In the coming months, we’ll see some true Republican heroes, people who stand with the constitution and the rule of law. We saw it during the Watergate hearings, most notably Republican Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, who famously asked, “What did the President know and when did he know it?” Members like Utah Senator Mitt Romney and Florida Congressman Francis Rooney are already stepping up.
Richard Burr, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, could be one of those figures, using the opportunity to turn his relatively forgettable Senate tenure into a more lasting legacy. Burr has said he’s not running for re-election so he has little to lose politically. While he’s not one to cause dissention, Burr’s also not as hyper-partisan as his colleagues like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham or Texas Senator John Cornyn.
Thom Tillis, though, won’t be one of those heroes. He’s doubling down on his support of Trump even as evidence mounts against the president and the public begins to sour on him. Eventually, Tillis may switch sides like he’s done on some many issues. He’ll put what he believes is best for his political career first.
Mitch McConnell, for his part, only cares about keeping the Senate. According to the New York Times, he’s told Senators to do what is best politically for them. It sure would be nice if some political leader in the Republican Party would tell them to do what’s best for the country.
Right now, Republicans are doing all they can to discredit the impeachment inquiry even as witness after witness justifies it. The Senate is trying to pass a resolution condemning the House proceedings for holding hearings behind closed doors even though Democrats are following rules written by the GOP when they controlled the chamber. Attorney General William Barr has opened a criminal investigation into the Russian probe that led to the Mueller Report. It’s all noise meant to distract. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who has already been censured by the Florida Bar Association for intimidating witnesses, led a group of GOP Congressmen to occupy the impeachment hearing room, complaining Republicans were being shut out of the process when, in fact, a quarter of the protestors were already allowed in the hearing room.
The country saw similar tactics from Republicans during Watergate. GOP Members of Congress defended Nixon right to the end. The language they used then is similar to what we’re hearing now. They called it a witch hunt and attacked the press for being complicit. However, the facts bore out the truth back then and they’re doing the same now. As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted, “For all the talk by Graham and others about messaging, the White House problem is mostly that some of this is an objectively problematic fact set that witnesses have described, not the messaging.” And as Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, “Ask yourself why no facts favorable to the president have leaked from the Republican side. It’s not because they don’t leak. It’s because there aren’t any.”
I suspect the Senate will vote to acquit Trump despite a mountain of evidence that emerges against him during the Senate trial. Still, a few Republicans will stand by their principles instead of their party. Those people will be remembered favorably by history. Ones who choose to go down with a clearly corrupt president will be largely forgotten or vilified. It’ll be interesting to see whether North Carolina’s Senators are heroes or zeroes.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >