By Tom MacArthur
Some years ago, a dear friend of mine was convicted of a crime and sent to prison for five years. He was like a brother to me, and although the prison was a terrible and depressing place, we visited there together throughout those years. Despite our friendship, one thing was clear to both of us. He was guilty. That’s the thing about guilt — it doesn’t change based on how you feel about someone.
Just this past March, Nancy Pelosi told the Washington Post, “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan (emphasis mine), I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country”. Speaker Pelosi has been around for a while and she understood that a real high crime would elicit a similar response from good people on both sides of the aisle. But there has not been a bipartisan response to the impeachment question. Why not?
Let’s consider what would happen if a popular democratic president had made the exact same phone call to Ukraine as President Trump. Does anyone honestly believe that House Democrats would be insisting with such righteous indignation that their president be impeached under those circumstances? The Republicans now defending the call would be criticizing it and Democrats would be ascribing different motives — a desire for accountability at the highest levels, care in spending American taxpayer dollars abroad, etc.
I’m left with the unhappy conclusion that for too many people, whether they think President Trump is guilty of an impeachable offense is based on how they feel about him in general. This does not pass the test of real guilt, which is immutable regardless of how we feel about someone. We have a completely partisan process because there is not enough here to draw good people from both sides of the aisle to the same conclusions regardless of how they feel about President Trump. These so-called high crimes simply wouldn’t be high enough to elicit the same response from each person if the party’s roles were reversed.
As members of Congress vote, they must answer this question — would they try to remove a president of their own political party for this same offense? Unless our representatives can really convince us they would have acted the same way all along with a democratic president — and I think they would struggle to convince even themselves of this — then they must answer for why they are putting their political party before their country.
Former U.S. Representative Tom MacArthur (R) represented New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District from January 2015 to January 2019.