Strange Bedfellows

shutterstock_1546072433You’ve no doubt heard the old proverb that politics makes strange bedfellows. Never have I experienced the reality of that on a personal level more than I have over the past couple of months, thanks specifically to the impeachment of Donald Trump.

Back in December, Mark Galli, who was the editor in chief of Christianity Today, wrote an editorial advocating for the impeachment of President Trump. I do not disagree with what Mark Galli said about Trump as a person, but being immature and nasty on Twitter is not an impeachable offense. Galli’s assertion that the “facts are unambiguous” about Trump’s phone call with Ukraine shows his lack of political understanding and his fervent desire for Trump to go. Sadly, he failed to realize that using impeachment to remove Trump because you don’t like him is just as wrong for evangelicals as it is for Democrats.

Shortly thereafter, Timothy Dalrymple, CT’s president, wrote to effectively defend Galli’s editorial. Dalrymple made some valid points, but he politicizes the term “evangelical.” What Dalrymple fails to acknowledge, and what was a huge problem with Galli’s editorial, is that if those who dislike Trump’s character and personal baggage–and I count myself in that group–allow that to become justification for impeachment, an incredibly dangerous precedent will be set. Impeachment has to be reserved for that for which it was intended or we risk seriously weakening our form of government. Does Trump have flaws? Absolutely. Should we jump on board the silly allegations from House Democrats to remove him? Absolutely not. The ends do not justify the means.

That whole situation left me, in the eyes of many anyway, defending President Trump, which is not something I have been inclined to do. He has done some wonderful things as president, including recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, appointing pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, defending prayer in schools, attending the March for Life Rally, etc. But he has also demonstrated immaturity, lack of tact and badgering/belittling behavior toward his opponents. In short, he has usually been anything but presidential. For those reasons, I cannot say that I like President Trump. It is almost a reversal of what the situation was like when Ronald Reagan was president. Many people who did not agree with Reagan politically liked him personally. Now, I agree with Trump politically quite often, but I cannot stand him personally.

Last week my proverbial bedfellow changed when I asserted my respect for Mitt Romney’s decision to vote to convict President Trump on one charge of the impeachment. I said then, and I say now, I do not agree with his conclusion, but after listening to Mitt Romney’s interview with Chris Wallace I do respect his decision to vote his conscience. Is that not, after all, exactly what we expect our elected officials to do?

Well, that position met with some opposition among my own friends but it met with far more opposition among Republicans and conservatives around the nation. One friend insisted to me that conscience was not what senators were to use to inform their vote; instead, they were to rely on the Constitution and on the facts that were presented. But I disagree; the two are not separate. Obviously, Mr. Romney felt like the actions of Mr. Trump were consistent with the constitutional threshold for impeachment. He said as much in the interview. Accordingly, he was voting his conscience and the Constitution by voting guilty on one charge. Article II of the Constitution specifically says “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Romney thought Trump’s actions rose to that level. He interpreted the “facts” as rising to the level of impeachment and thus, based on those facts, he believed guilty was the right vote. His conscience dictated that he vote accordingly–according, in other words, to his understanding and interpretation of the facts. He interpreted the Constitution strictly and that is precisely why he voted the way that he did–he believed that an impeachable offense had occurred, based on the facts and evidence he had received.

So, whether we agree with him or not–and as I said, I don’t–Romney’s conscience dictated that he do what he thought was consistent with his oath. Romney heard the facts that were presented, and in his interpretation, they met the threshold for impeachment. He then voted what he thought the facts warranted–guilty on one charge, not guilty on the other. He did what he thought was right, not what he knew his party wanted him to do. And that, by the way, is constitutional. He was faithfully executing his responsibility, just as he swore he would do. The fact that I, or seemingly most any other Republican, did not agree with his interpretation of the facts does not mean that he was wrong. (To throw another strange proverbial bedfellow into the mix, for these same reasons, I also respect Tulsi Gabbard’s earlier decision to vote “present”).

No “high crimes” are found in the Constitution. Article II, Section 4 says, “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” (emphasis added). Obviously, then, impeachment can occur for offenses other than treason and bribery, but what those other offenses are is no spelled out. Abuse of power would certainly be one of them. If I thought Trump had abused his power then I might even agree with Romney. Based on the testimony I heard, I do not think he did, so I disagree with Romney. But I still respect his willingness to vote what he thought was right, knowing full well—as he was reminded by Chris Wallace—that he would face the full wrath of Donald Trump and an ongoing cold shoulder from his party. In short, there was no good reason, politically, for Mitt Romney to vote the way that he did. He knew that President Trump was not going to be convicted because there was no way there were going to be enough votes to meet the required two-thirds supermajority. So while others have chosen to attribute his vote to his personal animosity for Donald Trump, I am choosing to take Mitt Romney at his word. I cannot fathom any other reason why he would take the political risk he took to vote that way. And those consequences came swift and heavy. One person who had the audacity to say “Good for Romney” in response to a post on the Huck’s Army Facebook page stating that Romney was going to vote to convict, and asking for comments, received an immediate response from another individual saying “You are a jerk.” Really? Having a difference of opinion on Romney’s actions from the expected condemnation makes him a jerk? Why? Plenty of others called Romney pathetic, a disgrace, a traitor, a turncoat, a snake, a moron, a RINO and a Democrat masquerading as a Republican. Let’s not forget that just eight years ago Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee for President of the United States!

Furthermore, I was deeply troubled by how many people—professional pundits and social media commentators alike—who ridiculed Romney for invoking his faith as one of the reasons for doing what he thought was right regardless of the political consequences. We cannot want a politician to be both influenced by his faith and to ignore his faith. Many Republicans, and particularly many conservative Republicans, advocate for political positions, and even political action, that is based on and derived from a sense of morals that is often rooted in Judeo-Christian faith. Romney is a Mormon, of course, but most Mormons are quite conservative morally and socially. Would we really want a candidate or an elected official who was not influenced by his faith? How deep, sincere or meaningful would such faith be, anyway, if an individual were able to set it aside when considering some of the most important decisions he would ever make?

Finally, Romney’s vote also brought to light another matter that is worthy of serious consideration. Much has made of the fact that with his vote to convict, Romney became the first U.S. senator ever to vote to convict a president of his own party. That’s troubling to me, but not for the reason you probably think. Many seem to be taking the position that Judge Jeanine Pirro so obnoxiously took yesterday on her FOX show “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” “Permit me to introduce you to a non-leader,” Pirro began, before reminding viewers that Romney was the first senator to ever commit such a perfidious act. “How dare he!” she went on. “How could he? And why would he?”

Pirro went on to call Romney an “embarrassment” and to say, “Your jealousy of this man [Trump] is a constant rage burning within you because you can never rise to the heights that he has. Because guys like you fold like wusses and you don’t have any selflessness or the ability to think about others, as Donald Trump has thought about making America first.” Pirro later concluded her childish rant saying, “How about you get the hell out of the United States Senate?”

(By the way, add Pirro to those who lambasted Romney’s reference to his faith. She said, “Do you ever wonder why people never mention God or religion — only bring it up when they get caught doing something or when they need an excuse for something they did? What a bunch of phonies.” I don’t know how often Pirro expects Romney to mention his faith in order for it to satisfy her standards, but this is certainly not the first time he has mentioned it).

By now you have likely gathered that I was not only unimpressed with Pirro’s monologue but also with her position. I said that I am troubled by the fact that Romney is the first senator to vote to convict a president of his own party—but the reason that troubles me is because it hasn’t happened before. Donald Trump is the third president to be impeached, joining Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton on that short list. There were eleven articles if impeachment filed against Andrew Johnson, though senators decided that eight of them were objectionable and only considered three. Like Trump, Clinton faced two charges. Why would it take until the sixth impeachment charge for a senator to vote for conviction of a president of his own party? That fact reveals two possibilities, neither of which are appealing.

On the one hand, it could indicate that impeachment charges thus far have always been politically motivated. That would be tragic. As I have already argued in this space, impeachment is to be used for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Those are not political matters. If we allow our elected officials to pursue impeachment out of political motivation then we will have a serious problem.

On the other hand, if impeachment articles have been legitimate and not motivated by politics, Romney’s first-ever vote could indicate that senators are more loyal to their party than they are to what is right. How did I reach that conclusion? Well, it seems improbable that there could be six articles of impeachment that were not politically motivated and yet all proved to be erroneous charges. But if the impeached presidents were actually guilty of even one of those charges, and the evidence supported that conclusion, but no senator of the president’s own party would vote accordingly, what other conclusion could there be? The votes on Trump’s impeachment actually confirm this likelihood, as it also was the first time ever that no member of the opposing party joined in support of the president.

George Washington warned sternly against “the baneful effects of the spirit of party” in his Farewell Address. Blind allegiance to party, said Washington, “serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.” In other words, no good can come of it! Washington’s advice then? “[T]he common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

As he so often has, Washington proves once again to be prophetic. We are seeing unmistakable examples of the “spirit of party” in the United States just about every day. This does not bode well for our nation or for our future.

Oh, one more thing regarding strange bedfellows… I don’t even like Mitt Romney.

 

Photo credit: Aaron-Schwartz / Shutterstock.com

High crimes and misdemeanors

I have mentioned in this space on more than one occasion that President Obama has committed impeachable offenses since taking office. Apparently many in the South Dakota Republican party agree with me. Last Saturday, at their state convention, they passed a resolution calling for the House of Representatives to impeach the president. Following several paragraphs beginning with “Whereas” (in official resolution form), the resolution ends, “Therefore, be it resolved that the South Dakota Republican Party calls on our U.S. Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president of the United States.”

This resolution did not pass by a wide margin; the vote was 191-176. So close was the vote that the voice vote proved inconclusive, forcing a county-by-county roll call vote. Sadly, twenty of the state’s counties had no delegates at the convention. Whether their presence would have made a difference in the outcome of the vote I do not know, but I consider it a bad sign when nearly one-third of the state’s counties did not send delegates to the convention.

South Dakota, thanks to its small population, has only one member of the House of Representatives, Rep. Kristi Noem. While Noem is a Republican, she does not agree that impeachment is the way to go. Her spokesperson, Brittany Comins, said, “The congresswoman currently believes the best way for Congress to hold the president accountable is to continue aggressive committee oversight and investigations into the administration’s actions like the ongoing VA scandal, the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, Benghazi, and the recent Taliban prisoner exchange.” With respect to the congresswoman, I would have to disagree. The committee oversight seems to be doing little if anything to effect any change in the way that the Obama administration goes about its business. While the committee oversight process is an appropriate part of the checks-and-balances in the U.S. federal government, when it proves ineffective it is necessary to take stronger action. Thus far I would have to put the effectiveness of the congressional committee oversight of the Obama administration on par with the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions on power-hungry dictators.

David Wheeler, a delegate to the convention from Beadle County, opposed the resolution, saying, “I believe we should not use the power of impeachment for political purposes. By doing this, we would look petty, like we can’t achieve our political goals through the political process.” The reality, however, is that the impeachment is not about politics or political goals. If it were, I would absolutely not be in favor of impeachment. Impeachment should absolutely not be used for vindictiveness or pettiness or as a means of achieving political objectives. President Obama, however, has broken the law and has violated his constitutional oath of office. These are grounds for impeachment.

I do not know if anything will come of this resolution or not. Frankly, I tend to doubt it. It seems Rep. Noem is not likely to act on it, and I doubt any other House members are going to pay much attention to a resolution passed by the South Dakota State Republican Convention. However, I commend those at the convention for their willingness to take a public stand and call on the House to exercise its constitutional prerogative–and duty–to impeach a president who has indeed committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Follow Up to “I Rest My Case”

Two entries ago I said I was beginning a series of posts about education, and it is still my intention to get back to that ASAP. With all of the shenanigans going on with the shutdown of the federal government, though, I had to speak up on that. And even though I said at the end of that post that I was resting my case, I need to add just a few more thoughts.

Numerous examples have emerged over the weekend of additional ridiculous moves by the Obama administration to make the shutdown as public and as painful as necessary. One example is the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada and Arizona. The Henderson Press reported on the closing, including the fact that in addition to the closing of the “visitor center, campgrounds, marinas, trails and launch ramps” the folks who own property within the park are also being evicted and are barred from entering their personal property only to retrieve belongings. “Those with personal property within the park, such as boats, trailers or cabins, will be allowed access into the park to either remove their vessels or trailers or to remove belongings from their property,” the Henderson Press reported. Las Vegas station KTNV also reported on the Lake Mead closing, specifically spotlighting Ralph and Joyce Spencer. The Spencers, age 80 and 77 respectively, have owned their home since the 1970’s but the home sits on federal land. Thus, “even though the Spencers own their cabin outright, they’re not allowed in until the government reopens.” Now, according to the report, “The Lake Mead properties are considered vacation homes; one of the lease requirements to own a plot is people must have an alternative residence.” Be that as it may, the shutdown of the federal government cannot be used to justify evicting people from their own property.

The Independent Journal Review, the Washington Post and other news sites also reported that the Department of Justice web site that provides information on the AMBER Alerts was shut down, too. Now the alerts themselves were still operation, but the information DOJ web site was shut down. As of this morning that site is fully operational again, leading me to believe that the outcry over shutting down a web site specifically designed to provide information about kidnapped children was effective. Nice to know the elected officials listen once in a while! However, a service designed to assist protect the lives of abducted children should never have been allowed to be used for political purposes.

Interestingly–as pointed our by several other news sites–First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” web site was never shut down. Now the most recent post on the site’s blog was posted on September 30, so perhaps the site is not being updated, but that fact that it has remained up and operational while so many other government web sites have been shut down speaks volumes on its own. At the site is a government site; its address is http://www.letsmove.gov. As the IJ Review story stated, “Apparently, in the mixed up world of Team Obama’s priorities, continuing to tell America’s kids what to eat and how to exercise is ‘essential’ – while helping to locate missing children who may be in grave danger is not. Go figure.”

You may also have seen the wide-spread story over the weekend that the government is shutting down eleven hundred miles of ocean. Yep, you read that right…the government is shutting down the ocean…specifically, Florida Bay. Charter boat captains who make their living taking folks out into the bay to fish or enjoy the water cannot do so until the government reopens, and there are rangers on duty to enforce the ban. As with so many other examples already mentioned, enforcing the shutdown is going to cost more than allowing normal activities to continue would ever have cost!

Now, in the midst of all of this an anonymous employee of the National Park Service has reportedly stated this: “We’ve been told to make life as difficult for people as we can. It’s disgusting.” Now, I do not know the name of the ranger who purportedly said this, nor can I verify its accuracy. All I know is that it has been widely reported. And if this statement is true–if the NPS has issued such instructions to its personnel, it is violating the law. If President Obama has given that order, or sanctioned it, he should be impeached. And I will not make a long, drawn out explanation as to why. Instead, I will present it very simply, in four easy steps:

One, the Preamble to the United States Constitution reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The unusual capitalization and spelling of “defense” comes directly from the original text, which you are welcome to read for yourself on the National Archives web site which is, oddly enough, still operating).

Two, the presidential oath of office, according to Article II of the Constitution, is, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” (The ending “so help me God” is not in the Constitution, but was added by George Washington and has been added ever since).

Three, Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution reads, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Four, there is simply no way to convincingly argue that shutting down open air monuments, evicting people from their privately-owned homes and other examples outlined above and in the previous post are promoting the general welfare or ensuring domestic tranquility. Since they are not, President Obama is not faithfully executing the duties of his office nor is he preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution. Therefore, per the Constitution, he should be impeached, for there can be no higher crime a president of United States could commit than to knowingly and willingly violate the Constitution.

Not going away

The issue of homosexual marriage is not going away anytime soon…which means it will not go away as a topic for this blog, either. It is an issue that is too important to ignore, an issue on which we cannot remain silent.

First of all, I need to state that I am a firm believer in the system of government established in the United States, and despite the fact that I am not always pleased with the decisions that are made or the speed with which they are (or are not) made, I think the system generally works the way the founders designed it to work, and I think they knew what they were doing. In fact, if our elected officials were held accountable for adhering to the requirements that are in place for them, things would work even better.

On that note, despite the fact that I am not an extremist by any means and would ordinarily hesitate to call for something as drastic as the impeachment of the president, President Obama should have been impeached the moment that he announced the he was instructing the Department of Justice not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Constitution (in Article 2, Section One, Clause Eight) requires that the president take the this oath upon being sworn in to office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Of course, though not constitutionally required, every president has added “So help me God” at the end of the oath, following the example set by George Washington at the very first inauguration. So why should President Obama have been impeached? Because he violated his oath, and has been violating it ever since. He cannot “faithfully execute” the duties of his office if he is instructing the Justice Department to not enforce a law that was passed by Congress and signed by a previous president. Whether he likes or agrees with the law or not does not matter one bit; it is the law, and he is sworn to uphold it. Even worse, the DOJ has gone beyond not enforcing the DOMA to actively opposing it. The Congress has had to hire lawyers to defend the DOMA in court against the DOJ! Interestingly, even Steve Weinstein, EDGE Editor-in-Chief, writing on South Florida Gay News, acknowledged that the president is not upholding it responsibilities: “The House has been voting extraordinary funds to fight DOMA repeal on its own, thus making for a historic clash between a presidency that refuses to defend a law (as the Constitution mandates him to do) on the one hand; and a legislative body taking extra-legislative action by intervening in the courts.”

Now, just last Friday, the DOJ filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the Supreme Court, urging the Court to strike down elements of the DOMA. Why should the DOMA be struck down? Because “the broad consensus in the scientific community is that, for the vast majority of people (gay and straight alike), sexual orientation is not a voluntary choice.” This statement itself is a lie, but let’s ignore that. After all, the Obama administration could have found a certain segment of the “scientific community,” the majority of which does assert this claim. (Rather like all the toothpaste commercials that claim that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend their brand, right? After all, if you line up enough of them and stick to it long enough, you could find 4 out of 5 people that would recommend or support just about anything).

It is further evidence of an increasing trend by President Obama and his administration to assert in less-than-veiled terms, however, that those who disagree with their position are, well, stupid. He has taken the same approach to his arguments for addressing climate change, too. In his State of the Union address on February 12 President Obama said that climate change is “the overwhelming judgment of science.” He used the same phrase in his second inaugural address when he said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science….”

Back to the DOMA, though, the Supreme Court will hear Harvard Law School professor Vicki C. Jackson argue that it does not even have the authority to hear the case United States v. Windsor since the Obama administration has chosen to stop enforcing DOMA. According to the Harvard Crimson, “Jackson will assert that because the Obama administration has chosen to no longer defend the 1996 law, agreeing with the decision made by a lower court that it is invalid, the court does not have the authority to rule on the case.” So, if the president decides not to enforce a law the Supreme Court cannot even hear cases on it? That’s ridiculous. That flies in the face of the very purpose of the checks and balances system established by our Constitution. If this line of reasoning is followed, we will be well on the way to an autocratic presidency.

Equally troubling–perhaps even more so–is that the Obama DOJ has also asserted in its amicus curiae brief that the lawfully enacted DOMA must be struck down and homosexual marriage must be both granted and protected, the will of the people be damned. Specifically, the brief argues that, in this instance, the Court must not allow the will of the people to run its course. “That approach would be very well taken in most circumstances. This is, however, the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law. Section 3 of DOMA targets the many gay and lesbian people legally married under state law for a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society. It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 be invalidated.”

The Constitution requires no such thing. President Obama and his administration are asserting that they know better than the Congress, than the people of the United States, and than the very Constitution of the United States.

Last year Senators Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss, Dan Coats, Thad Cochrane, Mike Crapo, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby and Roger Wicker filed an amicus curiae brief of their own in the case of Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management on an appeal being heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Their brief provides an excellent overview of the history of DOMA and the danger of seeing struck down by the Court for reasons that are not constitutional. (If you’re interested, you can read the brief here: http://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d78e55fd-f3bd-459e-b424-9875aabf9ddd/Amicus%20Brief%20of%20US%20Senators%20in%20Golinski%20final.pdf).

Former attorneys general Edwin Meese III and John Ashcroft also filed an amicus brief with the court in the Golinski case, arguing that the Obama administration had seriously erred in its decision not to enforce DOMA, and that because of its unprecedented actions in failing to support the law of the land, its opinions must not be given much weight in the deciding of the case. “Due to the historical landscape addressed above, and the fifteen year history of DOJ’s defense of DOMA, the decision to change course and challenge DOMA’s constitutionality should be viewed as an extreme and unprecedented deviation from the historical norm and, as such, the persuasive weight afforded to DOJ’s brief should be less than in the typical case.”

I could go on, here, but I will stop, because this is already getting lengthy and because there is plenty of information out there already that you can read if you want to explore this subject in more detail. Bottom line, we have a President who is violating his oath of office by refusing to enforce a law that was passed by Congress and signed by a previous president, and we now have him using his DOJ to actively oppose the law in court in an effort to see the law ruled unconstitutional. We need to pray for the nine men and women on the Supreme Court. Specifically, we need to pray that they will hear the case and that they will rule that the DOMA is constitutional, and the president and the DOJ must enforce it.