"The Founding Fathers, whose wisdom just knocks my socks off every day, it really does, set this process up to be in the Senate, not at the Supreme Court, not in some judicial body. Every day, for instance, hundreds of people call us up and lobby us on one side and the other. You can't do that with a juror. The standard is different. It's supposed to be a little bit judicial and a little bit legislative-political."
--Chuck Schumer, during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton
It's been said before, even by us: Hypocrisy is nothing new in politics. The same people who went around in the 1990s saying Character Matters now say it certainly does not. And people who, like Chuck Schumer, once noted that the impeachment trial of a president is a political matter now clutch their pearls when somebody, like the current Senate majority leader, suggests the same thing.
This time, however, people are pointing out such hypocrisy. Which is good. Our representatives need to know that we're watching. And we need to know that they know.
Last Monday morning, in a week that an impeachment trial of an American president began, we tuned into NBC's Today program. The first 30 minutes were dedicated to Iran, weather and a couple of sports stories--LSU football and the Astros' Blacksox scandal--but scarcely anything about the American president's trial. This is an historic event?
This past Thursday, members of the United States Senate were told to stand, raise their right hands, and take this oath as Chief Justice John Roberts read it: "Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?"
And they did!
Ninety-nine of them did. (Reports say James Inhofe of Oklahoma had a family member with some sort of medical problem at home. But he was on his way to sign the same document.)
Senators in the Republican Party, most publicly their leader Mitch McConnell, have already said they will be working with the White House in defending the president during this trial. Those in the Democratic Party haven't suggested anything but the president's guilt in a zillion television appearances. How explain a promise, an oath, to act impartially?
The Washington Post's Amber Phillips notes that "senators see everything through a political lens, even their oath of impartiality." But you'd think that an oath of impartiality would be the only thing they couldn't see through a political lens.
Do they understand the definition? Or do they not care?
It's not that the U.S. Senate shouldn't hold a trial. It most certainly should. It's a requirement of the Constitution now that articles of impeachment have been passed. And it's not that the U.S. Senate shouldn't be a political body. The Founders made impeachment a political process, not a legal one, for a reason.
But the chutzpah to not only take an oath of impartiality, but to sign your name to it . . . . Knowing full well . . . . The brass . . . . It shoots beyond hypocrisy to well beyond duplicity.
In the play A Man for all Seasons, when Sir Thomas More was trying to ride the fence about the king's marriage, he added this at the end of an exciting chapter, in case anybody had heard him say something too clear: "I trust I make myself obscure?" What he didn't do is give television interviews explaining exactly how he felt. Then take an oath to be impartial.
The developments in the case against Donald J. Trump get more peculiar every day.
And the news that explains it all gets downright mystifying.
Editorial on 01/19/2020
Print Headline: A little bit pregnant