Just before the Republicans in the Senate acquitted President Donald Trump, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell diminished the impeachment charges by noting that many Democrats have been gunning for the president ever since he won the election.
Which, of course, is true. When one of the Democrats’ brash new members of the House took office, she pledged her party would “impeach the mother-f*****.” That was six months before Trump made the phone call that set impeachment in motion.
McConnell relied on such loose, offensive talk to ridicule the case against Trump. “It insults the intelligence of the American people to pretend this was a solemn process begun because of withheld foreign aid,” McConnell argued. “Washington Democrats think President Trump committed a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ the moment he defeated Secretary Clinton in the 2016 election.”
All but one of the other Republicans followed McConnell’s lead. Case closed.
Which reminded me of the verdict in the murder case against O.J. Simpson, 25 years ago. Like much of the country, I was astounded that O.J. beat the rap. Following the case from afar, there seemed little doubt that the football and movie star stabbed his ex-wife and her boyfriend to death.
But O.J.’s defenders thundered that a racist system was stacked against him. His legal team – including Alan Dershowitz -- argued that prosecutors had manufactured the case against him. One of the lead detectives was caught lying when he denied using the most offensive racist epithet in the language. The defense accused him of planting the bloody glove at the crime scene.
The trial took nine months. A jury of his peers – 9 of the 12 members were black – deliberated four hours. O.J. Simpson was acquitted. Case closed.
You can try to frame a guilty man. But it will be harder to make the charges stick.
Paul C. Tash is chairman and CEO of the Tampa Bay Times.