The Senate’s degradation, and America’s

As a lad I got besotted with politics and political history. In particular, venerating the U.S. Senate, as the Olympian pinnacle of noble politics. I devoured biographies of Senate icons: Clay, Webster, Borah, Taft.

My college had a student senate. Of course I ran; and lost twice. But running unopposed the third time, I did get to play at being a senator. Some battles there seemed epic.

Meantime, my Young Republican club had a trip to Washington, DC. I arranged a meeting with, among others, Senator Strom Thurmond (who said he’d give us “pins” with his name, which turned out to be pens.) In the congressional underground train I sat in a car with John Sherman Cooper. I even encountered the ancient Carl Hayden — who’d entered Congress when Arizona entered the Union in 1912.

It felt like ascending Mount Olympus and communing with the Gods.

An impeachment trial is a most solemn and weighty Senate duty. At its start, Senators must take an oath to do impartial justice, as jurors. But Republican senators almost all made clear they’d refuse to seriously weigh the evidence. Their leader McConnell openly avowed he’d be coordinating with the defense team. So much for impartial justice.

Republicans call the impeachment illegitimate because it wasn’t bipartisan. It wasn’t bipartisan because they themselves (unlike in the Nixon case) refused to put country over party. And while they try to paint it as some kind of farce, it was they themselves who made farcical the most important trial of our time. A trial without witnesses or evidence! They said they’d heard it all before; nothing new to see here. And indeed, more testimony might have been moot because a ton of it in the House hearings fully established the damning facts. Which Republicans nevertheless denied.

Then John Bolton blew apart their denial, offering unanswerable first-hand evidence that Trump did exactly what he was charged with. But Republicans refused to let Bolton testify. And then, having thusly covered up Trump’s guilt (from their own eyes anyway), are voting with straight faces to acquit him.

They also excused his actions as not technically a crime. Though in fact he did break the law. They pretended it somehow wasn’t wrong. Or if it was, we should, in Mulvaney’s immortal words, “Get over it.” And Trump’s apologist Dershowitz argued that if a president believes his own re-election is in the public interest, then any deal he makes to advance that — howsoever corrupt — can’t be grounds for impeachment.

Not a joke. That argument, holding the president truly above the law, was put forth by a famous law professor before the United States Senate. Which now proceeds to vote in accordance with it.

Divided opinion about impeachment might be explicable were there reasonable arguments on both sides. There really aren’t. The Republican excuses are dishonest, in bad faith, insults to intelligence. Of that, Dershowitz is the final sickening testament.

Many suppose Republican senators privately despise Trump but kowtow out of fear for their careers. Bad enough if they’re willing to sell out their country and integrity so cravenly. But their behavior shows most have actually drunk the Kool-Aid, succumbed to the cult, and embraced the dark side. Losing all moral sense and actually convincing themselves this vile creep show is somehow good for America.

Columnist Michael Gerson (a Republican) notes that despite the Mueller report’s compelling evidence of wrongdoing and obstruction of justice, Trump escaped accountability (even as many of his flunkies went to jail). Now he’s done it again. How? “By employing the methods of his mentor Roy Cohn. Admit nothing. Stonewall investigators. Defy subpoenas. Viciously attack opponents. Flood the zone with exculpatory lies.” And it’s working, with Republican senators and state propaganda network Fox News covering for him with “layer upon layer of obfuscation, misdirection and deception.” Shredding “norms of truthfulness, public service and ethical behavior.” And the principles and institutions that once made America great.

Marco Rubio said that even if Trump’s crimes are impeachable, removing him would be bad for the country. As if removing accountability isn’t bad for the country. But Susan Collins says Trump has learned his lesson. Seriously? This depraved monster? His lesson is he can get away with anything. He’ll be even more drunk with untrammeled power. Senate acquittal further demolishes the guard rails, serving as an accelerant for this ghastly bonfire of civic decency.

Today, visiting the United States Senate would not be like ascending to Olympus. Instead, descending into Hades.

POSTSCRIPT: There were three profiles in courage. Mitt Romney of course — the first time in history any Senator has voted to remove a president of his own party. Romney delivered a scathing, devastating speech explaining his vote. The other two were Democrats Joe Manchin and Doug Jones, who also voted to convict, despite coming from very Trump-deranged states. Their votes will cost them dearly, politically; Jones almost surely kissed off his re-election chances. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude for their courage and integrity.

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One Response to “The Senate’s degradation, and America’s”

  1. cocobiskits Says:

    Trump said he would drain the swamp. One way, his way I believe, was to do what was already being done and take it to the next level. The Senate may have been founded on some good ideals. However, history has shown that the Senate long ago left those ideals and now it has finally sunk to what I would hope are the depths. I hope this, because only then can it rise. I have my doubts. Immense power, immense money spell immense disaster. I may be too generous in ascribing this motive to Trump, but this is one interpretation of the basic facts. It has also shown that logic and justice do not win arguments, especially political arguments.It has shown that power wins. It has shown that we are not far from the jungle. Ever.

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