Our leaders are the finest men
And we elect them again and again – Tom Paxton
There were giants in the United States Senate in those days, or so we might have learned in school, read in a Stephen Vincent Benét short story, or in a folk song about this land that’s made for you and me.
In 1955, according to the Senate’s own website, a committee of scholars was formed to identify past members of the world’s greatest deliberative body that were supposed exemplars of legislative accomplishment and personal integrity. And like its Senate parent, the committee sat – and deliberated.
Four years later – exactly sixty years ago, those 65 Senate greats were pared down to what was called the Famous Five – Henry Clay of Kentucky, Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, and Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin.
There was one more member of that Fab Five – An Ohio Republican, Senator Robert A. Taft Sr.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, John F. Kennedy considered Taft, a conservative and son of a president and chief justice of the Supreme Court, to be one of the greatest members of the U.S. Senate in the twentieth century because of the principled stand he took about the nature of the Nuremberg Trials. Taft’s nickname, “Mr. Republican,” was appropriate.
Yes, there were giants in those days. But that was then, in another time, before the age of rabid tribalism that today is consuming our Republic. We don’t have to look any farther than a current member of the U.S. Senate to see the distance we have traveled from principled conservatism to that tribalism which is rapidly depleting the oxygen from your land and my land.
Which brings us to the present.
Robert Jones Portman has several things in common with Robert A. Taft. In addition to sharing the same first name, both were born in Cincinnati, both were elected to represent Ohio in the U. S. Senate, and both are Republicans.
Robert A. Taft – senate.gov
However, that’s about as far as it goes. Taft was identified by his contemporaries as a principled conservative, as shown in that nickname of Mr. Republican.
Few if any observers would use the word principled as a descriptor when painting a picture of the current Republican U.S. Senator from Ohio. But in a twisted way, Portman may yet wind up becoming the modern-day Mr. Republican, as that term is now synonymous with a political party that is the very manifestation of hypocrisy and amnesia.
In 1998, Portman was a Congressman who voted in favor of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. This is what he said at the time:
I believe the evidence of serious wrongdoing is simply too compelling to be swept aside. I’m particularly troubled by the clear evidence of lying under oath, and the truth must be the bedrock of our judicial system…
Not so fast. The Plain Dealer’s Jeff Darcy added this footnote to Portman’s equivocation and amnesia on impeachment:
Decades later, Portman and his fellow Republicans repeatedly swept aside Trump’ s lies about his affairs with porn stars and Playboy playmates, among other women.
But the problem with politicians who practice hypocrisy and amnesia is that their constituents are particularly troubled by the clear evidence of that hypocrisy and amnesia. In the case of Portman, national observers have joined with Portman’s constituents in calling him out on his stance toward impeachment now as compared to then.
The Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin did a very effective job in describing Portman as a “Trump enabler:”
He is just shy of 64 years old, a former director of the Office of Management and Budget, a former U.S. trade representative, a former congressman and now in his second term in the Senate. You would think, by this time, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) would feel free to follow his conscience, the consequences be damned.
Hmm. If use of the word former is in vogue here, you might want to add that Rob Portman is a model for his former beliefs in asserting that conduct and veracity are important in evaluating a president.
But Portman, as an enabler and “good” Republican, wants to change the subject.
In a recent interview with a Columbus television station, Portman said that there should be no action for impeachment because- are you ready for this – we are too close to an election.
Let’s not impeach. The time isn’t right, isn’t convenient. We are too close to an election.
Forget about bribery as it relates to withholding military aid from Ukraine, an American ally under constant military pressure and attack from Trump’s friend, Vladimir Putin. Forget about Trump’s status as Individual 1, an unindicted co-conspirator in the campaign finance violation that sent his attorney, Michael Cohen, to prison. Forget about conspiracy with a hostile foreign power by inviting the Kremlin to share stolen emails. Forget about violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. And forget about obstruction of Congress in not supplying documents to the inquiry and blocking the testimony of White House staff.
Fuhgeddaboudit, as the Soprano Organization said then – and the Trump Organization says now.
Back then, Portman was concerned with “clear evidence” of a president lying about a blowjob. Today, he and his colleagues have no problem about a president lying about everything else and obstructing an investigation designed to examine his behavior. It is apparent that in the full-fledged effort now underway with the Republican snowjob, characterized by enablers like Rob Portman and Lindsey Graham in the Senate and Jim Jordan in the House, they are signaling that Trump’s conduct in office does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense. Unlike a blowjob.
That was then.
As Rob Portman is more closely examined for his tendency to display hypocrisy and amnesia as well as perfecting his role as a Trump enabler, we can only hope that he can discard his chocolate eclair of a spine and develop a backbone in putting country first. Once upon a time, he was concerned about presidential conduct. That was then.
If, upon further reflection, you think it important enough to weigh in on his double-standard criteria when it comes to presidential behavior, contact him and let him know how you feel. Feel free to reach him at https://www.portman.senate.gov/meet/contact
One upon a time, there were giants in the United States Senate like a United States Senator from Ohio who took a principled stand that probably cost him the nomination of his party for president. Yes, a Republican United States Senator from Cincinnati by the name of Robert let his core values guide him.
That was then.
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