1. The Man Who Was There
The impeachment trial is over, and the Senate voted against Donald Trump’s removal from office. I don’t like to say that he was “acquitted,” because this was not a criminal trial, and because all the facts presented confirmed that he actually did what he was accused of. Republicans in the Senate merely made a political decision not to do anything about it.
All but one. The man who stood alone—the only Senator not voting along party lines—was Mitt Romney.
I have long been a critic of Romney and only reluctantly supported him in 2012. I backed him partly because he wasn’t Barack Obama and also because he and Paul Ryan might have tried to tackle entitlement reform. The reluctance is his history as a typical flip-flopping politician. I even once described him as “The Man Who Wasn’t There” for his failure to stand up for free-market ideas during his presidential campaign.
On Wednesday, Mitt Romney was the man who was there.
I think Jonathan Last has the best read on why Romney took this stand despite his record as a triangulating politician in earlier stages of his career. “[H]e didn’t have core ideas, he had core values: He was, at base, a politician who cared about decency.”
Watch the video of Romney’s statement on the Senate floor. The most eloquent part is the full ten seconds of silence after he says, “As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential.”
His expression doesn’t change, and his voice doesn’t break. He is silent and stone-still. Maybe you have to be from Utah—or from the Upper Midwest—to recognize the weight of that silence. This is what it looks like when a man with a stoic and reserved disposition is overwhelmed by emotion. He really means those words, and I take it on face value that he voted as he did because he could not stand before his God if he did otherwise.
More important than the moral clarity of Romney’s speech is its intellectual clarity. Here are the most important parts.
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