Mitt Romney and John McCain both defied Trump.
That's not a coincidence.By
February 5, 2020 at 6:49 PM ESTClick here for the original article
Mitt Romney (R-Utah) rides in a U.S. Capitol
elevator to the U.S.
Senate floor to cast a guilty vote
in the Senate impeachment trial of
on Wednesday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) stepped forward on Wednesday to say he would
vote to convict President Trump of one article of impeachment. The
verdict is ours to render. The people will judge us for how well and
faithfully we fulfilled our duty, he said, concluding, "The
president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust."
was a stirring speech, both as a statement of principles and as a stern
rebuke to the remainder of the Republican senators who would, a little
more than an hour later, vote to allow Trump to continue on in office
even though a number of them clearly believed Trump's
behavior holding up military to the Ukraine in the pursuit of
advantage was wrong.
doubt Romney's now exposed himself to a world of pain and bullying.
The immediate response of Trump World? To remind everyone Romney was a
not successful Republican nominee for president. "Mitt Romney is
forever bitter he will not be POTUS" tweeted Donald Trump Jr. "He
was too weak to beat the Democrats then so he's joining them now."
same thing happened to John McCain after he famously voted down the
prized Republican "skinny repeal of the Affordable Care Act." Trump
and his minions relentlessly bullied him, even as he was dying of
cancer. Trump's fury continued unabated after McCain's death. "I
was not a big fan of John McCain," Trump said last year, after
reports surfaced that officials attempted to hide a ship named after
the late senator from him. Another time, he seemed to celebrate the
fact McCain was dead. Really.
But McCain and Romney have
something in common besides simply defying Trump, even as the
Republican Party consolidates behind him. They both ran for president
as the official nominee of the Republican Party, and they both lost to
Barack Obama. It occurs to me this is not a coincidence.
first came to Washington as an intern (longer ago then I would like to
admit), one thing that stood out to me was how often insiders would
defend decisions by elected officials by pointing out that they needed
to make this vote or that one to get reelected. When I asked what the
point of that was "Didn't you go to Washington to do what you
believed was right?" I was more than once dismissed as hopelessly
young and naive.
I thought about that Tuesday night, as I
sat in a Washington hotel room watching Republicans frantically applaud
and cheer Trump's State of the Union address in which he lied (no,
he's not protecting preexisting conditions) repeatedly insulted the
Democrats and turned a serious political address into a reality show,
complete with prizes and surprise guest appearances. Any number of them
opposed him "sometimes vociferously" when he ran for president in
2016. They accurately took his measure as a man and politician and
found him dangerous. But now they are almost all cowed and acquiescent.
They are toadies to power.
Too many seek excuses for the
Republicans who go along with Trump "they fear their base, they
prioritize tax cuts and the appointment of conservative judges, they
need to earn a living as lobbyists after they leave office", etc. It's
so much excuse-making. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who just the
other day deemed Trump's actions "inappropriate but still would
not vote to allow the senate to hear from witnesses before voting on
impeachment", citing the tautology that it would be "partisan to do
so". (It's partisan because the Republicans made it that way.)
Alexander is not running for reelection, is 79 years old and enjoys an
eight-figure net worth. If not now, when?
don't need to agree with McCain or Romney's politics to understand
they are men of principle and courage who either always believed or
came to discover there are things more important than becoming
president. They wanted to become president, not simply for reasons of
ego and narcissism, but because they wanted the chance to do what they
saw as right from the most important position in the United States, if
not the world. They understood that ethics and political morals matter,
that one should not seek power and influence for the sake of power and
influence. There are places you should not go. You do not take health
insurance away from millions of people, or vote to allow a criminal
president to remain in office. It's just wrong.
I am not
religious, but it occurs to me that a line from the New Testament suits
this moment: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole
world, but loses his soul?" Romney will likely never be president of
the United States, but he still possesses his soul, and we as a nation,
even on this sad and infuriating day, are the better for it.