It was a sad spectacle, a confirmation that not a single House Republican (even those who are retiring) appreciates his or her oath of office, that not a single Republican can step away from partisanship and look to the greater good, and not a single Republican who is concerned enough about the extortion of a foreign government to influence our elections to do anything about it. For whatever they do in politics and in life, the vote on Thursday setting forth the procedures for public hearings on impeachment and the inevitable vote on articles of impeachment will define their public life.
Unless they see the light and vote for articles of impeachment, not a single one will be able to say that, when the chips were down and the most dangerous president in history attempted to delegitimize our elections (by inviting interference) and to co-opt the government for private political gain, they put country over party. None will be able to claim that they stood against an invitation for a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen.
Not even Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, or other Republicans who criticized the president’s behavior could manage to support a resolution providing transparency and affording more rights to the president than in any previous presidential impeachment. All the Republicans’ talk about a so-called star chamber or a “Soviet” process is mindless blather, a pathetic attempt to wave away the reality that President Donald Trump betrayed our democracy and endangered our national security in strong-arming an ally for his own political benefit. Republicans have been present and have had the opportunity to ask questions of the witnesses called. Instead, they have chosen to storm the hearing room and to attempt, in contravention of law, to reveal the identity of the whistleblower.
Speaking from the well of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, implored her colleagues to look to the Constitution, to preserve the three equal branches of government. Nothing less than the survival of our democracy is at issue, she warned. She added, “I doubt anybody in this place … comes to Congress to take the oath of office, comes to Congress to impeach the president of the United States, unless his actions are jeopardizing our honoring our oath of office.” Certainly, Pelosi, who held out on impeachment until it was unavoidable, did not desire this. She’d rather run on health care and Trump’s disastrous foreign policy. However, as she likes to quote Thomas Paine, “The times have found us.”
In a similar vein, ex-Republican Rep. Justin Amash, I-Michigan, implored his colleagues, “This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name. To my Republican colleagues: Step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man.”
To no one’s surprise, Pelosi’s and Amash’s words could not pierce the partisan armor and shield of willful ignorance erected by House Republicans. A House freshman pointed out to me before the vote that Democrats in 2018 were the first post-Trump members, coming there with a mission to check the executive and protect the Constitution; Republican freshmen elected in 2018 are the first post-Trump Republicans, coming there not despite Trump and not in opposition to him but in full support of an unfit president.
Perhaps then we should not be surprised that arguably the most morally bankrupt Republicans and some of the most principled Democrats ever to serve make up this Congress. The argument for permanently debilitating the Republican Party and starting a center-right party from scratch becomes more compelling each day.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. Follow her @JRubinBlogger .