When I took my oath as a new Foreign Service officer I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States, just as a President does. I don’t recall anything about “whenever it is convenient,” or “whenever I agreed with it.” It really wasn’t an either/or kind of commitment. It was my full-time job, just as it is for millions of others.
So I was appalled when I learned from the Winston-Salem Journal today that the Republicans the reporter interviewed declared the current impeachment inquiry “a waste of time.” The implication, I assume, was that there was no impeachable conduct on the part of the President or that it didn’t matter. They are wrong on both counts. That is, if you believe the Constitution.
The noted historian Jon Meacham calls the impeachment “America on Trial” in the latest issue of TIME. It is a test, he claims, to determine if Americans will be guided by reason instead of passion, fact rather than faith, evidence rather than tribe. Rep. Jim Jordan, for example, has plenty of passion, but not a lot of “reason.” Not so long ago, he and the Republicans were dismissing the whistle-blower’s allegations as if they were based on nothing more than hearsay. Yesterday, Jordan claimed the nation “would never know the truth” if the whistle-blower didn’t appear before the committee despite the damning evidence by two distinguished public servants who have absolutely nothing to gain except to reinforce their professional pride. Not a single Republican elected official has denied the evidence because they know they would look foolish if they did. It is all there for Americans to see. But some Americans, guided by faith rather than fact, are in denial because “nothing happened.” If they were convinced of that, it would mean they have put the President above the law. As Meacham says, to hold to such views are driven more by “tribal” instincts than the evidence in front of them. A person close to me calls them “the blissfully ignorant.”
Be that as it may, defending and protecting the Constitution is a full-time job because it is the foundation of such a fragile form of government that it requires constant vigilance by the governed, i.e.: us. It can work only when there is good-will and participation, a willingness to compromise, and being informed. The test Meacham proposes is to determine if the three legs of our wobbly stool are still strong enough to support us all.
It is always the “right time” to make sure it does remain strong because if it collapses, like Humpty Dumpty, it may be impossible to put it back together again this time.