On Wednesday, Oklahoma’s U.S. senators, James Lankford and James Inhofe voted “not guilty” on both counts in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but it was their votes against calling witnesses that will haunt them.
Under the normal procedures of impeachment, I could accept their votes to acquit; I am not blinkered in my understanding of Oklahoma’s dominant political attitudes. But both men voted against subpoenaing witnesses — a necessary component of any fair trial. And so they only heard from the House prosecution and defense attorneys in this case.
So from where does this surety come that allowed both senators to vote “not guilty?” Lankford and Inhofe chose to not hear witnesses and then acted as if they knew everything about the cases for and against the president.
Many states are represented by people who proudly declare their fealty toward Trump, but as Inhofe’s and Lankford’s constituents, we must judge whether either man deserves his seat. After all, they both chose not to do their jobs.
OpinionFrom George Lang, our lead opinion columnist
Let me be clear about this — doing their jobs did not necessarily require them to vote guilty on the two counts. It did, however, involve fulfilling the oath administered by Chief Justice John Roberts: “Do you solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, president of the United States, now pending, you will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help you God?”
Neither senator kept their oath and both proved they were not willing to “do impartial justice” when they voted against witnesses. By doing so, they chose to avert their eyes from any possible first-person account, whether from former national security advisor John Bolton or anyone else.
They did not want to hear anything that might challenge their unthinking loyalty to the president, and perhaps more importantly, they did not want the voters to hear it.
Because they voted against witnesses, neither senator can be considered a serious person.
Then again, there are nearly 400 bills currently pending in the U.S. Senate, which proves they do not care about fulfilling virtually any of their job requirements. In the words of Bob Slydell in Office Space, “What would you say … you do here?”
How can anyone depend on either Inhofe or Lankford to treat any matter, whether it is a constituent in need or landmark legislation, with sincerity and seriousness when they abrogated their requirement to “do impartial justice” in an impeachment, that most serious of senatorial responsibilities?
In sharp contrast, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, fulfilled his responsibilities as a senator. Not only did Romney vote for witnesses last week, he voted his conscience on the abuse of power charge. Like his father George Romney, who resigned as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in 1973 because he could not stand the stench of illegality wafting from Richard Nixon’s White House, Mitt Romney proved he could stand for something on Wednesday.
His vote was a historic one, and it will live on the annals of history as a heroic moment in our current state of political unrest.
The phrase “profiles in courage,” a reference to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1956 book by John F. Kennedy about eight senators who took principled stands when faced with difficult political choices, is often used ironically these days to describe utterly craven behavior by current politicians.
Romney’s act on Wednesday was an unironic profile in courage, and unlike Lankford and Inhofe, he can stand tall knowing he did the right thing in the face of adversity.
Before the final impeachment vote Wednesday afternoon, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine invoked the words of President Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union speech, which was delivered to Congress on Dec. 1, 1862.
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history,” Lincoln said. “We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.”
Lankford and Inhofe are members of a political party that likes to remind voters that it is “the party of Lincoln,” and yet both Oklahoma senators are seemingly deaf to his words. Thanks to YouTube, the senators will always be able to see footage of themselves ignoring their responsibilities, as will their constituents. We should hold them accountable for not doing their jobs.
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