A sorry period in Congressional history ended Wednesday with the Senate acquittal of President
on two articles of impeachment passed by a partisan and reckless Democratic House. Chalk up one more victory for the Framers of the Constitution, who realized the dangers of political factions and created the Senate to check them.
A sign of our hyperpartisan times is that not a single Senate Democrat broke ranks on either article, not even the “obstruction of Congress” article that sought to eviscerate the separation of powers and two centuries of precedent on executive privilege. The vote was 53-47. Apparently the wrath of the anti-Trump resistance, and the risk of a possible primary challenge, was too fearsome to buck. Or perhaps it was a relatively easy vote since Mr. Trump was in no danger of being evicted from office.
broke GOP ranks to convict the President on the other article, “abuse of power,” making that vote to acquit 52-48. That’s still far from the two-thirds that
and the Founders, in their wisdom, required for conviction.
Mr. Romney will now be derided as either a traitor or a hero, but we take his word that he voted his conscience. His explanation for his vote is another story.
The Utah Senator set up the straw man that the President’s lawyers said an impeachable act must also be a criminal offense. But Mr. Romney knows that isn’t the proper standard that other Senators used to judge impeachable conduct. He also claimed Mr. Trump “withheld vital military funds” from Ukraine, when the President merely delayed it and no investigation of the Bidens was ever undertaken.
“Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine,” Mr. Romney said on the Senate floor. But no election was corrupted, and no national security interests were jeopardized because other Senators and advisers persuaded Mr. Trump to release military aid.
offered a far more thoughtful argument in the Omaha World Herald for his vote to acquit: “You don’t remove a president for initially listening to bad advisors but eventually taking counsel from better advisors—which is precisely what happened here.”
He also put impeachment in the context of today’s political furies. “Today’s debate comes at a time when our institutions of self-government are suffering a profound crisis of legitimacy, on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Sasse said. “We need to shore up trust. A reckless removal would do the opposite, setting the nation on fire. Half of the citizenry—tens of millions who intended to elect a disruptive outsider—would conclude that D.C. insiders overruled their vote, overturned an election and struck their preferred candidate from the ballot.”
This is conscience tempered by judgment and political prudence, and similar cases were made by swing state Senators
(Colorado), as well as Tennessee’s
as we wrote Monday. The shame is that Mr. Romney’s vote hands a political sword to the Democrats running this year against Ms. Collins, Mr. Gardner and Arizona’s
Mr. Romney’s vote won’t matter to Mr. Trump, but Democrats and the impeachment press will now use Mr. Romney as an authority against his GOP Senate colleagues. At least Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has the compensation of knowing that Alabama Democrat
has all but signed his eviction notice in 2020 by voting to convict on both articles.
In the bitter end, what has all of this accomplished? The House has defined impeachment down to a standard that will now make more impeachments likely. “Abuse of power” and “corrupt motives” are justifications that partisans in both parties can use.
Mr. Trump remains in office, but he will now claim vindication and use it as a rallying cry for re-election against what he will call an attempted insider coup. The partisan furies have intensified, and this election year will be even more bitterly fought. Mr. Trump’s political standing has even improved during the impeachment struggle, as voters concluded early on that his behavior was wrong and unwise but not impeachable.
We doubt this is what
hoped for, but it is what her partisan impeachment has wrought. She lost to a better statesman—James Madison. Now let the voters decide, as Madison and his mates intended.
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