to the Senate for trial “next week.” The WSJ reports that “the House must vote on a resolution that names impeachment managers and delivers evidence to the chamber. The vote would transmit the articles and automatically trigger a Senate trial.” You may safely assume that Pelosi has all the votes lined up, or she wouldn’t have made any announcement. She is, after all, probably the best vote-counter and arm-twister on Capitol Hill since LBJ used to run roughshod over the Senate.
But the logistics… man, has she screwed up the logistics.
You know the old saw, “Amateurs study strategy, professionals study logistics.” So it’s important to know what happens — and what might not happen — next.
A quick look at the calendar shows that we’re just three-plus weeks out from the Iowa caucuses on February 3. In Des Moines on Tuesday the Democrats are supposed to hold another presidential debate, and this one is a biggie. Not only is it the last debate before Iowa, but the tightening qualifications have narrowed the number of contenders down to just five. Instead of the high-speed ten-persons freakshow to which we’ve all become sadly accustomed in the first six debates, Tuesday night’s event promised a solid amount of facetime to all the survivors.
But a January-February Senate trial would have serious ramifications for the Democrats’ presidential contenders, which includes no fewer than five sitting senators who would have to curtail their campaigning.
RealClear’s Philip Wegmann quotes a “senior DNC official” who says that Pelosi has “frustrated” some of her own party’s 2020 White House contenders. The official, who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, said that “People are a little frustrated from the political side, and I’ve heard some candidates grumble about it privately just because the longer this impeachment thing goes on the less traction they’re going to get.”
Wegman quotes that same DNC honcho claiming that there’s a flip-side to all this, because by delaying impeachment Pelosi “has strengthened the hand of Democrats going into the impeachment trial.” But has she? Really? The public was never enthused about impeachment, and the longer this has dragged on the less enthused Americans have become. Delay has also given Trump the chance to reframe the narrative (correctly, I’d argue) into a story about the Dems’ blindly partisan zeal. And let’s face it: Absent evidence of an actual non-process crime — none are mentioned in the Articles — the GOP-controlled Senate was never going to vote to remove Trump from office. What a waste of time, but especially the Democrats’ time.
Had Pelosi sent the articles to the Senate before Christmas, instead of engaging in a fruitless effort to bend Cocaine Mitch to her will, this whole goat rodeo could have ended already.
Going further, it’s easy to see this delay as a bone thrown to the frontrunning Biden campaign, which has the most to lose in a high-profile debate right before Iowa. With that in mind, it’s also easy to see it as more high-level monkeying with the Democratic primary electorate, millions of whom still feel like the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders out of the nomination in 2016. How many times can the party disaffect its progressive grassroots before they tire of it and fail to show up on election day for the “right” candidate?
Well, Madam Speaker?