The partisan impeachment of President Donald Trump finally passed, mercifully, like a kidney stone, with Democrats grimacing helplessly during acquittal in the Senate on Wednesday.
The cable news networks loved it because they love a show, but there was no real drama. Americans knew for months how this would turn out. They knew Democrats didn’t have the votes in the Senate. It was all about targeting select Republican senators in the next elections.
The people turned off this farce of Democratic Impeachment Theater long ago.
Americans aren’t as dumb as some politicians think they are. They paid attention for a while. They read the transcript of his phone call to Ukraine — which needed military assistance — asking for an investigation into the Bidens.
But they figured this thing out. They saw the flaws in the arguments. Independent voters didn’t think the call — which didn’t ultimately prevent Ukraine from getting military aid and didn’t lead to a Ukraine investigation into the Bidens — was grounds to remove a president.
Many Republicans don’t think Trump’s call was “perfect,” as he insists, but they didn’t want to remove him from office for it. And they knew that a presidential election was less than a year away. So, they decided to move on.
“Right now, this is a political loser for them,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, referring to the Democrats. “They initiated it. At least for the short term it has been a colossal political mistake.”
Now there are three questions:
When do the House Democrats bring another impeachment?
Can Trump, who can handle adversity, handle success? Or will he self-destruct?
And what about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who cemented herself in the American mind as a petulant child, angrily ripping up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union speech?
The impeachment did backfire. When it began, on the heels of the Mueller report’s failure to prove Trump was a secret Russian agent, the president’s approval ratings began to rise.
His poll numbers have skyrocketed, climbing to the highest they’ve ever been. A new Gallup poll shows him with 49% support, his highest level since taking office. And he has an astounding 63% approval rating for his handling of the booming economy, according to the poll.
During his State of the Union speech the other night, Trump didn’t mention the impeachment once.
With Pelosi sitting behind him, muttering to herself like some angry bag lady alone on a night train, he didn’t have to mention it.
He focused instead on his accomplishments and the economy, which infuriates his enemies. When he was done, Pelosi grabbed Trump’s speech, and in a fit of petulance, theatrically ripped it to shreds.
That partisan rage will last in the American mind and be featured in Trump political commercials, just as CNN anchor Don Lemon’s laughter mocking Trump voters as illiterate rubes will last until November.
To some of her most ardent, childlike fans, Pelosi’s temper tantrum made her seem like something of an epic heroine.
Oddly, many adults don’t see Pelosi as a heroine. They don’t see her as the Childlike Empress of “The NeverEnding Story.” And they probably don’t even see Pelosi as Boudica, the fierce warrior queen of the Celts.
They might see her for what she is, a politician who grew up in politics in the family of a Democratic political boss and who likes to hold the levers of power.
Her tantrum could have been calculated. It could have been her understanding that she’s inexorably losing control of House Democrats, and that this may have been her last State of the Union speech.
Or it may have been frustration.
Pelosi reads the polls; she can see her impeachment gambit caused Trump to rise. She heard him masterfully weave emotion into his showmanlike speech:
He reunited the soldier with his family; he accepted the thanks of that 100-year-old Tuskegee airman who proudly stood to salute his president. He awarded the Medal of Freedom to conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh.
Most worrisome for the Democrats, he cast himself on the side of African Americans struggling with the criminal justice system. He took the side of a mother whose daughter was sentenced to substandard urban public schools. He called these “government schools.”
Perhaps Pelosi, after this long ordeal, could no longer suppress her rage and she just cracked.
Pelosi once wisely said she wanted no part of a purely partisan impeachment, that it would be wrong for the country and her party. But power is like sugar, once the body is hooked on blueberry pie, it always wants more.
So, Pelosi capitulated to the urgings of her wild-eyed Inspector Javert, Adam Schiff, and pushed impeachment.
Schiff blew it. He hid the identity of the so-called whistleblower rather than allow him to testify and explain the political motivation behind his complaints about the Ukraine call.
Was the whistleblower a plant of Obama administration intelligence officers? Had the whistleblower talked to other witnesses, or Schiff’s staff, or Schiff himself, and helped set the whole thing up?
Americans don’t believe in political fairy tales. And this was the glaring fault of the House Democratic impeachment.
House Democrats didn’t take the time to go to court and compel White House witnesses to testify, but then whined about the lack of witnesses in the Senate trial. They brought vague charges that were not crimes.
It was partisan. It backfired and it ended in pain, like a kidney stone.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org