Profile in Courage

I’m no fan of Mitt Romney.

I’ve always thought he comes across as humorless, patrician, and condescending, an uptight son of privilege who’s too eager to wag a sanctimonious finger at his lessers. And the vibe I get is that we’re all lesser in his view, unless we belong to his church or his economic class, preferably both. The fact that he’s a hero to so many in my home state just makes him all the more grating: savior of the 2002 Winter Olympics and an aspirational role model of capitalistic success with perfect executive-style hair (never mind that his particular flavor of capitalism is the twisted evil kind that drives companies into the ground and ruins workers’ lives while a small handful of Wall Street gamblers makes enormous bank). Some true believers even claimed for a time that he was the fulfillment of a bit of Mormon folklore about a member of the Church riding in on a white horse to save the country when “the Constitution dangles by a thread.” Insert eyeroll here.

I’ve got to hand it to him, though: I think he showed true courage and character yesterday when he broke ranks with his party to vote “guilty” in the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump,  the only Republican with spine enough — and moral clarity enough — to do so. He knew it would cost him; he even addressed that possibility in the speech he gave before the vote. And sure enough, a lot of those same folks who were so quick to link him with that hoary old prophecy in 2012 are this morning calling him a traitor (ironic, considering that, well, the Constitution is dangling by a thread right now, and Mormon Mitt did what he could to try to save it). I have no doubt Trump has underlined his name three times on the Imperial Enemies List, and back here in Utah, our local Republican apparatchiks have called him in to discuss censuring him or maybe even recalling him from Washington for good.

No matter what happens in that regard, though, he followed his conscience, and I respect that.

His full statement is worth reading if you’ve got a minute, but here’s the important bits:

The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the president committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a “high crime and misdemeanor.”

Yes, he did.

The president asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival.

The president withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so.

The president delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders.

The president’s purpose was personal and political.

Accordingly, the president is guilty of an appalling abuse of the public trust.

What he did was not “perfect” — no, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security interests, and our fundamental values. 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.

I acknowledge that my verdict will not remove the president from office. The results of this Senate court will in fact be appealed to a higher court: the judgment of the American people. Voters will make the final decision, just as the president’s lawyers have implored. My vote will likely be in the minority in the Senate. But irrespective of these things, with my vote, I will tell my children and their children that I did my duty to the best of my ability, believing that my country expected it of me. I will only be one name among many, no more or less, to future generations of Americans who look at the record of this trial. They will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.

We’re all footnotes at best in the annals of history. But in the most powerful nation on earth, the nation conceived in liberty and justice, that is distinction enough for any citizen.

Now, there are cynics who say that this was a calculated move to play both sides of the aisle and gain some good press clippings to use in another possible run at the Oval Office in 2024. I suppose anything’s possible. But I honestly don’t get that feeling from any of these words. I watched the video of him delivering this statement, and I do think he was sincere.

I still don’t like the guy and I will never vote for him. He’s still all the things I said in my introduction, and by his own admission he’s voted for about 80% of Trump’s agenda, which in my opinion is more than enough to disqualify him from the presidency. (Let’s be honest, the odds of me ever voting for a Republican for any office are virtually nil at this point.) But he did a good and honorable thing yesterday.

Frankly, he surprised me.

I only wish a few more of his fellows had been equally as strong and unexpected with their votes.