Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii Congresswoman who is engaged in a quixotic effort to win the Democratic nomination for President from the relative center, became the fourth House Democrat not to vote for both articles of impeachment, instead voting “present.” Here is her statement explaining the non- vote:
Throughout my life, whether through serving in the military or in Congress, I’ve always worked to do what is in the best interests of our country. Not what’s best for me politically or what’s best for my political party. I have always put our country first. One may not always agree with my decision, but everyone should know that I will always do what I believe to be right for the country that I love. After doing my due diligence in reviewing the 658-page impeachment report, I came to the conclusion that I could not in good conscience vote either yes or no.
I am standing in the center and have decided to vote Present. I could not in good conscience vote against impeachment because I believe President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing.
I also could not in good conscience vote for impeachment because removal of a sitting President must not be the culmination of a partisan process, fueled by tribal animosities that have so gravely divided our country. When I cast my vote in support of the impeachment inquiry nearly three months ago, I said that in order to maintain the integrity of this solemn undertaking, it must not be a partisan endeavor. Tragically, that’s what it has been.
On the one side — The president’s defenders insist that he has done nothing wrong. They agree with the absurd proclamation that his conduct was “perfect.” They have abdicated their responsibility to exercise legitimate oversight, and instead blindly do the bidding of their party’s leader.
On the other side — The president’s opponents insist that if we do not impeach, our country will collapse into dictatorship. All but explicitly, they accuse him of treason. Such extreme rhetoric was never conducive to an impartial fact-finding process.
The Founders of our country made clear their concerns about impeachment being a purely partisan exercise. In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton warned against any impeachment that would merely “connect itself with the pre-existing factions,” and “enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.” In such cases, he said, “there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.”
Donald Trump has violated public trust. Congress must be unequivocal in denouncing the president’s misconduct and stand up for the American people and our democracy. To this end, I have introduced a censure resolution that will send a strong message to this president and future presidents that their abuses of power will not go unchecked, while leaving the question of removing Trump from office to the voters to decide.
I am confident that the American people will decide to deliver a resounding rebuke of President Trump’s innumerable improprieties and abuses. And they will express that judgment at the ballot box. That is the way real and lasting change has always occurred in this great country: through the forcefully expressed will of the people.
A house divided cannot stand. And today we are divided. Fragmentation and polarity are ripping our country apart. This breaks my heart, and breaks the hearts of all patriotic Americans, whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents.
So today, I come before you to make a stand for the center, to appeal to all of you to bridge our differences and stand up for the American people.
My vote today is a vote for much needed reconciliation and hope that together we can heal our country. Let’s work side-by-side, seeking common ground, to usher in a bright future for the American people and our nation.
If you expect Ethics Alarms to award Gabbard an Ethics Hero designation for such equivocation, you don’t know me very well yet.
This is a lazy and cynical dodge. Either the President should be impeached, or he should not. “Present” accomplishes nothing and risks nothing. It is a calculated way to appear independent without really opposing her party’s action. The statement reveals this.
She says she cannot vote against impeachment because she believes President Trump is guilty of wrongdoing. She is obligated, then, to explain why “the wrongdoing” is impeachable in her view. The Constitution does not say that a President can be impeached for “wrongdoing,” which is often a subjective assessment. This echoes the vague and oddly similar accusations of “corruption” hurled against President Trump in last night’s debate (more on that later today). What corruption? What wrongdoing? Pulling out of the Paris accords isn’t “wrongdoing,” for example, except to those who think the agreement is necessary to save the world. If “putting children in cages” is wrongdoing, then why wasn’t Barack Obama impeached? Gabbard never specifies why she can’t oppose impeachment. She says Trump has violated a public trust. Really? How? I ask the anti-Trump Borg this often, and get nothing satisfactory or substantive back.
She says (as they often say) he has “abused power.” That appears to mean, in “resistance-ese,” that the President has used his power in ways the Left doesn’t like. That’s also not impeachable. She alludes to “innumerable improprieties and abuses,” without naming any. All of this boils down to more “Orange Man Bad”—a cop out.
Having not made a case for favoring impeachment, she fails to explain why not voting for impeachment makes any sense, unless she doesn’t feel impeachment is justified. “I am confident that the American people will decide to deliver a resounding rebuke of President Trump’s innumerable improprieties and abuses… at the ballot box,” she says. OK, then she agrees that impeachment is wrong. She should have voted against it. The Democrats are doing this because 1) they don’t trust the people to vote against Trump, regarding his supporters as racists and dolts, and 2) they obviously want to use impeachment as a way to manipulate the 2020 election. If Gabbard believes that—and she should—then she ought to unequivocally stand against impeachment.
“A house divided cannot stand. And today we are divided. Fragmentation and polarity are ripping our country apart,” she says. It is her party that has delivered this division, with the impeachment being its zenith. Since her party knows that the impeachment in the House will have no effect except more division, she cannot credibly say that it “breaks the hearts of all patriotic Americans, whether we are Democrats, Republicans, or Independents,” since it is completely unnecessary. Or is she saying that Rep. Tlaib as well as her other colleagues whose faces were wreathed in smiles after the impeachment vote, are not patriotic? If she is, then she is obfuscating.
“So today, I come before you to make a stand for the center, to appeal to all of you to bridge our differences and stand up for the American people,” she says. Refusing to take a stand isn’t a stand. Lincoln’s predecessor in the White House, President James Buchanan took such a “stand for the center” right before the Civil War: he held that the South had no legal right to secede, but the North had no legal right to stop them if they did. Today he is regarded as perhaps our worst and weakest President, refusing to lead when leadership was most needed. Gabbard is taking the Buchanan approach to leadership, which is not to lead at all.
“I come before you to make a stand for the center, to appeal to all of you to bridge our differences and stand up for the American people,” she says, meaning what? Should Democrats stand down, and act like a responsible opposition political party, eschewing name-calling and offering to respect the fact of Trump’s presidency—which they have never done? If so, then she should have voted against impeachment. In the alternative, should Democrats continue their scorched- earth strategy, and use impeachment a a partisan weapon, which she admits the Founders did not intend? If so, then she should have the courage to support her party, and own what happens as a result of their ruthlessness
Neither leading, nor following, offering symbolic action in place of substance, Rep. Gabbard refused to give impeachment the serious treatment it deserved, and simultaneously did not have the guts to make a unambiguous statement of whether impeachment was right or wrong.
If that’s how “the center” operates, no wonder the nation is polarized.