Well, it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, and I hope you all enjoyed yesterday’s feasts and the dog show on TV. (There, that should convince the readers that I’m actually writing this on Friday morning, rather than on Tuesday when I was snowed in at home. Now, all I have to do is remember to remove this edit note before I submit the column).
And as is so often the case, today’s literary discourse was inspired by yet another fine article in Colorado Politics. You may recall the momentary dust up when a swarm of supposedly outraged Republican congressfolk stormed the closed-door session of the impeachment committee, to demand an end to being locked out of that proceeding. The whole thing didn’t come off too well, as it turns out that over 100 GOPers actually had access to the closed sessions; sessions that used, ironically, the GOP’s rules of engagement from the Clinton impeachment. But somehow, playing by the Republican rules was, in this case, sneaky and wrong.
Anyway, we learned from the above-cited article that Colorado’s own 4th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Ken Buck was one of those Republicans who had access to everything, but who decided he had more important things to do than attend the hearings. I don’t really mean that last part as snarky, because it’s true — members of Congress from both parties must often choose which of a number of committee hearings to attend. Most members sit on several committees, and you can’t make it to every session of every committee. Buck did make it there for Ambassador Taylor (my old boss when I was a military adviser at the State Department long ago), but apparently was not there for anyone else.
Now, I’m old enough to remember when the Russians were our adversaries. Heck, I used to target huge numbers of them when I was an ICBM site commander. Thus, it is rather hard for me to get my brain around how the current generation of Republicans — in apparent blind obedience to Trump — seem to now see the Russians as our friends and a free press as the opposition. Just a few days ago, Republican Sen. John Kennedy, of Louisiana, asserted that no one really knew if the Russians interfered with the 2016 election, in spite of the unanimous view of the entire U.S. intelligence community that they did. On Tuesday, Kennedy put out a statement asserting that he had “misheard” the question, and tried to take it back, but the bell had already rung.
Which, of course, brings me to President Andrew Johnson.
Johnson was the first U.S. president to be impeached. There are books written about the whole mess, which turns on dramatic testimony and an ill senator bring carried into the Senate chamber to cast the deciding vote against removal from office. That was quite the political mess, as was the impeachment inquiry of Richard Nixon. Nixon, you recall, resigned before there was a formal impeachment vote, but it was coming, and Nixon knew it.
You have to get to the third U.S. president to see impeachment hearings, Bill Clinton, to see only the second trial in the Senate (after Johnson), about Clinton having lied about, well, I’ll need a good euphemism here…
Back in the Clinton trial, the GOP argued that Clinton had lied about, you know, to a grand jury and that such a lie was a crime and worthy of impeachment. I actually agree with that. When it happened, I surprised many of my conservative fellow military officers by stating that I thought Clinton should resign. Likely you’ve heard the replays of folks like Sen. Graham declaring that lying was impeachable, and that one must have high standards, at least for Clinton.
I’ve oft written about my disdain for hypocrisy. I just don’t see how the party that claimed to be the party of "law and order" can become the party of parsing and distraction. Apparently, lying is bad when it is your political opponent, but is OK in defense of Trump.
The CP article also quoted Colorado 5th Congressional District U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (against whom I ran in 2008), claiming that the impeachment hearings (again, modeled on GOP rules) were a “Soviet-style kangaroo court.” Perhaps Mr. Lamborn is to be excused for such a ridiculous analogy, given that he does not sit on any of the key committees here. But Congressman Buck does, and now that I think about it, maybe he should have attended a few more hearings. Perhaps if he had heard Ambassador Sondland, whose $1 million donation got him an ambassadorship, clearly state for the record and under oath that there was — say it with me — a quid pro quo, on the president’s orders.
I would ask you, gentle readers, which is a greater threat to democracy: Bill Clinton getting…you know… or Donald Trump conspiring with a foreign power to help rig an election to keep power? If you really and truly think Clinton’s lie was worse, well, good luck to our nation of laws.
Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.