In Congress, Sunday not a day of rest? Plus: Portman on Trump. 'Cat lawyer' funny & sad.

By Gary Abernathy

When did Sunday stop being a day of rest, including for Congress?

According to the schedule agreed upon by Senate leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), the impeachment trial of private citizen Donald Trump was originally scheduled to recess at the end of business Friday and resume for a rare Sunday afternoon session. The reason for not continuing on Saturday was explained in this story from the Hill: “The trial will also be paused on Saturday to accommodate a request from one of Trump's attorneys to observe the Jewish Sabbath. If both sides use all of their time, that would set up opening arguments to wrap on Sunday.”

Since then, the attorney in question, David Schoen, “late Monday withdrew his request for this week’s impeachment trial to pause for the Jewish Sabbath, explaining in a letter to Senate leaders that another lawyer will take his place on the former president’s defense team Saturday,” according to the Washington Post. The schedule now seems to be in flux, as of this writing. Some are speculating that Trump’s defense might not take long, and a vote could come on Saturday, as explained here.

It was considerate of Senate leaders to agree to Schoen’s request to pause the trial. What grabbed my attention was the casual agreement to resume the trial on Sunday which, for Christians, is traditionally a sacred day. Apparently, no one in Congress objected to the Sunday session. It’s been interesting over the years to watch Sunday become just another day of the week, even for Christians.

I remember as a child when hardly any stores were open on Sunday, at least where we lived. In fact, most households were careful to stock up on groceries by Saturday night, because if you ran out of milk or eggs or bread on Sunday, there was nowhere to buy them until Monday. People actually observed Sunday as a “day of rest,” avoiding work. Most farmers at the time would not work the fields, even if they were behind planting or harvesting their crops and Sunday was the only day of decent weather.

I remember a controversy at church many years ago when schools began scheduling sports practice, and later, games, on Sundays. There was a big controversy over whether parents should take their kids to the games, especially if it meant missing church, either morning or evening services. We’ve gotten away from all that – and by “we” I’m including me – and even if we attend church, the rest of the day is pretty much just another day.

I’m not preaching here to anyone. I’m just somewhat wistfully reminiscing about a different time and place, and noting how much America has changed, for better or worse.  

Portman: Trump conviction would ‘further polarize’ the country

I just came across this interesting interview from Jan. 29 with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). The interview, conducted by Steve Hayes, is presented transcript-style, and includes some very keen insights on Portman’s decision to retire, his thoughts about Donald Trump, cable TV, our partisan divide and the impeachment trial.

How will Portman (who I worked for during his first year in the Senate) vote on impeachment? We don’t know for sure, but his thoughts going into the trial were interesting. First, he noted the constitutional question of whether a president already out of office can be subjected to an impeachment trial, since he cannot be removed from an office he doesn’t hold anymore. Then, he says the following about the second penalty Congress could impose if Trump is convicted – barring him from running again.

“But let’s assume that there were a conviction; what would that mean in terms of healing the wounds here? Which is that you’ve got the 73, 74 million people who voted for Donald Trump, you’ve got probably half of them who truly believe that he’s still right—maybe more, maybe two thirds, according to the polling—and that it was stolen. And they’re going to be told now that they can’t vote for the guy; some people in Congress are going to tell them that he’s not going to be able to run again, therefore they can’t vote for who they want to. And I think that’s going to further polarize and deeply divide the country. I mean, I just think that’s true. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, but that’s the way people [are] right now, back home in Ohio, where he won by eight points twice.”

Very interesting, I thought. And, I agree. While I won’t be supporting Trump again because of his refusal to accept the election results and his irresponsible behavior on Jan. 6, I would not legally remove the right of others to vote for him.

Cat lawyer: Another reason to hate the digital world

By now, everyone knows the story, and many have seen the video, of the “cat lawyer.” If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s how the Washington Post summarized it: “At a routine civil forfeiture case hearing in Texas’ 394th Judicial District Court, Presidio County attorney Rod Ponton accidentally signed on with the cat filter, making the flummoxed attorney look like an adorable kitten. The 34-second clip of Ponton’s brief appearance as a cat immediately amused many and is becoming a viral hit among the likes of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s mittens and runaway llamas at a time when court events are frequently held virtually.”

As the story describes, Ponton was initially embarrassed, but eventually decided to see the humor in it. Good for him. It is funny. It’s impossible not to laugh at the lawyer’s predicament as you watch the video.

But it’s still somewhat sad that a 69-year-old lawyer manages to go his whole life without being the butt of a national joke until his accidental use of a product of our digital age caught up with him, first through the wizardry of realistic “filters” that can turn anyone into anything, then through the power of social media and the internet, which, within hours, made the video a worldwide sensation, and this unfortunate attorney the unwitting center of everyone’s attention.

The whole incident is a microcosm of the trivial things we make important, much like a vice presidential debate where a fly landing on someone’s head becomes the most talked about moment. This is our world, and welcome to it.

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