Last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul offered a resolution opposing impeachment (see Rand Paul Completely Decimates Proceeding on Impeachment, Even Top Dem Admits Might Be Questionable Constitutionally). The process being used to get revenge of some type on President Trump, even though he was already out of office, was unconstitutional, he said. A vote was taken, and only five Republican senators crossed over to vote with the Democrats in favor of using a Constitutional process to simply settle scores. You can guess who they were.
Yesterday, President Trump’s legal counsel made the same argument, though probably not as lucidly as Rand Paul (Trump’s Impeachment Defense Was a Dumpster Fire Today, but I’m Not Sure It Matters). And yet, when another vote was taken, Louisiana Republican Bill Cassidy voted with the Democrats. In other words, a week ago, Cassidy thought the impeachment was unconstitutional. Yesterday, he was totally fine with it. What happened?
Mr. Cassidy blistered Mr. Trump’s lawyers as “disorganized” and seemingly “embarrassed by their arguments,” explaining that their poor performance and the compelling case by the Democratic House impeachment managers had persuaded him to break from his party’s attempt to dismiss the proceedings on constitutional grounds.
“If I’m an impartial juror, and one side is doing a great job, and the other side is doing a terrible job, on the issue at hand, as an impartial juror, I’m going to vote for the side that did the good job,” he told reporters on Tuesday. He did, though, emphasize on Wednesday that his view on constitutionality did not “predict my vote on anything else,” namely whether to convict Mr. Trump, saying only that he had an “open mind.”
By becoming the only Senate Republican to switch his position from the one he held last month on a similar question about the constitutionality of holding an impeachment trial for a person no longer in public office, however, Mr. Cassidy delighted Louisiana Democrats, angered Republicans in his home state and presented himself as a one-man testimony of why Mr. Trump’s eventual acquittal is all but inevitable.
“There is literally nothing that the Trump lawyers could do to change any of these other Republicans’ minds,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat. “They couldn’t have tanked it on purpose any worse than they did, and they still only lost one.”
This is nuts.
The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump is not a game. It is not an episode of “America’s Got Talent.” You either believed it was unconstitutional last week, or you didn’t. The facts didn’t change just because a lawyer had a (we hope) bad day. Voting for the best performance is not what an “impartial juror” does. This is a triumph of form over substance.
This brings me to the GOP establishment.
Over and over, throughout my adult life, the GOP has treasured appearances over action and principle. The last four years were the only hiatus in this behavior since the last half of the Reagan administration. Time and again, the old-guard GOP figures throw some red-meat and platitudes but, when push comes to shove, they vote the way most likely to get them a favorable mention on the op-ed pages (and news pages in this time of a partisan and fact-free press) of the New York Times and Washington Post. The right thing to do, even the easy thing to do, in this case, was to vote to not turn American politics into Third World blood sport politics by hunting down and punishing people who lost an election…and make no mistake, that is exactly where we are headed (see Donald Trump Is Now Under Criminal Investigation in Georgia) and with predictable results.
Now that President Trump is off center stage, the porkers are free to head back to the trough. They will give lip service to the plight of working-class America, they will cluck sympathetically at the horrendous spectacle of one in every four US pregnancies ending in abortion, they will talk about securing the border, and they will do absolutely nothing about those issues. They didn’t before President Trump. They did so reluctantly while he was in office. And now that President Trump is gone, we’re back to what Cassidy’s constituents would say “laissez les bon temps rouler.”
Sadly, there are even some not-so-establishment figures.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), today reintroduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would impose term limits on Members of Congress. U.S. Senators would be limited to two six-year terms and members of the House of Representatives to three two year terms.
Let me digress for a moment. I’m a big fan of Irish history and just finished watching a series on Amazon Prime called Easter 1916. It was produced in Ireland to coincide with the centennial of the Easter Rising on Easter Monday, 1916. In one scene, an Irish Republican Brotherhood activist has just finished a barnburner of a speech demanding Irish independence. He approaches a man, Tom Clarke, intending to recruit him. “Next week,” he says, “we’re having a commemoration for Wolfe Tone, would you like to come?” Clarke smirks at him and says, “Wolfe Tone? Is that all you’ve got?”
When I read that press release about term limits, that scene came immediately to mind. With all the challenges facing conservatives and the GOP and the nation under the bootheel of America-hating progressive Democrats is the tired old chimera of a Constitutional amendment limiting Congressional terms. Is that all you’ve got? What next? A flag-burning amendment?
All they have to offer us in the face of existential issues facing the American experiment are appearances. Kabuki. Bread and circuses.
I don’t know how Bill Cassidy will vote because he’s already shown me that he doesn’t really care about principle or what is correct or expedient. He’s shown me that his vote is owned by the opinions of people who hate him and who want to destroy the things he tells his constituents he believes in. He’s smart enough to know that and yet he just doesn’t care.