By Rob Hoffman on May 15, 2017 at 5:30 AM
Courage is a funny word. It can garner a lot of meanings. There is the courage to fight on a battlefield. There is the type of courage that a young mother demonstrates who doesn’t have a husband or even a father for her children, and yet she still somehow manages to send well-mannered, well-behaved children to school everyday, while working to support those children. There is the courage demonstrated by people and families that overcome mental and physical disabilities. Many careers in fact require courage.
Then, there’s a particular kind of courage that really isn’t all that courageous, political courage. How would I define “political courage?” In my humble opinion, “political courage” is the act of taking a stand even though it puts you at odds with your own political party, and in turn, significantly jeopardizes your chances of being reelected. In my humble opinion, political courage is a peculiar type of courage since most politicians, unlike the rest of us, are usually wealthy long before they run for public office, and therefore, losing their elected position would typically not cost them too dearly where it hurts the most, their wallets. This is the issue that otherwise prevents almost everybody reading this blog and beyond from going into their boss’s office and telling them to “stick it.”
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Take Orin Hatch…please! Senator Orin Hatch of Utah is 83 years old, and is a millionaire. When was the last time this venerable senator took up a position that was unpopular within his own caucus? I mean, he’s wealthy, and in his 80s, is he really worried about his next election? Could we ever look to him to take a principled stand that would put him at odds with his Republican colleagues in the Senate? (Getty Images)
Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take an honest look at history. Liberals who are licking their chops at the prospect of a Trump impeachment need to holster their weapons. History simply does not bear out that this president will end up being impeached. In fact, only two presidents have ever been impeached, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, and none have been removed by the Senate. Only one has resigned and that was Richard Nixon of course, although he was going to be impeached, and most likely removed from office.
It is therefore a statistical improbability that President Donald J. Trump will be impeached. How can I be so sure? In all three previous cases of proposed presidential removal, the proceedings were perpetrated by the opposition party to the president, when they happened to be in the majority. No political party has ever sought removal of a president from its own party. Right now, whether Democrats or Liberals like it or not, they are not the party in power, and they have no means to make anything happen regarding an investigation of presidential impropriety on the part of the “Orange Menace.”
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For the approximately 60% of the American people who reportedly disapprove of the job the president is doing, the best chance they have of seeing change in the White House is if Trump simply becomes tired, or bored, or frustrated in the job, and abruptly quits, which I believe is certainly not beyond the realm of possibilities. (You Tube)
Of course at this point, there really is no case against the president. Sure, many Democrats and Liberals are angry and alarmed at the staunchly conservative direction this president appears to be taking our country in, but that is the consequence of an election. The winners get to make the laws and decisions, and the Republicans are coming off of a pretty impressive victory this past November in federal, state, and local elections.
For all of those Democrats and Liberals who stayed home, or believed that Hillary was just as bad as Trump, or are bitter that Bernie wasn’t the candidate so they refused to vote because their “Zayde” (Yiddish for grandfather)wasn’t on the ballot, all I can say is, you reap what you sow. Those who stayed home or just couldn’t pull the lever for Hillary are now all apoplectic due to the political, social, and economic direction that Trump is taking the country in. Now their only hope is impeachment. Good luck with that.
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There was simply too much hand-wringing on the left over their agony over whether to support Hillary in 2016. Was she a flawed candidate? No doubt. Did she run a completely awful campaign? Absolutely. Are Liberals and Democrats who stayed home in 2016 enjoying life under Trump? Well, ask them and then get back to me, but I think I know the answer to that one. (You Tube)
Right now, and of course this might change, President Trump has done nothing that we know of that can be proved to the best of our knowledge, in order to be impeached. There are of course rumors of his improprieties in his dealings with Russia, as well as his campaign possibly coordinating with the Russians in 2016, and perhaps this will all come to light, and the House and Senate will have to act, but for now, we are simply waiting as the investigation drags on. Even the firing of FBI director James Comey, while suspicious and poorly timed, appears at least for the moment to have been legal. As for his policies, they may be disturbing for some, but so far they are not illegal either.
However, there are enough “there’s” there, that certainly the Congress should continue its investigation. As I said earlier though, since the Republicans control the gears of government, only they can put any real pressure on the executive branch. American history isn’t exactly teeming with examples of politicians taking principled stands when it comes to their own party’s president, especially when it means risking their congressional seats.
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Senator John McCain of Arizona often teases us with moments of thoughtful criticism and concern over Trump’s behavior, but then he rarely follows through with any meaningful actions that would put any real pressure on this White House. Democrats are often disappointed by McCain, but why would they be? Not only did he support the man who basically called him a loser for being a POW during the Vietnam War, he brought the nation Sarah Palin, lest we forget. (You Tube)
While our history isn’t overloaded with politicians who took heroic stands, there are a select few who should be acknowledged. Abraham Lincoln appeared to destroy his political career in 1848 when he opposed his country’s decision to go to war with Mexico. Lincoln’s stand was so unpopular within his own party, as well as with his constituency back home in Illinois, that he didn’t even bother running for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1850, knowing he was going to lose.
William Jennings Bryan, a man who ran three times as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the presidency, resigned as Secretary of State in 1915 over what he saw as an increasing move on the part of the president he was serving, Woodrow Wilson, towards American entrance into World War One. Bryan was an extremely religious man, a man of principles, and a pacifist, and he believed he could no longer serve as Secretary of State if he was being asked to support something he couldn’t morally get behind.
Compare that to Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Powell knew that there was limited evidence at best of Saddam Hussein attempting to develop a nuclear weapons program. He basically lied to the world at the United Nations, and then, even though he knew it was wrong, he stayed on as Secretary of State. He basically gave his loyalty to the president, as opposed to the nation he had spent a lifetime defending.
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A hero to many, a man who could have been our first African-American president, and an American who bridged the partisan divide in American politics, Powell threw all of that goodwill away at the United Nations in support of a president who was planning an unnessary war with Iraq, rather than resigning over something he knew in his heart was wrong. (You Tube)
One of the most politically courageous stands in American history was taken by a politician most Americans have never heard of, a Republican senator from Maine by the name of Margaret Chase Smith. Senator Smith happened to be in office during one of the most divisive and dangerous time periods in modern American history, the Cold War. It was during this struggle between the United States and our way of life, vs. the Soviet Union and their way of life, that a smarmy, crooked, and drunken opportunist by the name of Joseph McCarthy came to prominence in our nation, and almost singlehandedly destroyed one of our most precious liberties, the right to free speech.
McCarthy used forged documents, false testimony, intimidation, and outright lies to ruin the careers and reputations of politicians, military personal, teachers, actors, union leaders, and others who spoke out against his extremist anti-communist crusade, a crusade that had more to do with his own ego and lust for power, than actually any real effectiveness at rooting out Communist operatives and spies from our government. At one point in the late 1940s and very early 1950s, McCarthy was so powerful and feared, that not even our greatest living hero at the time, General and then later President Dwight D. Eisenhower dared confront or challenge McCarthy as he cut a swath of destruction through American freedom. Who would stand up to this man? Was there a man with the guts to challenge McCarthy, and stare down those who sought to fearmonger? Fear not, because there was, except, it wasn’t a man, it was a woman!
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In case you were wondering, this is what political courage looks like. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was one of the first politicians to speak out against McCarthy and his brutal and dishonest tactics. Hey, Susan Collins? Republican “moderate” Senator from Maine, that presence you feel around you is another “moderate” from Maine’s past egging you on to do the right thing. (Getty Images)
Margaret Chase Smith first began serving in the U.S. Senate in 1949. She waited a whole year before calling out McCarthy in a speech called “Declaration of Conscious.” In her speech, she chastised her own party without mentioning McCarthy by name by saying that her side of the aisle had been hurling charges recklessly without proof.
Interestingly, she at first supported McCarthy, after all, she believed that if there were Communist spies in our state department, let’s find out who they are and expose them. However, she very quickly noticed that McCarthy offered little proof or evidence of such individuals, and she quickly moved to denounce the drunken demagogue. Senator Smith became a great defender of freedom, claiming that all Americans “had the right to criticize … right to hold unpopular beliefs … right to protest; the right of independent thought.” She went even further, saying that she had no desire to see the Republican party “ride to success on the four-horsemen of calamity, fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.” Amen sister!
(This is what political bravery sounds like in case you’ve forgotten since it’s heard so rarely today. You Tube)
If the evidence against Trump and his campaign continues to build, and it becomes more and more certain that he and/or members of his campaign were in “cahoots” with the Russian government, people are going to suspect that the Trunp campaign was offering a “quid pro quo” to Putin and his government. This would also most likely mean that Trump and his business empire was deeply in debt to Putin and the Russians, which means that the American people are going to start demanding answers. Who will emerge on the Republican side as the “Margaret Chase Smith” of the 21st century? Here are the leading contenders:
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan – Ryan demonstrated some gumption during the campaign announcing that he would not actively campaign for Trump. However, as soon as Trump emerged victorious, Ryan couldn’t fall in line fast enough. Democrats, don’t hold your breath.
Senator John McCain – Oh sure, he’ll go on the Sunday talk shows and fain concern, but he never really takes the next step needed to put a halt to the Trump circus.
Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee – So far he has called out Trump for firing Comey, and he has run a solid bipartisan investigation into Trump’s alleged dealings with the Russians. We will see however if he uncovers anything truly damaging, and what he does with that evidence.
Senator Lindsay Graham – He has not been shy about criticizing the president, and he has been determined to try to uncover the truth about the connection between the Russians and the Trump campaign. He is more critical of Trump than McCain.
Congressman Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee – He has turned out to be a joke, rushing over to the White House in secret to take their fake story about Trump being “bugged” by Obama, and providing the public with “evidence” of such an act. He had to recuse himself due to his obvious conflict of interest as Trump’s “lap-dog.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions – The last surviving soldier from the Confederacy, as well as the shortest, Sessions also had to recuse himself from the investigation, even though it didn’t prevent him from helping Trump fire the FBI Director, James Comey
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – He also helped Trump fire Comey, but he refused to be the fall guy to his credit when the White House tried to pin it on him. We will see what he does going forward, but so far his integrity would not appear to be gushing out of his veins.
Senator Marco Rubio – “Little Marco” was eviscerated during the 2016 campaign by then candidate Trump. Rubio has been measured at best in his criticisms of the president, after all, one day he might want to be president, and he will need Republican support. What a principled stand!
Governor Mitt Romney – Mitt criticized Trump during the campaign, only to come running to Trump Tower, “hat in hand” hoping to become Secretary of State. Trump paraded him in front of the press, and then turned him down anyway, because that’s the petty, mean streak that courses through Trump’s veins. So far, Romney’s silence has been deafening. He is probably still waiting for Tillerson to quit, so he wants to stay politically viable. Another man of principle…yeah sure.
Senator Susan Collins – Collins has at least at times voted against some of Trump’s appointees, and has already said that the House’s healthcare bill is dead, but when it comes to Trump’s alleged illegal activities, she has said little to nothing. I find it hard to believe that she approves of Trump’s behavior, and I can’t help but wonder if she will ever truly show any backbone in regards to the nonsense coming out of the White House, or throw her support behind the idea of an independent investigator into Trump’s dealings with the Russians. I think you have a better chance of her saying that lobster sucks, before we see her take a stand against the president.
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It’s hard to have scruples when you are so consumed with power, right Mitt? (Getty Images)
If you are a Democrat or a Liberal, or somebody who is just interested in protecting our democratic institutions, such as our presidential elections, then I’m afraid there aren’t a lot of Republicans right now who are going to ride in like the Calvary and really see once and for all see if Trump and his campaign were in collusion with the Russians. I find it incredible that the party of Reagan can sit back and be comfortable with the idea that the Russians, led by an ex-KGB agent, disrupted our presidential election, and they are okay with that since their side won.
I wonder what it would take for the Republicans to turn on their leader, and which Republican would be the one to do it? When Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1999, five Democrats crossed party lines and voted with the Republicans, and 12 Republicans voted against the impeachment. It’s hard to imagine that today’s Congress is more divided than the one from the 1990s, but in fact it is. There is a clear opportunity to reverse that trend, and seek out common ground in the possible illegal activities of this president. There is a chance for both parties to come together and do the right thing, and make sure that this president did not commit treason by conspiring with an enemy government in order to win the presidency. I’m going to hold my breath until it starts happening…starting now.