Sunday, January 26, 2020

An Elusive Courage

This was not Winston Churchill, determined to rally his nation to continue the fight against the Nazis despite a military setback. Nor was it President Kennedy challenging those who saw no difference between "the free world and the communist world" to "come to Berlin." It wasn't quite as good as Hubert H. Humphrey's address at the 1948 Democratic Convention in which he boldly and bravely declared "the time has arrived for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of state's rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights."  Certainly it wasn't the equal of arguably the greatest speech ever given by an American, in which Reverend King quoted a 19th century Unitarian minister in reminding us that "the arc of the moral universe is long."

But it was excellent, elegant and eloquent, notwithstanding pundits being loathe to admit it. The rats were sent scurrying as their cowardice was called out by one congressman who said out loud what is whispered among his colleagues in Washington but must not be spoken of in polite company. Adam Schiff's closing statement in the impeachment near-trial on Friday included

Is moral courage really more rare than that on a battlefield? And then I saw what Robert Kennedy meant by moral courage. Few, he said, are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues and the wrath of their society.

And then I understood by that measure just how rare moral courage is, how many of us are willing to brave the disapproval of our fellows, the censure of our colleagues, and the wrath of our society.

Just as those who have not served in uniform can't fully understand what military service means, so, too, there is a different kind of fraternity and sorority among those who have served in office.

I always tell my constituents there are two kinds of jobs in Congress and it's not Democrats and Republicans. It's those from a safe seat and those from an unsafe set, and I'm sure the same is true for those from a safe state and those from an unsafe state.

It's why I think there is a certain chemistry between members who represent those swing districts and states because they can step in each other's shoes.

And one of the things that we in this fellowship of office holders understand that most people don't is that real political courage doesn't come from disagreeing with our opponents but from disagreeing with our friends and with our own party because it means having to stare down accusations of disloyalty and betrayal. He's a Democrat in Name Only or she's a Republican In Name Only.

What I said last night if it resonated in this chamber didn't require courage. My views, as heartfelt as they are, reflect the views of my constituents. But what happens when our heartfelt views of right and wrong are in conflict with the popular opinion of our constituents?What happens when our devotion to our oaths, to our values, to our love of country depart from a momentary passion of the people back home? Those are  the times that try our souls.

CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that GOP senators were warned "vote against our president, vote against the President and your head will be on a pike."

Now, I don't know if that's true. Vote against the President and your head will be on  a pike. I have to say when I read that- and again I don't know if it's true- but when I read that I was struck by the irony, by the irony. I hope it's not true, I hope it's not true.

But I was struck by the irony of the idea- where we're talking about a president talking about a president who could make himself a monarch that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was imposed by a monarch- head on a pike.

The feigned shock and outrage by GOP senators was stunningly dishonest, as numerous commentors noted. However, it was perhaps bestunderstood, and most poignantly explained, by the former Department of Justice employee and current MSNBC security analyst:

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