In the immediate aftermath of Nancy Pelosi’s decision to hold the Articles of Impeachment rather than send them to the Senate, not even the most pro-Pelosi hacks in existence could make the case for the strategy. The same question ping-ponged through DC greenrooms: “Is she really doing this?”
It was a telling moment. For more than a decade, all of Washington’s media corps has advanced the idea that Pelosi is a leader who can do no wrong, a consummate tactician who guided her conference through thick and thin. Perhaps that was true in the past, but since taking back the gavel after the midterms, Pelosi has been trapped by the vibrant progressive wing paired with a rabid donor base that actually guides the priorities of the Democratic House today. Before, she had control – now, just the illusion of it.
Impeachment is the result, one she sought wisely to avoid, but botched in the end in execution: allowing the Schiff show to take control, having a middle ground that neither moved fast enough nor was thorough enough to achieve their aims, and leaving the moderates who wanted to speed past impeachment out to hang. Pelosi lost control, the Democrats lost ground because of it, and she’ll still end up with the blame in November if all this backfires at the ballot box.
On CNN Thursday morning, Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, was even saying it’s time to send the articles to the Senate.
JUST NOW: (wow) "I think it is time to send the impeachment to the Senate and let Mitch McConnell be responsible for the fairness of the trial. "
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) January 9, 2020
The spin today is hilarious in how desperate and unbelievable it is: the opening of Politico’s Playbook this morning includes this:
The left was clamoring for Pelosi to hold the articles, in an attempt to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree to witnesses. He didn’t — and most people realized he never would. Pelosi allies, though, say they forced a weekslong public discussion on impeachment trial witnesses, and whether McConnell should be forced to guarantee them. Here’s what a senior Dem aide told us: “The hold was clearly successful. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but a huge part of what we wanted was a national spotlight on the fairness of the trial. There’s no question we achieved that.
Yeah, I have some questions.
To have Dianne Feinstein – her fellow Californian and the most respected woman in the Senate – break with Pelosi so vociferously was the poison on the blade.
“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.”
“Several other Senate Democrats also showed their impatience with the Democratic leaders’ strategy. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday morning that Democrats “should move on” and send the articles to the Senate, and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana said he’s “ready” for the trial to start.
“We need to get folks to testify and we need more information … but nonetheless, I’m ready,” Tester said. “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.”
“I respect the fact that she is concerned about the fact about whether or not there will be a fair trial. But I do think it is time to get on with it,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).”
Pelosi is as outsized a figure for Washington Democrats as Mitch McConnell is for Republicans. McConnell has several potential Republicans who could conceivably take up a leadership role in the future, having learned from his methods. Who is Pelosi’s successor? Should Democrats lose the House in 2020, who steps up to the plate considering the age of the leading Democrats at the moment? And if this is the last major strategic decision she made, how does that impact Pelosi’s legacy?
Perhaps that question will be answered in the multiple biographies planned for the Speaker at the moment. But for now, if you were only reading the front-facing mainstream press, it remains a mystery as to why Pelosi chose this pointless gambit which ended up dragging this impeachment process out without any apparent benefit to her conference. It’s only when you understand who’s really in charge that things start to make sense.