“Today is an historic day,” CNN reported Thursday.

“Historic day on Capitol Hill,” agreed CBS.

“Historic,” MSNBC concurred.

They were off by a syllable. History would have to wait. This was a day was for histrionics.

Both sides had planned to wrap up the impeachment debate in the House Judiciary Committee by about 5 p.m., allowing Republicans to attend a White House Christmas party. Lisa Collins, wife of ranking Republican member Doug Collins (Ga.), wore sequined red holiday finery to the hearing.

But mid-afternoon, Collins had a brief private word with his wife and made an announcement to the committee Democrats: “We’re going to be here a long time tonight,” he said. “There’s plenty of balls we can go to, so if anybody thinks that might be in our plans, don’t worry about it … because if we have to fact-check you all night, we will.”

He wasn’t kidding. Republicans floated amendments and assaulted the process — for 14 hours. Democrats deduced that Republicans were delaying so they could say the committee approved impeachment articles “in the middle of the night” — much like they complained that the Intelligence Committee held hearings in a “basement” (neglecting to mention that’s where the committee’s hearing room is).

So Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) answered the GOP stunt with one of his own. “It is now very late at night,” he said at 11:15 p.m., then summarily announced the committee would recess for the night so members could “search their consciences” and vote at 10 a.m. — in broad daylight.

Republicans erupted.

“Stalinesque,” hollered Rep. Louie Gohmert (Tex.). “Let’s have a dictator.”

“Chairman Nadler’s integrity is zero!” said Collins.“Kangaroo court… I have never seen anyone want to get in front of these cameras more than this group right here.”

And with that, Collins went — you guessed it — in front of the cameras, to deliver some more epithets: “Bush league! … Runshodding the rules!”

Fox News’s Chad Pergram pointed out that Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) had hours earlier congratulated Nadler on his handling of proceedings.

No longer, Collins said. “We have members who have flights! We have members who are getting on trains!”

Impeach the president, sure. But don’t mess with lawmakers’ travel plans. Collins kept shouting: “Lack of taste!” “Ludicrous!” “Crap!” Midway in this extraordinary stream of invective, he announced: “I’m just beyond words.”

This impeachment is historic, in the sense that it is rare, only the third in the nation’s history. But it seems more like an extension of politics as usual. Republicans aimed for this: If they could turn the proceedings into a circus, they could discredit President Trump’s impeachment. Maybe they succeeded, because the Fox News-viewing public remains steadfastly opposed. But in the process they have bludgeoned not just this impeachment but impeachment itself, the powers of Congress, the legitimacy of government, the law and any sense of objective truth. What’s historic about this moment is the near-complete dysfunction of, and loss of confidence in, American democracy.

Heckuva job, Putin.

In between Fox News appearances, Republicans in the hearing room Thursday vied for the most-Trumpian insults — “Y’all are an EPA hazardous waste site,” Collins offered, and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida mocked Hunter Biden’s drug use — and some Democrats responded in kind. Rep. Cedric Richmond (La.) likened Republicans to Judas, betraying Americans “for 30 positive tweets.”

Overnight, Republicans produced a new poster for the dais, with red horror-movie letters over a graveyard scene saying “It’s Friday the 13th….Chairman Nadler’s Impeachment Nightmare.” For the impeachment vote itself, Republicans marched silently from their cloakroom Friday morning and maintained solemnity (except for Gohmert, who after voting insisted on having his vote read back to him because “I want to make sure”) as each voted against the two articles, and each Democrat voted for. After just seven minutes, both articles had been approved. The clocks in the Ways & Means hearing room displayed 10:09 am.

Then Republican committee members went straight to the cameras in the Longworth Building lobby and resumed the previous night’s epithets.

Gohmert: “Abuse … Outrageous … Kangaroo court ... Witch hunt … Scam … Crucify … Farce.”

Debbie Lesko (Ariz.): “Travesty … Unfair … Rigged railroad job …Corruption.”

Mike Johnson (La.): “Charade … Rigged … Ambush … Radical left.”

Gaetz, fresh from his derision of Biden for drug addiction, said: “For Democrats, impeachment is their drug.”

Asked about the behavior of Trump, who just used the power of the presidency to attack a teenager on the autism spectrum as having an “anger-management problem,” Republicans’ epithets suddenly ran dry.

Johnson excused Trump’s latest disgrace as “unorthodox.” By contrast, he said, the Democrats would pay “a huge political price” for impeaching Trump.

If only Republicans cared about the huge price we will all pay for their decision to defend a president’s wrongdoing with a Trumpian campaign of reckless invective.

The Washington Post is now the only place you can read my columns online. Sign up for this special subscription offer to keep reading. And thank you!

Read more: