Soon after the Sept. 11 attack, in the hollow-eyed hours that followed, there was a shining moment on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, when members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, spontaneously joined in a shaky but heartfelt rendition of “God Bless America.”
It was a moment of grace, an act of defiance, a determined show of unity at a time it seemed the country, after a bitterly disputed election settled by a hair’s breadth, was hopelessly divided into warring partisan camps.
There were few such moments of transcendence Wednesday as lawmakers in the House undertook, for the first time in the nation’s history, a second impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.
The proximate cause, the desecration and pillaging of the Capitol by terrorists goaded by Trump and his grievance, recollected the shock of the attack on the Eastern Seaboard by terrorists who turned a fleet of jetliners into a rain of guided missiles.
The response on Wednesday, though, was drearily predictable and altogether emblematic of a country where a moment like the one 20 years ago seems like a memory from a long-gone political past. When it comes to partisan antagonism, it seems there is no bottom.
With every Democrat in favor of impeachment, and the ranks of Republicans just as nearly opposed, the outcome was never in doubt. Trump’s name will be darkened forevermore.
That left only hours of explication, of speechifying, conducted under House rules in the manner of a tennis match: one side serving, the other volleying in response. The result of all the back-and-forth was a recapitulation of the past four years and its rubbed-raw divisions.
Trump as tyrant.
“He is a clear and present danger to the nation that we all love,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat from San Francisco.
Trump as victim.