Remember back when you were a kid and you were up against a term paper deadline, so you just decided to wing it with swollen prose like “The Civil War has been a big important issue for years and years all across the many states of America”?
On day one of the impeachment trial, that was Bruce Castor – the latest entry in the MAGA annals of ineptitude.
Look, I can muster an ounce of sympathy for the ex-DA from the Philadelphia suburbs. There’s no way at this point that any top-tier attorney will work for the Mar-a-Lago mobster, so naturally it’s going to be a guy who whiffed on Bill Cosby signing on at the 11th hour and lurching through the English language like a drunken sailor.
Granted, if Castor had simply chosen to mimic the Jan. 6 mob by smearing his own poop in the hallowed hall, most Republican senators would’ve still stood firm in their determination to give Trump a pass. But if the ultimate aim was to sway some Americans in the court of public opinion, suffice it to say that Castor was no Atticus Finch.
For instance, Castor said: “President Trump is no longer is in office. The object of the Constitution has been achieved. He was removed by the voters.” Oops! Trump’s whole shtick, the core of his Big Lie, is that he wasn’t removed, and that, quite the contrary, he won in a landslide. That’s why he incited the rabble in the first place.
Castor also had no clue what impeachment was all about: “If my colleagues on this side of the chamber actually think that President Trump committed a criminal offense, and let’s understand, a high crime is a felony, and a misdemeanor is a misdemeanor. The words haven’t changed that much over time.”
Um, try again, counselor. “High crimes and misdemeanors” are not necessarily offenses as defined in our criminal statutes. As Alexander Hamilton pointed out in the Federalist Papers, the term refers to flagrant breaches of political power – offenses that “proceed from…the abuse or violation of some public trust.”
On the other hand, some of what Castor said was indisputably true. For instance, this profundity: “If the individual state legislatures didn’t adopt the Constitution, we would not have it.” And if the sun hadn’t risen this morning, we wouldn’t have daylight.
But, alas, all too often there was a clarity deficit. For instance: “I saw a headline, ‘Representative so and so seeks to walk back comments about,’ I forget what it was, something that bothered her.” It’s hard to say where Castor was going with that, because he never arrived at his destination.
I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to decipher this riff, because I give up:
“Remember, the founders recognized that the argument that I started with, that political pressure is driven by the need for immediate action, because something under contemporary community standards really horrific happened, and the people represented by the members of the United States House of Representatives become incensed. And what do you do with a federal issue if you’re back in suburban Philadelphia and something happens that makes the people who live there incensed? You call your congressman. And your congressmen, elected every two years with their pulse on the people of their district, 750,000 people, they respond, and boy do they respond to you. The congressman calls you back. A staffer calls you back. You get all the information that they have on the issue. Sometimes you even get invited to submit a language that would improve whatever the issue is.”
Remember that grade-school term paper you probably winged back in the day? That last sentence sounds like something I might well have written.
Anyway, it was bad enough that Castor kept name-checking his buddy bond with Sen. Pat Toomey. I doubt that pleased his exiled client, who’s undoubtedly aware that Toomey has publicly called out the fascist action of Jan. 6 for what it was. But what surely must’ve incensed Trump most of all was his praise for the House impeachment managers’ presentation, correctly calling it “well done” and “outstanding.”
But that’s because the impeachment managers came armed with the facts and the law. It falls to the likes of Bruce Castor to work with nothing, and make it sound even worse.
Opinion contributor Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. His work appears on Mondays on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page. Readers may email him at [email protected].