See how they squirmed.
“The first chance I get to vote to end this trial, I will do it,” declared Sen. Marco Rubio before it began, “because I think it’s really bad for America.”
No, the trial was really bad for Rubio and other Republicans who want everyone to stop talking about last month’s siege by violent MAGA rioters at the Capitol.
Those who had the hardest time re-watching the rampage were the many senators who said nothing for weeks as President Crybaby spread his stolen-election lies -- or even, encouraged him.
The trial was a damning reminder of their own moral failings, and culpability. They didn’t want to be there because it was their unhinged leader who called the rioters to Washington, fired them up, and set them loose.
Some GOP senators looked genuinely somber as House impeachment managers replayed the scenes of chaos that led to five deaths. Others in the chamber pretended to leaf through papers on their laps or, like Rand Paul, casually doodle.
For those with a conscience, the challenge was to mask their shame. For those who felt nothing, the challenge was to mask their unforgivable indifference.
All you need to know about Sen. Rick Scott’s shallowness of character is what he tweeted weeks before the trial:
“The impeachment is nothing more than political theater. The Democrats are confusing the U.S. Capitol, where we should be helping the American people, with another big white building in D.C. that specialize in theater and shows ... the Kennedy Center.”
The audio tapes of police officers yelling for help that day wasn’t “political theater.” It was a chilling chronicle of a mob assault.
Likewise, the video of Vice President Mike Pence being rushed to a safe room wasn’t manufactured by Democrats. It was taken by a security camera in hallway.
Scenes of the Trump mob chanting for Pence to be hanged came from the phones of rioters themselves, not Democratic lawmakers. The same is true for the gallows, complete with a noose, erected by Trump’s goons outside the Capitol.
By Scott’s snide definition, visual evidence of any historic crime could be discounted as political theater. (His thoughtless reference to the Kennedy Center was ironic -- the graphic murder of the president whom it memorializes was recorded on film, and has been viewed by millions.)
Scott and most other GOP senators had hoped to block the impeachment trial by voting that the Constitution doesn’t allow punishing a president who’s no longer in office. A bumbling performance by Trump’s defense attorneys sank that strategy.
And while the Democrats never had enough votes to convict, they secured an opportunity to publicly present their case, which was powerful.
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It’s obvious why Scott, Rubio and the others didn’t want the country to see the Capitol attack reconstructed minute-by-minute, synced to Trump’s own words. The senators know they’re guilty, too, having done nothing to quell his lies, or the rage that he fueled.
For the most part, their excuses for voting to acquit were cowardly crafted to condemn the violence without criticizing the ever-fuming Trump. Some senators stuck to the line that it’s unconstitutional to impeach an ex-president. Others said that a conviction would further divide the country, and that it’s time to move on and heal.
That’s from the same patriotic healers who bitterly fought to overturn court-validated election results, based on zero evidence of fraud.
The trial ended falling 10 votes short of a conviction. Most Republican senators decided that pacifying Trump’s fanatical base was more important than doing the right thing -- an easy call for the likes of Scott and Rubio.
At least Rubio admitted that the Jan. 6 assault was “far more dangerous” than most people thought. Scott’s tune didn’t change despite watching the scenes of rioters hunting for Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. He seemed equally unmoved by the voices of police officers being beaten with poles.
Halfway through the proceedings, Scott anchored himself solidly in the tainted company of Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley by whining that the impeachment trial was not only a “complete waste of time” but also “vindictive.”
Seriously, that’s what the man said -- after four years of defending the most vindictive person to ever sit in the Oval Office.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172.
© 2021 Miami Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.