(Editors note: This article was submitted before the U.S. House voted to impeach President Trump)
Good political stories include moments of clarity that summarize the proceedings and change the outcome of the story. For Senator Joe McCarthy, that moment came when Joseph Welch asked, “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
For President Richard Nixon, it was when Howard Baker, a Republican, asked former White House Counsel John Dean, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”
To be clear, Baker’s question was intended to exonerate the President. Still, it was an honest question. Baker ignored the first rule of lawyering, which is never to ask a question to which you do not already know the answer.
Dean’s honest response was not what Baker had hoped it would be. By describing the President’s involvement in Watergate, Dean ultimately contributed to the downfall of President Nixon. It wasn’t long before Republican leaders visited the White House and told the President he would be impeached if he did not resign.
It’s too early to know what the turning point in the impeachment proceedings of President Trump will be. What is clear is that there are no Joseph Welches or Howard Bakers among the Republicans currently serving in Congress.
The Republican party of our parents’ or grandparents’ generations believed in holding people accountable for their actions. They would have wanted to know what the president did and when he did it.
None of that belief was evident in the questions asked by Doug Collins (R-Georgia), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), or by Colorado’s own Ken Buck.
Instead, Republican strategy has focused on debunked conspiracy theories, smearing people, and blaming government agencies like the FBI and the State Department; anything to take the focus off the president.
As parents, we try to teach our children that they are responsible for their actions. If a child steals something, we don’t excuse the behavior because other children also steal. If a child lies, we don’t tell them that it’s OK because everybody lies. The actions of one person have no bearing on the guilt or innocence of another person.
Today’s Republicans seem to have forgotten this basic lesson in morality. In their minds, President Trump is innocent because Hunter Biden received preferential treatment when his father was vice president, or because the Supreme Court found that Obama’s recess appointments were unconstitutional, or because FDR used the IRS to harass political opponents in the 1940s.
All of that is true. None of it has any bearing on the guilt or innocence of President Donald J. Trump.
We’re not asking anything of the president that we wouldn’t expect from a first grader.
No one is above the law, not even a president. If we should ever elevate the president to that point, we will cease to be a Republic and will become, at best, a monarchy or, at worst, a dictatorship.
The only question that matters is, “What did the president do and why did he do it?”
If you liked this article visit ParkDems.org. Democracy is not a spectator sport.