Mitt Romney's Oath before God
Nothing reveals the character of the Democratic Party more clearly than the Democrats' vote to convict based on the second article of the impeachment of Pres. Trump — an article that was about legal disputes over subpoenas, which would normally be settled through the courts. Instead of doing that, however, the issue was sent to the Senate, where, instead of making legal arguments, Democrats simply cried "cover-up!" to Republican opposition to their demands. For this, because Trump adhered to the legal process, Democratic senators voted, and voted unanimously, to remove...not themselves, but President Trump from office. (Were they kidding?)
The other, the first article of impeachment — which charged that, in asking Ukraine to investigate corruption involving former V.P. Joe Biden, and which also charged that Trump withheld military aid to force such compliance — was only superficially less-clearly baseless. This too was unanimously supported by the Democrats, but this time, there was also someone else — Republican Sen. Mitt Romney — who joined them.
This should not have come as a complete surprise. In a previous vote, over whether the Senate should call witnesses that the House failed to call — that is, whether the Senate should do what the House could and should have done before sending the matter to the Senate — Romney voted that the Senate should ignore the delinquency of the House and do what the House had called on the Senate to do, or be charged with a "cover-up" — reason enough in itself for Republicans to reject the House demand. But there was another reason as well — specifically, that calling witnesses could tie up the Senate for weeks or months for what would have been, like the Mueller investigation, a piously justified Democratic fishing expedition. Yet Romney voted for this, and, on the final vote, he continued in similar fashion, voting to remove Trump from office for, at the unproven worst, trying to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens.
In an Atlantic interview, he explained some of the reasons. To Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz's argument that a president who believes that his re-election is in the national interest can't be impeached for pursuing a political advantage, Romney said simply, "I had Professor Dershowitz for criminal law in law school, and he was known to occasionally take his argument to its illogical conclusion."
Exactly what was "illogical" about Dershowitz's conclusion in this case? To dismiss such an argument on this monumental issue with such a flip answer is astonishing. Why is his argument illogical? Romney owes his constituency, if no one else, an answer.
To the argument that a president can be impeached only for breaking a statutory law, Romney says:
To use an old Mormon hymn phrase, that makes reason stare. The idea that Congress would have to anticipate all of the offensive things a president could possibly do, and then make them a statute? ... What if the president decided to pardon every Republican in prison nationwide, while leaving every Democrat locked up? There's no law against that! So it's not a crime or misdemeanor. But it's obviously absurd.
What is absurd about saying, for non-criminal offenses, we have elections? What is absurd about arguing — as Trump's attorneys and others in fact argued — that, were there no such a restriction on impeachment, any political party that gained control of Congress while an opposing party member controlled the White House could impeach such a president for anything that — to use Romney's word — its members found offensive." Under Romney's prescription, the United States would effectively become a parliamentary democracy — something that Trump's defenders argued was clearly against the intention of the founders. And Romney dismisses such objection as "absurd"? He owes his constituency, and he owes the founders of this nation, an explanation.
There are other things that call for explanation. In the impeachment, it is the accusers, not the president, who have the burden of proof. In this regard, on the delay of military aid to Ukraine, it was contended that such delays of aid were common, and that aid to Ukraine was one of them. Yet Romney speaks as if the reason the accusers asserted were a matter of uncontested fact.
And there is the matter of adjectives. Romney describes Trump's request as an "appalling abuse of public trust," yet it was made before 25 other government officials, and none commented. He describes it as a "flagrant assault." And he says "corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive, destructive violation of one's oath of office I can imagine."
The first question that last particular statement raises is how exactly any information coming out of an investigation and Ukraine would "corrupt" an American election.
The second question is whether or not Romney is aware of the fact that in the previous administration, the IRS was subverted to impede conservatives from organizing in the run-up to the 2012 election. (Where was the impeachment then?) And is he aware that the FBI was (not openly, but secretly) used to spy on the Trump campaign in the 2016 election? He doesn't have to imagine these things; they occurred.
Does he not think that these undisputed offenses might "perhaps" (got to have that weasel word) be more abusive, etc. to one's oath than Trump's contended offense, even if we assume the worst? And if so, with words like "appalling" and "flagrant" already used to describe Trump's contended abuse, what words does Romney use for the far more ominous abuses of the Obama administration?
Romney seeks to minimize his vote. He says,
I will only be one name among many, no more, no less. To future generations who look at the record of this trial they will note merrily that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong — grievously wrong."
This is complete nonsense. He will not be one name among many; he will be the only Republican, in the Senate or House, to vote for either of the articles of impeachment. In doing this, he gives credibility to an enterprise that was itself nothing more than a partisan scheme, and so gives credibility for future such enterprises.
In prefacing his announcement to the Senate, Romney said:
As a senator/juror, I swore an oath, before God, to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.
Here, he is suggesting that his devotion to God is the reason for his decision, which implies that, for other senators, such devotion is not the reason.
Aside from that, however, there is also the minor fact that, in the explanations that Romney has put forth, explanations that ignore arguments that were made during the trial, and making statements without a basis for them, Romney has not honored his obligation, his pledge made before God. And he will not have honored it until he provides explanations that can justify his position. If he cannot do that, then, to undo at least partially the damage that he has done, he must at least repudiate his vote, if not resign.
Bert Peterson worked as a campaign volunteer for Mitt Romney in 2012.