In a column for the conservative Bulwark, Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy accused the Republicans of botching their defense of Donald Trump during his impeachment trial, saying they will someday be haunted by the positions they took.
Noting that the president said of his acquittal that it’s a “gorgeous word,” Healy maintained it may not pan out for Republican lawmakers in the same way.
“Whether you cheer or jeer the Senate’s refusal to convict, the more important question is, what precedent did it set? Unlike Supreme Court majority opinions, impeachment verdicts don’t explain themselves. ‘Not guilty’ can mean anything from total vindication to ‘contemptible behavior that doesn’t quite justify removal.’ A great deal turns on how senators from the president’s party explain their votes,” he wrote. “On that score, Senate Republicans sent a distressingly mixed message in the impeachment trial’s immediate aftermath. In their floor speeches explaining their votes, too few managed to clearly condemn Trump’s misuse of presidential power for personal benefit. And too many embraced novel constitutional theories, concocted by Trump’s defense team, that would license more dramatic presidential abuses in the future.”
Healy continued, “No one today thinks the lesson of Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment acquittal was ‘fooling around with an intern and lying about it in court is totally OK. It was a ‘perfect” . . . er, fling!’ In part, that’s because nearly every Democratic senator condemned Clinton’s behavior in harsh terms: ‘abhorrent’; ‘deplorable on every level’; ‘immoral, disgraceful, reprehensible’—and worse. Indeed, immediately after the verdict, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) tried and failed to force a vote on her resolution censuring the president for ‘shameless, reckless and indefensible’ behavior and ‘false or misleading testimony.'”
the columnists noted that the Republicans’ equivocations may one day be used in another case involving a Democrat that will put them on the spot — all because they are afraid of Trump.
“Did fear of White House retribution—visions of heads on pikes—cause any Republicans to mute their criticism and fall in line?” he asked. “There’s no way to tell. What is clear is that there was an intellectually defensible, even honorable, way to acquit President Trump without whitewashing his behavior or holding the door open to further abuse. For whatever reason, too few GOP senators chose that path.”
You can read the whole piece here.