Trump should have taken the advice Bill Clinton gave him during this impeachment trial

Harriet Sinclair
Senator Mike Rounds plays with a fidget spinner handed out to Republicans during the impeachment trial: REUTERS

There are few things more frustrating than watching other people fidget and look bored.

Feel then for the House impeachment managers, whose arguments in Donald Trump’s Senate trial were met with derision from a number of Republicans, who have made every attempt to look as uninterested as possible.

Several dozed, some played with fidget spinners, one — perhaps an inspiring artist — did a reasonably detailed doodle of Capitol Hill. Presumably by the end of the Democrats’ presentation of evidence there will be lengthy games of hangman and charades taking place around the chamber.

It is fitting, then, that the only drink senators are permitted to take into the trial other than water is milk – the childishness with which the impeachment trial has been met is almost mind-boggling. Until, that is, you consider who is conducting this circus-like orchestra of complaint.

Trump has from the first day of his term managed to make the presidency something more akin to a playground squabble – nicknames for enemies, refusing to play with people you don’t like, and an “it’s not fair” squawk that would put most two-year-olds to shame.

And his impeachment trial has been no different.

When Bill Clinton was impeached in the late 90s, he, almost doggedly, pursued his day-to-day duties in the hope of showing the nation it was business as usual. This, despite the media fanfare surrounding his relationship with then-intern Monica Lewinsky and allegations he’d lied about their relationship under oath (spoiler alert – he did).

The former president issued some words of advice to Trump in a CNN interview aired in November, telling him: “Look, you got hired to do a job.

"You don't get the days back you blow off. Every day is an opportunity to make something good happen.”

Evidence suggests that Trump has rather decided to take the opposite tack, breaking his own tweeting record (142 in one day, where do you find the time?), bringing up the topic of his impeachment at unrelated events (China trade deal, sure I’ll sign. But first let me tell you how terribly unfairly I’m being treated), and refusing to participate in said “witch hunt”.

Senators from his own party are merely following his example. Despite legitimate fears from those in battleground states that their political ambitions could crumble if they opt to toe the party line, many senators are not only unlikely to vote against Trump but are actively mocking the proceedings.

Other Republicans, are, of course, listening attentively before they cast their votes – but you don’t need to be a political savant to guess what those votes will be.

It’s shameful to say the outcome of the trial is all but certain.

Mulling the amount of money and time that goes into an impeachment trial – a particular blow for the four Democrats who would rather be hitting the Iowa campaign trail than sitting in the chamber – I wondered aloud to a Democrat strategist about the point of pursuing a case whose outcome appears already to be set in stone.

“It’s a real stain on a president’s legacy to have been impeached by the House, it really means something even if it doesn’t result in removal from office,” he told me.

Yes, impeachment was once considered to be damaging to a president’s reputation. But with a commander-in-chief whose disregard for Washington politics only makes him more popular with his base, how seriously can he, and by default his party, be expected to take the trial?

Trump is right – the impeachment inquiry has been a farce from day one. He’s made sure of it.