I’m firmly on the record as favoring cunning and guile in our political leaders. Nancy Pelosi has these qualities in spades. She’s also smart enough to listen to outside advice. In this case from the great constitutional scholar, Larry Tribe, whose December 16th WaPo op-ed serves as a map to the post-impeachment landscape:
Such an approach could have both tactical and substantive benefits. As a tactical matter, it could strengthen Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s (D-N.Y.) hand in bargaining over trial rules with McConnell because of McConnell’s and Trump’s urgent desire to get this whole business behind them. On a substantive level, it would be justified to withhold going forward with a Senate trial. Under the current circumstances, such a proceeding would fail to render a meaningful verdict of acquittal. It would also fail to inform the public, which has the right to know the truth about the conduct of its president.
Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer have had the good sense to pay heed to Tribe’s advice. In contrast, the usually cautious Turtle stuck his head far out of his shell on Fox the other day. He was speaking to an audience of two: Sean Hannity and the Insult Comedian. Unwise choice.
McConnell’s attempt at schoolyard insults yesterday has failed. He taunted the Dems for chickening out after impeaching the president*. The Speaker was unimpressed:
On Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggesting she was “too afraid” to deliver a “shoddy work product” to the Senate, Pelosi said: “Oh pfft,” according to Politico. “Fear is never a word used with me. You should know right away. … I’m never afraid and I’m rarely surprised.”
On House Republicans at times obscure behavior during the House debate and vote on the articles of impeachment Wednesday: “Some of them don’t believe in the Constitution. … They didn’t act upon it, they acted completely against it. They believe in Donald Trump,” she told Politico.
I’m not surprised that Nancy Pelosi is playing hardball: she learned it at her father’s knee. I am. however, pleasantly surprised by Chuck Schumer’s conduct. The jovial Senator has become a serious mensch. One might say that he learned it at Nancy Smash’s knee.
The Tribe Gambit lobs a hand grenade in the GOP’s lap. There are some Republican Senators who want at least the appearance of a fair trial in their body. McConnell and Graham have badly overplayed their hand. It will require their colleagues to answer questions about the basic fairness of the Senate trial at home over the holiday recess.
In 1999, Bill Clinton got a fair trial in a Republican held Senate. All Schumer needs twenty years later is for four Republican Senators to vote to have witnesses and documents produced by both sides. They need not commit to convict but basic fairness demands that there be a trial whose result can be accepted by the voters. Stay tuned.
Back to Larry Tribe. As a Russian history buff I was thrilled that he used this analogy:
In 1787, the year our Constitution was written, Catherine the Great traveled to Crimea in Ukraine — yes, that Crimea, the one Vladimir Putin occupied by illegal force — where her former lover Grigory Potemkin had built a fake village to impress the Empress. It seems suitably ironic for McConnell to propose building a Potemkin “trial” to exonerate Trump. But irony is no substitute for common sense.
One more reason that I’m a Larry Tribe fan boy.
The last word goes to the man himself from his appearance last night on The Last Word with Laurence O’Donnell. One could even call it when Laurence met Lawrence: