Another half cheer for Republicans

Endangered Democratic Senator Doug Jones said it best, “Doing right is not a courageous act. It is simply following your oath.” However, for most Senate Republicans, save for Senator Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDemocrats broaden probe into firing of State Department watchdog Coronavirus and America's economic miracle Former Romney strategist joins anti-Trump Lincoln Project MORE who voted to convict on one article, defending the Constitution against such overt presidential misconduct required far more courage than they could actually muster.

Despite withering the criticism, Senate Republicans spurned the truth by refusing to call on additional witnesses or subpoena new evidence in the recently concluded impeachment trial of President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Flynn transcripts reveal plenty except crime or collusion 50 people arrested in Minneapolis as hundreds more National Guard troops deployed Missouri state lawmaker sparks backlash by tweeting 'looters deserve to be shot' MORE. Rather than dwell on the fearful, let us celebrate the merely meek. Those who raised small nervous voices daring to criticize the president. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the hollowed out shell of our democracy.

Huzzah, Senator Lamar Alexander! He appointed himself head of the half hearted when he called the attempts by Trump to undermine American national security and cheat in his reelection campaign “irresponsible.” That he did so while announcing support for a truncated pseudo trial should prevent his reputation from being totally tarnished. Maybe.

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Huzzah, Senator Lisa Murkowski! As one of the most independent Senate Republicans, she followed where Alexander had only somewhat bravely led. Murkowski went so far as to call the scandal “shameful and wrong.” That she did so while also announcing her decision to do nothing about it should be ignored out of generosity of spirit, if for no other valid reason.

Huzzah, Senator Rob Portman! He mixed the statement of Alexander with the hope of Murkowski that two half hearted statements would make one full one. His judgment of “wrong and inappropriate” was quickly followed by some mushy nonsense about “removing a duly elected president in the middle of an election,” as if not aware the election is many months away.

Huzzah, Senator Ben Sasse! He, who once announced that he thought “every morning” about leaving the Republican Party, failed to come up with his own nuanced excuse. He gathered all the constitutional fortitude he could and bravely stammered, “Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

The reason for impeachment is to prevent the president from abusing his power. It is one of the most important constitutional checks and balances. It prevents any one branch of government from amassing too much power or independence from the others branches, thereby becoming tyrannical.

It does not take a constitutional scholar to devise a more forceful means for these senators to support such tepid verdicts. For starters, a real trial in search of the truth, one that at least pretended to weigh the evidence fairly and impartially, required only the courage to do what is right and an allegiance to the vision of our Founders of judicious constitutional order.

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Democratic Senator Joe Manchin proposed another option of censure. For this, he receives only a half huzzah. Passed once before against President Jackson, censure would mark the official finding of corruption of Trump while avoiding the tricky business of actually holding him accountable.

Sadly, however, the Senate caucus of cowards missed its moment, and instead of leading his colleagues back to the land of responsibility and integrity, Alexander returned to the peace and security in the land of partisan sycophancy, and declined to endorse the notion of censure.

These insular senators have done real constitutional harm in the name of rank partisanship. How can the Senate hope to deter a future president, perhaps a more competent one, from succeeding where Trump had been foiled? His conspiracies will not be the outer limit of acceptable behavior. They will instead be the starting point. The precedent these Republicans have embraced, arguably established by Democrats during the Clinton impeachment, is that the party of the president will never turn on him.

But even these pusillanimous Senate Republicans can be counted on for something. No doubt the next abuse of power by a Democratic president will be met with a righteous fury in defense of the Constitution by none other than, wait for it, Senator Lindsey Graham. Huzzah indeed. So even when all else gets lost in Congress, at least hypocrisy reliably survives.

It could have been worse. Senate Republicans could have said nothing and left every American thinking that they were active supporters of the nauseating corruption by the president of foreign policy and complete disregard for the Constitution. At least they said something. At least we know their failure was one of constitutional impotence and not malice.

Chris Gagin is an attorney and adviser to Republicans for the Rule of Law.