John Fetterman, our man-mountain lieutenant-governor, has announced that he is counting the costs of running for the U.S. Senate.
The more I hear John Fetterman speak and the more I learn of his life and political history, the more I regard him as a genuine article. If he is as smart as I think he is, he may be having second thoughts about wanting to join the Senate.
It used to be you could say with a straight face that the U.S. Senate is the “world’s greatest deliberative body.” Not anymore.
There are some who recently shown themselves statesmen when the situation requires it. Let me name them: Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, Richard Burr. They are the Republican members who voted to convict President Trump of inciting a riot at the Capitol.
The remaining 43 Republicans were content to set a record low for the Senate being less than the sum of its parts. The 48 Democrats, one Independent, and whatever Bernie Sanders is, did not have a politically difficult choice to make. So, I am leaving them out of the assay.
Mitch McConnell’s prepared remarks at the end of the trial were those of a drowning man clutching at a straw. They don’t stand up even as sophism.
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution assigns the power of impeachment to the House of Representatives. Article 1, section 3 does not limit impeachment to current office holders but to a “person” or “party.” The preponderant implication is that a former president could be subject to an impeachment trial in the Senate.
The high bar of two-thirds of the Senate to convict presupposes impeachment will not be attempted recklessly – or even likely to succeed. The fact it can extend no further than removal from office and/or disqualification to hold further office precludes impeachment from becoming a bill of attainder.
McConnell is right that nothing prevents the former president from being charged in civil or criminal proceedings for inciting a riot in which injuries and death occurred or in attempting to coerce state officials to falsify election returns.
But what is the message to district attorneys, or private citizens, contemplating such actions? Well, for one, the U.S. Senate could not bring itself to condemn the president’s behavior. Is such presidential or senate conduct the “new normal?”
Concerning the former president’s right to free speech – which is often asserted as a covering for what happened at the Capitol on January 6: A president has the “bulliest” pulpit of them all. It is not a question of whether the president has free speech. It is a political and governmental question of what he does with it.
In President Trump’s case, he used his office to spread egregious and irresponsible falsehoods about the integrity of our elections. He and his supporters especially did so in Pennsylvania. Then he created the tinderbox on Jan. 6 which resulted in the storm upon the Capitol. Then he sat on his hands while the lives of the Vice President and Speaker of the House were in jeopardy.
For the President of the United States to undermine the nation’s electoral process with full-throated lies over a period of months is to undermine the Constitution which depends on free and fair elections.
In retrospect, it is reasonable to suppose the impeachment article would have had better chance of succeeding if it had been framed more broadly as dereliction of duty rather than narrowly as incitement to riot.
Ten Republicans in the House put their political careers, and even their personal safety, at risk by voting for impeachment. I find myself wondering if the Democratic leadership of the House consulted any of those 10 to better understand what brought them to that point and perhaps incorporate that view or views into the impeachment articles.
Moreover, for impeachment to have any chance of succeeding it must become bi-partisan. I’ve heard or read no mention that any House Republican was approached to serve as an impeachment manager. The presence of one or two Republicans would have created an entirely different dynamic. The Democratic partisan-warriors Eric Swalwell, Joaquin Castro, and Ted Lieu as managers was hardly conducive to sway Republican Senators.
Which causes me to wonder if at least some Democrats were willing to embrace losing the impeachment trial so that they might keep their donor base riled with the prospect of protecting the republic from Donald Trump for the next four years. It is enough to make your head spin.
Ben Sasse, in explaining his vote, said that “Congress is a weaker institution than the Founders intended, and it is likely to shrivel still smaller.”
He continued: “A weak and timid Congress will increasingly submit to an emboldened and empowered presidency. That’s unacceptable. This institution needs to respect itself enough to tell the executive that some lines cannot be crossed.”
So, back to the beginning. John Fetterman is contemplating a run for the Senate. My advice might be to instead retire from public life and enjoy with his family what remains of American civilization while the sun sets behind George Washington’s chair. Run, John, run!
I suspect (and hope) that his chief ambition is not to hold office but to act on his convictions if he gets there. My sense is that he is comfortable in his own skin, knows what he believes, and is capable of articulating his convictions. Win or lose.
He is not a “party animal.” My guess is that the Democratic Party which was not so long ago content for the voters to reject him is now trying to entangle him in its blandishments and snares. Run, John, run!
Then again, John Fetterman seems like a fireman who runs to the danger and not away from it. Run, John, run!