Opinion by George F. Will, Washington Post, Feb 13, 2021
The first of this century’s national traumas is denoted by two numbers: 9/11. One purpose of, and a sufficient justification for, the second impeachment of the 45th president was to inscribe this century’s second trauma in the nation’s memory as: 1/6.
Although not nearly as tragic as 9/11 in lives lost and radiating policy consequences, 1/6 should become, as its implications percolate into the national consciousness, even more unsettling. Long before 9/11, Americans knew that foreign fanaticisms were perennial dangers. After 1/6, Americans know what their Constitution’s Framers knew: In any democracy, domestic fanaticisms always are, potentially, rank weeds that flourish when fertilized by persons who are as unscrupulous as they are prominent.
The Framers are, to the 45th president, mere rumors. They, however, knew him, as a type — a practitioner of what Alexander Hamilton (in Federalist 68) disdainfully called “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.” Post-1/6 America has a quickened appreciation of how those “little arts,” when magnified by modern modes of mass communication as wielded by occupants of the swollen modern presidency, make civilization’s brittle crust crumble.
Intelligent people of goodwill disagree about the constitutionality of an impeachment trial of a former president. Forty-four Republican senators voted (generally less from constitutional conviction than from political convenience) to truncate the trial. They lost, but their role as jurors remained. In that constitutional role their duty was to decide whether the president’s two months of inciting what occurred on 1/6 constituted an impeachable offense. Saturday’s revelations about Donald Trump’s comportment during the riot — redundant evidence of his character, surprising to no senator — were no match for 100 senators’ unifying desire to spend a week away from the Senate.
The presentation by the House impeachment managers was a demonstration, the more welcome for its rarity, of congressional conscientiousness and meticulousness. Congress is an investigating institution, for three purposes: To establish the need for particular legislation. To provide oversight of the operation of existing laws and the institutions they undergird. And to inform voters about matters that they must understand in order for representative government to function. The investigative aspect of impeachment proceedings serves this third purpose.
Information is inherently good, and the trial was a cornucopia of information about the sights and sounds of 1/6. And about the Republican Party. Its congressional membership overwhelmingly says, and perhaps believes, that 1/6, and the low presidential intrigues that preceded it, were not violations of the presidential oath to defend the Constitution.
As the trial proceeded, there appeared a new aspirant for membership in the Republican senators’ large Lout Caucus: Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), et al. The Republican Party will wither if the ascendant Lout Caucus is the face it presents to this nation of decent, congenial people.Image Credits: pbs.org