A call to duty in the Senate

Published 8:14 am Friday, December 20, 2019

Senators, you soon to be impartial judges of the president of the United States, by oath, in front of your peers, promising both fairness and impartiality on behalf of your fellow Americans.

Do your duty. You can like the president and still find impeachment inevitably necessary.

Theodore Roosevelt speaks to us today in words resounding in their clarity of purpose:

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“Patriotism means to stand by the country,” he said. “It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country.”

This indeed is the measure of how you must judge the actions of Donald Trump as charged: Did the president stand by America, our interests, our republic’s needs?

Roosevelt goes on to write, “It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country.”

Regardless of your views of Trump’s policies, political differences are not justification for conviction and removal from office for any president, not even for a president whose coarseness many find offensive.

Roosevelt then wrote the compelling words that guide the actions of the 100 senators who must judge Donald Trump: “It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country.”

Trump faces two charges, the first being abuse of power. Specifically, the president asked the head of the Ukrainian government to do him a personal favor, announce an investigation of his political opponent, Vice President Joe Biden.

This request, asked while U.S. aid to Ukraine was frozen without explanation, was advanced by several Trump advocates including Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

The problem with the request was twofold; first, was it tied to the foreign aid already approved for dispersal in Ukraine, but withheld by Trump, suggesting that the aid would be withheld until the favor was granted; second, the personal favor was not in the interests of the United States, only in the interest of Donald Trump.

Why does this matter? Why did Roosevelt find it worth mentioning that personal interest conflicts with the interest of the country? Because if this president can leverage foreign countries to help him win a U.S. election, then our republic is forever at risk. Trump welcomed Russian interference in 2016, failing to report Russian activities to the FBI.

Six of Trump’s closest advisors have served or are serving prison time for their efforts to hide their Russian connections. Further, the president has asked China to investigate Joe Biden. The long-term effect of this foreign engagement, already in evidence, will be distrust in our election results, a longtime Russian goal, and an undermining of our nation.

Trump has undermined trust in our elections for his personal benefit, and that is a grave danger to our future.

The second charge against Trump is obstruction of Congress. This charge is one where certainly Republicans ought to see into the future enough to grasp that if the Trump administration can simply refuse all congressional oversight, then every future administration will do the same.

The Founders’ idea of co-equal branches of government will be gone forever. And with it will also go congressional and constitutional control of the budget. For if Trump can simply move money to build his wall, then Congress has lost control of the budget.

This portends for a loss of the very fundamentals of our system of government, a loss of control over the executive branch that invites dictators, not presidents, into the White House.

Roosevelt concluded his remarks with this: “In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

Our Republican friends have, for the most part, avoided lying about the president by simply ignoring the actual charges against him and instead criticizing the impeachment process. It is the thinnest of sheets to hide behind, and it will not protect the 100 Senators from their call to duty.

You can like this president and still see your duty is to convict.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State