Thursday, January 28, 2021

BTRTN: How To Secede Without Really Trying

Rand Paul’s latest stunt – leading a charge asserting that conducting an impeachment trial after a President has left office is “unconstitutional” -- is an appalling fabrication, the latest chapter in the Republican rejection of “objective reality.” Steve's take is that Senator Paul thinks that Republicans can treat the Constitution as an illusion, too.

Once upon a time in America, if you adamantly disagreed with something in the Constitution, you followed the formal course of action designed to change it, which is to amend it. Women won the right to vote by following this arduous process, which resulted in the 19th Amendment.

Certainly throughout our history, there have been many challenges to legislation that resulted in new and evolved interpretations of the text of the Constitution.

And, of course, there was that time that eleven Southern states took the step of seceding from the Union rather than be governed by its Constitution.

Today, however, the leaders of the Red States of America have decided that none of these three options really work for their current purposes, and have opted for an entirely different course of action when confronted with a Constitutional obligation that they find uncomfortable.

They just ignore it.

Call it passive aggression secession.

If you don’t like what the Constitution mandates, just ignore it.

It is simply the logical extension in the thought processes of a party that does not believe in objective truth or factual reality. It’s pretty much the same as pretending that COVID -19 will “magically go away,” or that there was “widespread voter fraud.”

If you don’t like reality, just pretend it doesn’t exist.

The particular farce that we encounter now is the Republican notion that it is “unconstitutional” to hold an impeachment trial after a President has left office.

What is obvious to all is that the 45 cowards in the U.S. Senate who took this position were simply trying to weasel their way out of voting on the actual issue at hand: whether or not Donald Trump committed a “high crime or misdemeanor” by inciting the January 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol that resulted five deaths and clear and present danger to the lives of the Vice President and members of Congress.

To be clear: inciting an attempted violent coup against the United States government may be the highest of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” But the 45 Republican cowards in the Senate are afraid that if they vote to convict the former president, they might not get re-elected, which is of course far, far more important than any notion of living up to the oath of office they swore upon entering Congress.  

So their solution is to make up an argument that is such specious drivel that the average five-year-old can puncture it like a party balloon.

Rand Paul stood before the Senate Chamber and said this:

“If the accused is no longer President, where is the Constitutional power to impeach him? Private citizens don’t get impeached. Impeachment is for removal from office, and the accused has already left office.”

Let’s reflect for a moment on this short paragraph, because Senator Paul efficiently packed a massive amount of stupid into a tweet-sized logic turd.

First, Senator Paul, the President was impeached while he was in office.

To impeach a President is to bring charges against him -- a task solely entrusted to the House of Representatives – which results in a trial in the Senate. The House voted to impeach Donald Trump on January 13, 2021, while he was still in office. (BTW, ten Republicans voted along with all House Democrats to impeach Trump, so spare us your tired tirades that “this is partisan politics.”)

So, Senator Paul, your first sentence reveals ignorance, disingenuousness, and/or deceit. I defer to you on that choice.

However, Senator, here is a most inconvenient fact: it was the Republican and then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell who refused to call the Senate into an immediate trial while Trump was still president, declaring that he would hold off convening the trial until after Trump was out of office. Surely, Senator, you would agree that is an admission on the part of your Chamber’s leader that a trial could happen after Trump was out of office. I do not recall the phrasing of Mitch McConnell’s proposal to be “let’s hold off on the trial of the President until he is out of office so that there cannot be a trial,” although I concede that McConnell is fully capable of such weapons-grade hypocrisy.

On top of all of all of the above, there actually is a legal precedent for this precise situation: in 1876, Secretary of War William Belknap was impeached and a trial was held after he had resigned and left office. To say something cannot happen when it has already happened is called either lunacy or a Fox News exclusive.

But Paul, the leader of the charge of this particular mentally light brigade, was not done. He additionally took that position that a trial of a President after he has left office is a moot point. Here, the Senator finally achieves orbital velocity on his journey to the black hole of ignorance. He knows full well that there are two implications of an impeachment conviction: the first is removal from office, and the second is that a conviction triggers a majority vote that could prevent the convicted President from ever holding elective office again.

In the case of Donald Trump, the second reason is extremely important. The Senate is sitting in judgment of man who led a coup against our government, who incited a violent insurrection in our Capitol, who has perpetrated an enormous lie that has undercut the faith of citizens in our elections and in our democracy itself. This man should never be allowed to run for office again.  Precisely because he has already left office, it is this second aspect of conviction that is at stake in this trial.

Which brings us to our final point about the perverse lack of logic of Senator Paul. If the framers of the Constitution had truly intended that a trial could not be conducted after a President had left office, they would have been literally granting permission for a President to wreak bloody havoc in the final few days of his time in office, knowing that once his term expired he was free from Constitutional judgment. Even more egregious: a President could commit “high crimes and misdemeanors” for personal gain, and simply resign rather than face a Senate trial… which, according to Republicans, could not take place once the impeached president was no longer in office.

We’ve all heard the telling analogy: if the CEO of a commercial enterprise could not be tried for crimes after he left his position, he could rob millions from his company blind in his final days in office, resign, and enjoy a splendid retirement, with no worry of prosecution.

Yes, Republicans assert that to conduct an impeachment trial of a president after he has left office is “unconstitutional.” At its heart, that argument is contending that the Constitution should be interpreted to mean that there should be no accountability for “high crimes and misdemeanors” if a President simply resigns from office.

Further, Republicans now screech that the impeachment of Trump is a partisan act of retribution that flies in the face of Joe Biden’s call for “unity.” We don’t recall hearing that concern for unity when Congressional Republicans were attempting to undo the official results of a free and fair election. 

Let us be clear for the logic impaired: there is not going to be any unity until there is accountability. We are not going to “forgive and forget” that Donald Trump attempted a coup of American democracy.

All of which brings us to the essential issue: Rand Paul stood up and fabricated an illusory issue so that Senate Republicans could hide behind a bogus procedural argument rather than having to be counted as for or against the actual charges.

Come, Republican Senators, have the guts to stand up and have your vote counted on the real question before you, which is not whether it is “constitutional” to hold an impeachment trial after a President has left office.

You are being asked to judge whether Trump is innocent or guilty of the charges brought against him.  That is your Constitutional duty. Don’t run frightened from it. Face up to it.

That you are all so terrified of Donald Trump nauseates me, as the sight of grown men cowering before an amoral thug is such a pathetic image.

But it truly puzzles me as well.

If you are that frightened of losing your seat, take a look at what actually happened in the recent Nebraska election. Republican Senator Ben Sasse has been one of the most consistent and vocal critics of Donald Trump. That should have put him in deep trouble, right? Here are the facts: Trump won Nebraska by 59% to 39% over Biden, and yet Sasse beat his opponent by a bigger margin, 67% to 26%.  Why are the 45 Republican Senators cowering in fear of Trump, when Sasse has proven that you can be anti-Trump and not be thrown out of politics in a deep red state? 

Sure, we all need to be worried about the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the Three Percenters, and QAnon.

But what we really need to start thinking about is the “soft secession” that is being led by people like Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, and the other Republican Senators who are demonstrating the easy way to destroy the Union.

Just ignore the Constitution.

Pretend the Constitution does not exist.

Pretend that the words in the Constitution can be treated like so many Nerf balls that have absolutely no power, no teeth, and no consequences.

In another era, on another subject, it is easy to imagine these men would be saying, “well, there really is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the Federal government to prevent us from doing whatever we want to do in our state, so we are not going to abide by any Federal laws or proclamations.”

It’s easy. Just pretend that the Constitution doesn’t say what it says.

Donald Trump had a favorite rhetorical device: he would often say that “if you don’t have a (fill in the blank), you don’t have country.”

For example, he has been quoted as saying “if you don’t have a border, you don’t have a country,” and “if you don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.”

And, indeed, in the very speech he made to incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6:  “We fight like hell and if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

We can debate any of those statements.

What’s interesting, though, is that if you do a Google search, there is no evidence of Donald Trump “filling in the blank” with the one word that actually makes that sentence true.

“If we do not have a Constitution, we do not have a country.”

If Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley can stand up in the Senate and pretend that the Constitution does not say what it says, then we actually do not have a country. We have a banana republic where half the people play by the rules and half don’t.

If we are a house divided on the issue of whether the Constitution governs this nation, then we most certainly cannot stand. 

Yes, you smarmy, smug, too-clever-by-half Republican Senators, so proud of your little stunts... all you are doing is showing us how to secede without really trying. 

 

 

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4 comments:

  1. I've yet to have a Republican wanting to avoid an impeachment trial explain one other element of the Supreme Court's (scant) record on impeachment trials. As the Senate.gov page points out, "Senate trial committees considered evidence in the cases of Alcee Hastings (1989), Walter Nixon, Jr. (1989), and G. Thomas Porteous, Jr. (2010), all of whom were convicted and removed from office. Nixon challenged the use of an impeachment committee on constitutional grounds. In 1993, in the case Nixon v. United States , the Supreme Court upheld the Senate’s right to determine its own procedures, including the use of a trial committee."

    In short, the Supreme Court is willing to allow the Senate to set their own rules. With ambiguous wording (somewhat clarified by the conduct and statements of Founders), historical precedent of at least 3 trials which continued after resignation, and with explicit Supreme Court recognition of the right of the Senate to set rules for the trials -- why are Republicans still whining about not wanting a trial?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You know the answer to your last question as well as I, John. They are looking for a fig leaf to hide behind. This is not about what is right morally, or what is correct historically -- it's strictly about what is the best politics, how to make an argument that provides at least modest cover for cowardice.

    ReplyDelete
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