The Impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the United States Senate has now taken its rightful place in the annals of shame in the history of the United States of America. It is all of our fault, and all ours to fix.
President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural address packs a punch like few 1,400-word documents in history. (For context, the blog post you are reading is longer!)
Perhaps most famous for its call to national service (“Ask not what your country can do for you…”), it is a different passage that holds deeper meaning on this morose day of national humiliation conducted by Senate Republicans.
Read the words of a willful young man shouldering on behalf of his generation the sobering responsibilities of the American experiment in self-rule:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty…
Today is the day we must acknowledge that this generation of Americans has failed where Kennedy and brave generations before him succeeded.
Today in the Senate, we watched as a stunning amount of our freedom and our rights were surrendered to a corrupt, ignorant thug who wishes to rule each and every one of us as a despot. Yes, we knew it was coming, but an advanced warning of an imminent punch in the nose does little to mitigate the agony and the damage.
The United States Senate formally told Donald Trump that the Constitutional mechanism of “checks and balances” designed to throttle the power of the Presidency has been abdicated. Where our ancestors were not afraid to take on King George, slavery, and Adolf Hitler, the majority of current U.S. Senators cowered before Donald Trump and abandoned their sworn Constitutional obligations in their supplication.
The sad part is that most Americans – included a sizeable portion of those Senators themselves – do not even seem to understand that these impeachment proceedings have fundamentally weakened the foundations of our Constitution.
Nowhere is this more clear than in the painful logic of Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, who was lauded by Lindsey Graham and who Republican Senator Ben Sasse noted “speaks for lots and lots of us.”
Here is precisely what Alexander said:
“The question then is not whether the President did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday. …Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.”
Lamar Alexander, mind you, is actually being applauded for at least having acknowledged that Trump committed the act of which he is accused. Alexander has conceded that Adam Schiff proved his case. In today’s Republican blindness to facts, the half-right man is king.
Here, however, is the problem: Alexander has willfully ignored the central issue of the impeachment, which is that it has now been proven that Trump will cheat to win the 2020 election, and that an acquittal will empower him to continue cheating. Alexander is saying that “the people” should decide whether to keep Trump as president, but ignores the fact that it is Trump who is urgently trying to interfere with the people’s ability to make that decision.
Senator Alexander does not seem to grasp the weapons-grade incongruity of his position. He is at once advocating for the people’s right to make a decision in a free election, and simultaneously arguing that Trump should be free to interfere with that election.
It actually gets worse. Alexander further proceeds to justify his position by saying that what Trump did is “inappropriate,” but does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
Again, the disingenuousness of this position is stunning. On the one hand, he invokes the founding fathers, who he notes “provide for duly elected Presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress.” And yet Alexander completely ignores the fact that a President who attempts to distort the outcome of an election is trying to undermine “the consent of the governed.”
C’mon, Lamar, let’s strive to ascend a few notches up the intellectual food chain. If you think the “consent of the governed” is the most important thing in the world, then isn’t attempting to thwart “the consent of the governed” the thing that should most qualify as an impeachable offense?
Lamar Alexander at least acknowledged that Trump was guilty of an, uh, inappropriate behavior. This clearly earns him a slot in Dante’s Circles two levels up from the Trump’s “Better Fellate than Never” bozos who still contend that the call was “perfect.” Those Republican Senators are going to find their reward in some blazing Inferno in a far-in-the-future afterlife. Instant Karma’s gonna get you.
Are these Republican Senators incapable of projecting themselves far, far into the future – like, possibly, next January – when Donald Trump is no longer the President?
Are they unable to imagine what a Democratic President relieved of checks and balances might be inclined to do? Are they at all worried about a Democratic President who has been freed to reallocate all Congressional funding to serve his own desires, including the “common good” of ensuring his own re-election?
Are they at all concerned that a Democratic President might say, “I have decided that it is in the national interest to re-allocate billions of dollars from pork projects stretching from John Cornyn’s Texas to Mitch McConnell’s Kentucky and use them to build a national network of abortion clinics.”
Or perhaps: “I have decided that it is in the national interest to levy fines and penalties of twenty seven billion dollars against Fox News for trading in deceit, and if they are unable to afford such fines, they will be forced to file for bankruptcy and liquidate assets.”
Of course, here is where I must pause and urge that all Democrats prepare for that enriched plutonium hypocrisy that spews from the Republican Party like Reactor 4 at Chernobyl. Just wait until a Democrat is President, and uses the wrong tissue to blow his or her nose. Suddenly, blowing snot will be an impeachable offense.
Yes, Republicans have become the Vichy French of our time, a loathsome scrum of cowardice and moral bankruptcy, so intent of pleasing the audience of one in the White House that they have lost sight of the audience of one in the mirror.
What about the rest of us? What does this Republican decision mean for everyday Americans?
Let’s be real. Many won’t care. Many will tune into “Chicago Fire” like any other Wednesday night. Which in and of itself is a tragedy of epic proportion. It’s o.k., Boomer. You have lived your life traveling from the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Entitlement. Gotta love those Chiefs, doncha? Keep making all your nowhere plans for nobody.
But still, some might ingest all of this in a far different way than we conventionally anticipate. Some might internalize our national humiliation in ways far different from Constitutional law, Separation of Powers, and Federalist Papers.
Someone might say this: “Hey, if the Senators acknowledge that the President did something seriously wrong, but they don’t have the guts to convict him… then why am I being such a Puritan?”
Hmmm. Let me see. Perhaps that means that I should start to cut a few corners on paying my taxes. Maybe I should ask to get paid part of my income in cash and not bother to report it. Not break the law, mind you… just start doing “inappropriate things,” and hope I don’t get caught. Or maybe I should instruct my employer to increase the number of dependents, and then see if I get audited. If I do get caught, I will think of a lie that explains away my behavior. And if my lying doesn’t work, maybe I will just threaten to dig up dirt on the IRS auditor and scare the crap out of them. I'm not really breaking the law. I just did something that was, probably, well, “inappropriate.”
Why stop there? There are a whole lot of people who stretch the law and simply hope they don’t get caught.
And then there are a whole bunch of people who obey the law because that is what good citizens do.
Maybe all those good citizens are going to begin to feel like naïve dummies.
Hey, the President of the United States is setting a new tone. Cheat, hope you don’t get caught. If you do, lie. If they have evidence, ignore it. Use your power and influence to prevent you from paying any price.
That is not the country that the founders envisioned, that persons of principle shaped over the centuries, and that people like John F. Kennedy and my father risked their lives to protect and defend in World War Two.
The irony should not be lost on us that John F. Kennedy wrote a book called “Profiles in Courage,” which recounted acts of political bravery by eight United States Senators, each of whom risked their careers to advocate for positions that were unpopular or counter to the norms of their party. Indeed, one example of courage profiled was Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas, who on a matter of principle separated from the position of his party in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, delivering the decisive vote that enabled Johnson – a member of the opposing party – to stay in office.
Lisa Murkowski, you are no Edmund Ross.
Let’s take a gut check.
The fact is that we cannot blame Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, cowardly Republican Senators, and the shameless sycophants on Fox News if we fail to heed John F. Kennedy’s urgent demand:
“…We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Generations before us saw the threats – domestic and foreign – that threatened to take our freedoms away. They fought. They took to the streets. They were not afraid. They were not lulled by Super Bowl halftime shows. They were not asleep at the wheel.
O.k., Boomer, face the truth: We dropped the torch. We have allowed this to happen to our country. It has happened on our watch.
Donald Trump is taking our freedom, and most Americans don’t care enough to do what we did in the late 1960s and early 1970s when a different President tried to trample on our freedom.
We are well along a glidepath to becoming just another shithole nation where corruption, intimidation, state-controlled law enforcement and media, brute force, propaganda, and deceit reign supreme.
The torch was passed to us, and we have let it drop.
We have from now until November 3 to pick it up.
Do not shrink from that responsibility.
“With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.”
--John F. Kennedy
January 20, 1961
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