JOHN KENNEDY—yes, that John Kennedy—once wrote a book about eight U.S. senators who had made difficult votes, maybe impossible votes, at some point in the nation’s political history.
From John Quincy Adams to Robert A. Taft, from the peculiar institution that the nation would go to war with itself to end, to the Nuremberg Trials after another war in another century, these handful of senators would vote their consciences, and lose popularity, maybe even their offices, because of it.
But they could do no less. And still sleep at night.
Where could Americans find such a senator today? Can you imagine a senator, or any politician, voting his conscience, against his party, against the people, against political advice, because his mere honor required it? You don’t have to imagine. His name is Mitt Romney.
When it comes to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, we still agree more with Lamar Alexander of Tennessee than Mitt Romney of Utah. And have said as much for about half a year now. That is, impeachment should be used as a last resort to remove a clear and present danger from the White House. When it’s a partisan impeachment, as the impeachment of President Trump clearly was, it weakens the tool for later use.
The president’s dealing with Ukraine was improper, but not disqualifying. He now has been given a de facto censure. That is, he has been impeached, tried and left in office. When the history of this administration is written, that will be part of the lede. And deservedly so.
But when the history of Mitt Romney is written, it should profile him in courage.
Not that you’d know that by some of the reactions from GOP office holders around the country, and around this state in particular. Frank Lockwood’s story Thursday showed that much. Mitt Romney’s vote was called a betrayal, a kick in the gut. One county chairman in Arkansas said Sen. Romney’s vote “to remove a popular Republican president who has had success despite relentless socialist Democratic opposition … That’s unforgivable in my book.”
Which is exactly why it should be considered courageous.
We are more inclined to agree with state Rep. Carlton Wing, a Republican from North Little Rock who was also quoted in Frank Lockwood’s story. He also disagreed with Mitt Romney’s vote and, we’ll assume, impeachment in regard to the Ukraine phone call. But he said: “It appears [Mitt Romney] was being true to his convictions … He felt like he was doing the right thing with regard to his conscience. He knew two things: One, he would pay a steep price for his vote, and two, his vote would not change the outcome.
“While I disagree with his decision, I sympathize with any public servant who follows deeply held convictions in the wake of intense opposition.”
We couldn’t put it better. So we won’t try.
The country needs more political representatives who vote their consciences. If we had more, we might not have a $25 trillion debt, gridlock, a broken health care system, an open border, distrust of politicians, and judicial nominations that look more like the worst of political campaigns. We also need more Mitt Romneys.
And for that matter, more Carlton Wings, who can disagree without being disagreeable.