..Even with acquittal all but ensured, there was no room for constitutional niceties like free speech or due process. There was only one issue — the same one that has driven our media and politics for four years: Trump. Through that time, some of us have objected that extreme legal interpretations and biased coverage destroy our legal and journalistic values.
—-George Washington University Law School professor Jonathan Turley, constitutional law expert, on the conduct of the Democrats before and during the just-completed second Trump impeachment trial.
This statement, as well as the rest of his article for The Hill yesterday, was not only astute (though Turley’s observations should have been obvious) but personally welcome, in part because it tracked exactly with what I have been writing here for four years, but in no small part because I was almost finished with a post making the same points. For Turley to make them is, of course, better, since a lot more people, though not nearly enough, pay attention to what he says. It was especially welcome because not one but two friends (among others) had made fatuous and indefensible assertions about the impeachment in the past two days, inspiring me to start that now redundant post.
My theme was going to be about how their now completely unhinged, Ahab-like mania to destroy the former President had led them to deny the importance of what once were accepted by liberals and conservatives alike—but especially liberals before their rebranding as “progressives”—as crucial, indispensable, core American values relating to personal liberty and government interference with it. The rationalizations employed in this scary process are stunning.
Prime among them as been 2020’s rationalization of the year: “It isn’t what it is,” #64. As I noted in the previous post, a Facebook friend (whom I strongly suspect was one of the self-exiled progressive Ethics Alarms commenters) wrote on the platform to the usual acclaim of “likes” and “loves” that the 57 Senators who voted for this corrupt impeachment were voting “for democracy.” They were in fact doing the opposite, and in many ways, as Turley’s article explains (though again, it should be obvious.) Then, in a discussion with a more rational friend, another lawyer, about how the House impeachment had deliberately bypassed due process, I was told that there is no right of due process in an impeachment proceeding, nor should the prohibition of ex post facto laws and bills of attainder apply. Here was a lawyer making technical arguments against ethics. “Legally, due process only applies to life, liberty, and property,” she lectured. “A job is none of those.”
I could rebut that, but the point is that both the Declaration and the Constitution mark out basic values of our society, not just laws, but ethical values. “Due process” means fairness, and this lawyer, an alleged progressive, was arguing that the government doesn’t have to be fair while depriving the public of an elected official and that elected official of his job, and that individual of his ability to seek that job or another one. This is what hate and arrogance have done to the Left.
…When Donald Trump’s defense counsel objected that he was not afforded due process in the House, the managers shrugged and said due process was not required. When the defense objected that Trump’s Jan. 6 speech was protected under the First Amendment, the House scoffed that free speech is not only inapplicable but “frivolous” in an impeachment. Nothing, it seems, is so sacred that it cannot be discarded in pursuit of Trump. Over and over, it was made clear that his trial is about the verdict, not about our constitutional values…the House could have afforded basic due process but chose not to do so simply because it does not have to. When confronted about this in the Senate, one House manager scoffed at the notion that Trump should be afforded more due process. Representative Ted Lieu said, “Trump is receiving any and all process that he is due.” A chilling answer, since Trump received none in the House. There was a time when denying due process would have been shocking. Even if you believe that due process is not required in an impeachment, it is expected. We do not afford due process to people simply because we have to.
It is like decency, civility and other values. They are not observed because they are mandatory but because they are right. It is a value that defines us and our actions. Moreover, this is a process dedicated to upholding the Constitution. To deny a basic constitutional value in its defense is akin to burning down a house in the name of fire safety. Yet, the House’s position is that a president can be impeached and tried without any record of a hearing, an investigation or witnesses….
Professor Turley, as he sometimes does, trivializes an important point by framing his essay with a dubious analogy to a Rita Hayworth movie. Worse, he feels it necessary to signal his virtue to the progressive mob on his campus by gratuitously saying that he has “no love for Trump,” and added, “I voted against him in two elections and have regularly denounced his actions and rhetoric, including his Jan. 6 speech. However, I cherish our values more than I dislike him.”
I felt compelled to ask on his blog (Turley does not engage with commenters) why, if he cherishes our values so much, he voted in 2020 for a party that had already signaled that it was willing to destroy them.
His essay concluded,
House managers were asked why they did not present a case with specific elements of incitement set forth by the Supreme Court. Lead manager Representative Jamie Raskin said blissfully this case and Trump are a one-time instance of “presidential incitement” with its own ill-defined elements. In other words, it doesn’t have to meet the definition of incitement. Under such logic, the House could have impeached Trump for Endangered Species Act violations and said it need not involve any endangered species.
This impeachment trial captures our age of rage. For four years, people claimed total impunity in discarding legal or journalistic standards. They claimed that attacks on free speech, due process, or media objectivity are noble in pursuit of Trump. You can be lionized for tossing aside such values in order to get him. A few years ago, a trial would have been viewed as wrong without direct evidence, due process, or clear standards. Yet this is a trial of Trump, and many have allowed Trump to define them more than their values.
Wow. I could have written that myself! In fact, I think I have, and many times….but better him than me.