It took 71 seconds, if you’re curious. I don’t blame you if you’re not.
The signing the articles of impeachment required 71 seconds, laborious fits and starts with a series of pens that crafted 11 letters on a sheet of ceremonial paper.
So you don’t have to do the math, that’s 6.45 seconds per letter. Perhaps it took longer to draw a heart-shaped dot above the “i,” middle-school style. Not saying that happened, just trying to account for spare moments.
This easygoing walk through penmanship did not originate with Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House, though it’s not exactly off-brand.
Once the House of Representatives passed the articles that impeached President Trump, the California Democrat clung to them as if holding a winning scratch-off ticket. Four weeks, it took for her to turn loose.
By contrast, the House that same week in December passed a bill spending $1.4 trillion in taxpayer money, got it across the Capitol to the Senate and down Pennsylvania Avenue for the president’s signature, all in 48 hours.
I know, government’s complicated.
But neither party has a stranglehold on nonsense. Republicans took these four weeks to hector Pelosi about her death grip on these charges, one of which, obstruction of Congress, seems a psychological projection on just a normal day in Washington.
They cried out, these voices in the wilderness and on Twitter, why the delay?
After this month of criticism, House Republicans, 192 of them, voted as one against a measure to move the process along.
Call this tradition. Humorist Will Rogers said, “I don’t make jokes. I just watch government and report the facts.” He died in 1935.
Pelosi’s meandering signature also has a throwback element. She used an assortment of pens in the signing ceremony, a bit of her name written with each one, so she could hand them out as political keepsakes for assorted of her colleagues.
This sleepy ritual dates to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt and has played out with most presidents since.
Lyndon Johnson used 72 pens to sign into law the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Barack Obama used 22 pens to sign the Affordable Care Act.
Signing executive orders, President Trump handed out so many souvenirs on his first day in office that he told his staff, “I think we’re going to need some more pens.”
After Pelosi gave away her ceremonial pens, and before the impeachment managers did a funereal march over the the Senate chamber, critics mocked the speaker for declaring herself somber in the midst of giving out celebratory swag.
My greater interest with all this involved the signature that must have resulted from the stopping and starting in its execution. Surely it proves difficult to pick up the line with repeated interruptions.
Back in the days when schools taught cursive writing, teachers surely grieved for my lack of progress, chicken scratching if not so insulting to chickens, a scrawl that reflected either a lack of interest or motor skills.
To this day, my penmanship resembles a manual version of those ransom notes where individual bits of alphabet are haphazardly clipped from magazines. As communication, it might qualify, but so do cave drawings.
Still, I can sign my name with reasonable dispatch, a mad dash application of ink to paper, making up in herky-jerky angles what it lacks in legibility.
My scribble will not be affixed to any historical document. And no commemorative pens will be distributed.