I don’t know if they take attendance in schools anymore. Maybe surveillance cameras, facial recognition and all the other high-tech intrusions make it unnecessary, but back in the day, the teacher would always start out with the roll call. You were expected to announce “here” when your name was called. But there was always one guy who would say “present,” just to be different.
There is also one in the House of Representatives. Actually, Tulsi Gabbard is not a guy at all; she’s a congresswoman, an alleged Democrat from Hawaii. When it came time for her appearance in that horror show “The Night of Impeachment,” she declared herself to be “present.” She has made a career out of being different. This time, she had advocated that President Donald Trump be censured, not impeached, and said that after doing her “due diligence,” as opposed to UNdue diligence, she voted “present,” therefore not registering a yes or no vote.
Gabbard is, however, running for president as a Democrat. But she did not appear in the party’s latest debate, which happened to fall the night after the gruesome Impeachment Nightmare Under the Big Top, which those of us particularly hip insiders in the know call the Capitol in Washington.
The debate in Los Angeles was the Democrats’ latest display of why President Trump might actually get a second term. True, they dumped on Trump at every opportunity, but it was also “Trash Pete” night at this get-together.
“Mayor Pete” Buttigieg spent the night fending off attacks from the other candidates now that he’s surging in the polls. The partial focus was on a fundraiser he held with a group of superrich supporters in a Napa Valley crystal-lined “wine cave.” But try as they might, the candidates were just not able to match the Congressional creepshow the night before, particularly since the main creep was out of town, appearing on a split screen from his rally in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Talk about scary: The Trumpster Monster swerved between mellow -- as in, “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached” -- to not so mellow, targeting Democrats who he feels have embarked on “a political suicidal march.”
But if Donald Trump is clearly the leading man, perhaps the best supporting actor was Congressman Louie Gohmert. During the House slugfest, he thundered one of his party’s Vladimir Putin-inspired favorite phony talking points, that it was not Russia interfering in the last election for Trump but Ukraine for the Democrats.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, leading the pro-impeachment forces, interjected: “I’m deeply concerned that any member of the House would spout Russian propaganda on the floor of the House.” That brought Gohmert charging back into the chambers, pointing his finger and shouting -- futilely, I might add, since his mic had been turned off.
So now Trump becomes the third U.S president stained with impeachment. None has been removed by the Senate, but in Trump’s case the story has not been fully written. The two warring parties are still maneuvering for advantage as the Senate fitfully prepares to take up the final phase of this process.
The Democrats seem intent on stretching things out for a while, to let the hard feelings fester even more. Their danger is that, in the process, they give Trump his present, as in the gift of reelection.
Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.