OPINION | Will the gentleman from the underworld yield?

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“THE devil’s work” suggests something awful and unbearably painful to endure — but a friend of mine, not a theologian but a psychiatrist, defined it in 1991 as an event in which everyone comes out looking bad. He had in mind the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas controversy.

A good case can be made that the impeachment of President Trump eminently qualifies as the devil’s work. Just about everyone who had to do with it came out lessened, diminished, degraded. Certainly Mr. Trump did, being accused day after day of putting his personal interests above those of the country he was elected to lead. The witnesses called by the House Intelligence Committee seemed for the most part locked in, already committed, less than reliable. Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerrold Nadler, in their bald-faced partisanship and their tolerance for, and actual fostering of, obvious unfairness to the president never for a moment looked other than sleazy.

Saddest of all perhaps were the representatives on both sides of the impeachment debate. The Democratic lawmakers took what they believed the high road. As they spoke, they seemed bloated with false virtue, informing us that they were voting for impeachment to save the Constitution, the future of our democracy, the grandeur of the office of the presidency. They were voting for impeachment, in many of their cases, or so at least they told us, for the sake of their children, their grandchildren, their deceased husbands and wives; their sworn oath of office, they insisted, could scarcely allow them to do otherwise. As they rolled out their platitudes, one awaited the predictable ending, which was — one didn’t have to wait long for it — that “no one is above the law.” I heard the phrase “no one is above the law” so many times during the impeachment hearings that, to break the monotony of it, I begin filling in for myself the line that “no one is above the in-laws.”

The Republicans on the other hand, chose to be ticked, ticked to the max, furious at the sham, hoax, utter unfairness of the proceedings. Their tone, too, was implacably moral. One among them said that Pontius Pilate gave Christ a fairer trial than the president was getting — surely the only occasion on which Donald Trump has in any way been compared to Jesus. Easily the best performance of sustained anger on the Republican side was provided by the shirt-sleeved former wrestling coach Jim Jordan, whose every other sentence was a body slam, and those in between Dutch rubs and full nelsons.

The impeachment hearings merely proved that the Democrats would do anything to sink Donald Trump and that the Republicans would go to similar lengths to keep him afloat. In the end, so partisan were the proceedings that nothing was settled, little confirmed, except perhaps the wisdom of the poet E.E. Cummings’s observation that “a politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.”

And we now learn that, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi not immediately sending the impeachment articles along to the Senate for trial, anticlimax has been added to the mix. The devil, apparently, doesn’t mind working overtime. Yet one wonders if this isn’t perhaps a good thing. Is the country — the “American people” on whose behalf all the members of the House, pro- and anti-Trump, claimed so fervently to speak —ready for another two weeks or more of such posturings, shenanigans, lies? No doubt the Senate is capable of the same high buffoonery the House provided, but do we really need more displays of false virtue, hoked-up anger, proof of the nation’s genuinely deep division?

A trial would in any case be superfluous. A trial under a Republican Senate majority would only prove the obverse of the Democratically controlled House proceedings, convincing no one of Mr. Trump’s innocence as the House proceedings convinced no one of his guilt.

Mr. Trump has said that he doesn’t feel he has been impeached, and, since neither compelling reasons for his impeachment nor bipartisan support for it obtained in the House hearings, he hasn’t, not really. Donald Trump may go down in history, like Barry Bonds in baseball, with an asterisk beside his name. But who knows, given his voracious appetite for attention, he might even enjoy that.

The devil, meanwhile, may rest content and take pride in a job well done.

Mr. Epstein is author, most recently, of “Charm: The Elusive Enchantment.”

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