Profiles in Courage: Mitt Romney and Doug Jones

On a profoundly sad day for this country, Republican senators voted to end a sham trial after calling no witnesses, exonerating Trump on two counts of impeachment. While there is no denying that such an action strikes a blow to the heart of our democratic republic, it also highlighted two profiles in courage.

Senator Mitt Romney, who was the Republican nominee for president in 2012, voted “guilty” on the first impeachment charge of abuse of power. While his Republican constituents in Utah have no love lost for Trump and are not likely to punish him for that vote, the rest of his party is already seeking revenge.

The senator addressed that possibility during his remarks prior to the vote.

I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?…

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.

While I disagree with Romney on many issues, I admire him for his political courage and hope that one day we can get back to debating those issues with conservatives like him who are willing to put country before party.

The other senator who displayed a profile in courage is Democrat Doug Jones. He barely won a special election in the deeply red state of Alabama in 2018, against a horrific opponent. He faces re-election in 2020 and risked the political ire of Trump-loving Republicans in his state (the president’s net approval rating in Alabama is +23 percent) by voting “guilty” on both impeachment counts. That vote could very well cost him re-election. Here are some of his remarks from the Senate floor.

The President’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril. That belief, unprecedented in the history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand. To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistleblower or witness will ever come forward and no future President—Democrat or Republican — will be subject to Congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution.

Senators are elected to make tough choices. We are required to study the facts of each issue before us and exercise our independent judgment in keeping with the oaths we take. The gravity of this moment, the seriousness of the charges, and the implications for future presidencies and Congresses all contributed to the difficulty with which I have arrived at my decision.

We have grown used to being cynical about politicians. That is often warranted by those who seem to put their own interests above those they represent. But at least for today, in a vote that will define their professional careers, Mitt Romney and Doug Jones did the opposite. They voted to defend what is right and true because, as Representative Adam Schiff said, it matters. You don’t need to agree with either of them on anything else to commend their courage.

As for the rest of the Republican crew, here’s some advice from Senator Brian Schatz.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.