An Appalling Lack of Courage

Sen. Lamar Alexander

By Rosetta Miller Perry

Lamar Alexander’s lengthy term as the state’s senior Senator, as well as his overall distinguished record of service to not just Tennessee’s citizens but the nation, is nearing an end. Sadly, he’s not going out the way a distinguished legislator, former governor, Cabinet member and university president should, with people proudly saluting their tenure and recalling multiple accomplishments. 

Instead, Senator Alexander is departing Congress in a disgraceful manner. He’s publicly saying a President’s conduct in office doesn’t matter. According to Alexander and his Republican cronies, who are little more than Donald Trump lackeys, even if Trump (hard to call him the President)  is guilty of misconduct, unless it’s along the lines of rape or murder, he should be permitted to get away with it because his supporters will be upset if he is tossed out of office..

Last Thursday night Senator Alexander admitted on the record he considered President Trump guilty of misconduct in office. Yet, he didn’t approve of having more witnesses called to testify in his ongoing impeachment hearings. “There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter,” Alexander said late Thursday in a statement, after another daylong session in the Senate, the ninth day of the trial overall.

He added the charges against the president — that he inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens — had been “proved” by the House managers, and that the president had acted improperly.

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” Alexander wrote, adding the president’s actions were the kind that “undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.”

Yet in his view, “undermining the principle of equal justice under the law,” isn’t enough to justify tossing Trump out of office. According to the Senator, “the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.” He added removing Trump from office “would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist.”

The hypocrisy of this stance would be stunning if it weren’t so predictable. First, keeping Trump in office won’t heal the divisions in this nation. If anything, it inflames them because it exposes the vile double standards fueling the Republican Party. Does anyone think if former President Obama had done anything remotely close to this the Senate wouldn’t not only allow any and everyone with remote knowledge of it to testify, but would have been firing up impeachment charges as fast they could manufacture them. 

Second, Alexander has shown he lacks the courage or integrity of Howard Baker Jr., supposedly his mentor. Back in the early ‘70s, Baker openly asked during the Watergate hearings “What did the President know and when did he know it?” Baker had been a Nixon supporter, was a staunch Republican, and even previously been in the President’s corner. But he was enough of a statesman and legislator to recognize corruption when he saw it, and not participate in a procedure to cover it up.

Tennessee’s senatorial representation is among the nation’s worse. Our other Senator Marsha Blackburn is too busy reading to pay attention during the impeachment hearings. She’s a sorry rubber stamp for Trump, another total apologist for his lunatic rantings and sorry general behavior. But she ran for office promising to be one, so no one should expect anything else from her. 

By comparison, Lamar Alexander was once Governor of this state, Secretary of Education and President of the University of Tennessee. You expect better from someone with that background, plus all his experience from being in the Senate since 2003. Instead, he’s slinking out of office providing cover for a highly corrupt, immoral business tycoon whose close associates include Neo Nazis, someone who condones putting the children of immigrants in cages ripped away from their parents.

Those actions are atrocious, but sadly they are policy decisions and not criminal. But using the office of the President to put pressure on a foreign nation to conduct an unnecessary, possibly illegal investigation on fellow citizens is a different matter. The Tribune is not sure what copy of the Constitution Lamar Alexander has read, but the one we’ve seen definitely puts Trump’s validated actions in the category of impeachable conduct. 

It’s sad our state senators, and in particular the retiring senior one, can’t or won’t see the light. Like so many of his Republican comrades, he’s willing to look the other way while Trump continues to make a mockery of the Presidency.

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