In just a few hours the Republicans will begin their response to the Democrats’ long and tedious bill of particulars aimed at toppling the presidency of Donald Trump.
What began as breathtaking drama in the context of historic significance gave way to mind-numbing boredom as the president’s foes prattled on endlessly, determined to eat up every moment of their allotted time without having anything new to add.
As an exasperated Steve Martin told John Candy in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “When you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea: Have a point!”
Writers’ sensitivities notwithstanding, there are indeed pictures worth a thousand words, which is why TV is at its best in bringing us coverage of hurricanes, forest fires, nor’easters.
But when we’re shown speaker after speaker droning on throughout the afternoon, into the evening, and even into the wee hours, it is punishing.
A thousand words? To the babbling Dems that was verbal chump change as they fell in love with the sounds of their own voices.
So here’s hoping that what the GOP presenters saw and heard will not be — in the words of Neil Diamond, or Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner — a lesson too late for the learning because it was a gift to those who’ve yet to speak from those didn’t know when to shut up.
Republicans can look to their own political heritage to find wonderful examples of a minimalist approach to speaking.
Calvin Coolidge, known as Silent Cal, became governor of Massachusetts and the nation’s 30th president, despite a proclivity to speaking sparingly.
One night at a head table a woman leaned over and whispered, “I made a bet that I could get you to say three words,” to which Silent Cal whispered back, “You lose.”
Or there was this wise counsel from Abe Lincoln: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”
Good speaking can be like good singing.
Some have that ability to keep us riveted. Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, alone among the Democratic prosecutors, clearly possesses that gift.
There’s a story told of how Winston Churchill, a master of our language, asked someone to review a speech he was about to give. When the latter questioned the prime minister’s use of a preposition, Churchill, feigning indignation, fired back, “That is nonsense up with which I will not put!”
You could fill columns with light moments like that, but there’s nothing whatsoever light about the impeachment hearing set to resume this afternoon.
So whatever the GOP has to say, fingers are crossed here for it to say it effectively, and, most of all, succinctly.
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