They have to sit there quietly and listen carefully and be constantly reminded to behave themselves. If they don’t they’re in serious trouble. I’m not talking about story time for the kids at the day care center. I’m talking about the United States Senate during this impeachment trial.
And they just can’t do it.
Last Thursday — on the first day, mind you — while the House Republican managers (a/k/a 12 Angry Men) presented their case against Clinton, what were the Senators doing? Tapping their feet. Yawning. Passing notes. Eating candy. Nodding off. Checking to see if Strom Thurmond still has a pulse.
It’s as if Justice Rehnquist is their substitute teacher. Pass the word — everyone drop your books on the floor at 3pm!
Welcome to the wacky world of jury duty, Senators!
I’ve never served on a jury, although I always wanted to — for one day, anyway. I was called for jury duty again last fall, but like many of the people on the panel, was rejected for the actual trial. Later, I asked one of the other potential jurors, an attorney, why he thought I had been tossed off. He told me that lawyers automatically reject two kinds of people for a jury: broadcasters and guys with beards. That means I got kicked in the butt with two feet.
I can understand the broadcaster thing. It’s not because they’re afraid we’ll go on the air and tell their whole story. It’s because, by and large, broadcasters are held in very low regard by the legal profession, and vice versa. Each profession feels that the other’s place on the respect ladder falls one notch below circus people. Come to think of it, if the Bearded Lady had been there, she would have been chosen for that jury before me.
Anyway, back to the Senate trial, where the thrills just keep on coming. On Friday, Lindsay Graham warned his colleagues that “today won’t be as exciting as yesterday.” Which is like saying that John Tesh is not as exciting as Yanni.
Before this trial began, I thought it was going to be an amazing civics lesson, and that every social studies class in the country should be forced to watch it and learn from it. After a couple of days, I realize that would be a cruel and inhuman punishment to impose upon the nation’s youth, somewhat akin to making them listen to Charles Grodin try to formulate a question without getting sidetracked. It’s just the same old droning, over and over again.
What this trial needs is an Ollie North. Not the real Ollie, of course. But remember how boring the Iran-Contra hearings were until Mr. Righteous showed up in his Marine uniform with his potted plant attorney by his side? Suddenly, everyone was watching.
The only way we’d get that interest level going again is if Monica Lewinsky or Linda Tripp testifies in the well of the Senate. Come on, who’s not going to watch that? I can see the college drinking game now: do a shot for every mention of the dress, and guzzle a pint of beer if someone says “cigar.”
At the very least, it would be a bit of a relief from the parade of scowling old men we’ve seen thus far. This attack of the zombie elders is proof that term limits aren’t such a bad idea, and maybe we need to extend them to the Supreme Court.
There’s William “Doan’s Pills” Rehnquist being sworn in by Strom “Older Than the Sun” Thurmond. These guys are ancient enough to remember when Jurassic Park was an actual vacation destination.
There’s Jesse “I Roomed With Stonewall Jackson” Helms, trying to figure out how to get a tobacco company logo on the podium.
There’s James “You Gonna Finish That?” Sensenbrenner, a dead ringer for one of those “Da Bears” guys (I know he’s from Wisconsin, so it would be “Da Pack”). Every time he’s speechifying I half expect him to start pounding his chest in a self-Heimlich maneuver until a two pound bratwurst comes spitting out.
There’s Asa “Not Everyone From Arkansas Is Like That” Hutchinson, the only GOP manager who gives a good presentation — although his impact is diminished somewhat by Henry Hyde and the other managers shouting out “Good answer!” as if this were some sort of political Family Feud.
Which, of course, it is.
At the beginning of the Senate trial, all 100 Senators raised their right hands and took an oath to be impartial jurors. Impartial? You could do all the DNA testing you want and never find an impartial chromosome in that chamber. In other words, they all lied under oath, didn’t they? Oh, I guess it’s okay if everyone does it.
In the meantime, it drags on and on. And we yearn for someone — anyone — to step forward and announce that “Our long national wet dream is over.”