From the well of the Senate, two profiles in courage emerged. Two senators — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — dug into their consciences and announced, at potentially great personal cost, that they would endure whatever wrath may come and do what in their hearts they know is right: vote to convict the president.
Senators Mitt Romney of Utah, a Republican, and Doug Jones of Alabama, a Democrat, do not possess enough power to change the preordained outcome of the vote. But their decision to pay the price of doing the right thing — the onslaught of a president and his party, and a backlash from voters, respectively — is a balm for a traumatized nation. This deeply divided country, where partisanship and self-interest seem to be sweeping away principles and patriotism, is still home to at least two men of integrity.
That makes Romney’s decision all the more remarkable. Speaking in the Senate, he explained his decision in moving moral, ethical and patriotic terms. He paused to regain his composure, saying, “I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”
Romney was implacable in his judgment of a president who, “asked a foreign government to investigate a political rival,” then “withheld funds from that government to press it to do so,” and did it for personal political gain. He called it “an appalling abuse of public trust,” reaching a devastating conclusion, “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.”
Romney is a conservative and said he agrees with much of what Trump has done, “but my promise before God to apply impartial justice required that I put my personal feelings and political biases aside.”
It was as much an indictment of the President as an unspoken judgment of his Republican colleagues, who excused, denied and minimized the President’s behavior. Some, like Sen. Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski, acknowledged the President acted improperly, but refused to do anything about it. Most others wouldn’t even allow a real trial, blocking witnesses and then disingenuously claiming there was insufficient testimony to convict.
The decision to convict was no less wrenching for Sen. Jones, who admitted to spending many sleepless nights before making his decision.
But like Romney, Jones’ own conscience stood in the way of political expediency. In announcing his vote, he quoted from Robert Kennedy: “Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues. … Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence.” But, it is “an essential quality for those who seek to change the world.”
In the end, he saw, “a picture of a president who has placed his personal interest above the interest of the nation, and in so doing threatened our national security…”
I disagree. An ethical core and stubborn integrity, are the rocket fuel of courage.
Both Romney and Jones were modest in their bravery, bracing for what comes next. But it is not they but many of their colleagues who should lower their gaze. The bravery of two members of Congress underscores the cowardice of so many others.