This week I challenged Bob Goodlatte, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. I challenged him on his home turf and, with the help of the media, in front of his public.
I’d like to suggest that the way I confronted Goodlatte could be translated into a nationwide program to confront all the Republicans in Congress who are protecting Trump rather than the Constitution. (And that seems to be most of those Republicans, like all those who voted not to require Trump to release his tax returns.)
My confrontation with Goodlatte was a bit of political theater in which – standing on the steps of his Harrisonburg congressional office -- I challenged him to debate me on the proposition:
“The American people have probable cause to believe that Donald Trump represents a threat to the constitutional order.”
Goodlatte – like all the members of Congress – has taken a solemn oath “to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Therefore, if the proposition is true, then Goodlatte would be required – by what our founders would have called his “sacred honor” -- to look into the very real possibility (I’d say, probability) that President Trump has committed impeachable offenses.
Goodlatte is in a position particularly relevant to this crisis: he is Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, where matters of impeachment must begin. And that means he especially has a duty, given his oath to protect the Constitution, to get to investigate whether Trump “represents a threat to the constitutional order.”
Threats, after all, are what a Constitution needs to be protected from.
What enabled me to get attention for this particular approach --challenging Goodlatte to debate me -- was the fact that Bob Goodlatte and I had debated three times before, during the campaign of 2012, when I was his Democratic opponent.
I ran against Goodlatte – and the Republican Party whose tool he invariably is -- on the slogan, “Truth. For a change.” Bob Goodlatte – an ambitious man who has advanced to his present position by always running the plays the Party leadership calls – can always be counted on to mouth the falsehoods and misdirections of his degraded Republican Party.
It is a Party that, over the past generation, has become the Party of the Lie. This moral decay has now culminated in the Republican Party now giving us, to be our president, that extraordinary liar Donald Trump.
Challenging Goodlatte this past week was another effort to champion the truth—this time the truth that we have probable cause to suspect that Donald Trump must be impeached.
Not every Republican in the Congress (House or Senate) is in so pivotal a position as Goodlatte is as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. But every one of them has a role to play in dealing with a president who threatens our constitutional order.
And every one of them has sworn a solemn oath to protect the Constitution.
An oath is a solemn commitment, generally before God. It is a commitment that one will do everything possible to fulfill one's pledge. In its medieval roots, the swearing of such an oath means that, if it comes to that, one is prepared to keep one's promise even to the point of death.
With an oath, there’s no weighing of options. It is an unqualified commitment. An oath does not leave room for one to do otherwise because keeping it would be politically inconvenient, because one’s ambitions would be better fulfilled if one protected one’s dishonest Party and one’s Party’s Destroyer of a president.
But that putting partisan politics and personal ambition ahead of sacred honor pretty well characterizes how the Republicans in general, including Goodlatte, are dealing the current threat from the grotesque president they foisted upon the nation.
Which opens up a suitable channel for political action for the Resistance to Trump: launch a national campaign to pressure the Republicans to honor their oath and move quickly to examine the question of Trump’s impeachable offenses.
As a name for this campaign, I propose “Impeach Trump?”
The question mark is an essential part of the message, because what it calls for is an inquiry. Not prejudging. Not charges and a trial. But an investigation to answer the urgent questions, “Has Donald Trump committed impeachable offenses? Is he a threat to the constitutional order?”
Two things are needed:
First, an investigation specifically focused on the matter of impeachment. Neither the FBI nor the Intelligence Committee investigations are oriented toward that question, and so they do not fulfill the need.
Second, we need for the hearings to be public -- as happened so memorably and admirably at the time of Watergate -- to educate the public. That’s the only way we can hope to get the American people prepared to accept what the evidence uncovered shows, and what actions that may require.
The Republicans have long been putting Party ahead of nation. But their protecting Trump now should be especially hazardous to them, for we can dramatize that such a choice means breaking the most solemn kind of promise our civilization knows, an oath.
Impeach Trump? can be a hammer to wield across the nation against the congressional Republicans who are violating their oath.