Love of country need not be reflective of its wealth or power. My love for the US is about its democratic institutions, in particular its Constitution, which recognises the danger of concentrated state power, beginning
with its stirring first words, the source of legitimacy of government, "We the people…"
For some time I've had a lover's quarrel with my other country. But some quarrels are more serious than others. When the US Supreme Court interjected itself in the 2000 Florida vote count and, by a majority of one, elected George W. Bush to the presidency, my long-held belief in the court's political neutrality was upended. I've not been able to view the court in the same way, since.
Though I believed that Bush's Iraq war was a serious failure, legally, militarily and strategically, it was the deliberate use of torture on prisoners, with its implications for the rules of warfare and potential future treatment of Americans as prisoners, that caused me to leave my political party.
That party, the so-called Republican Party, has continued to disappoint. In the past three years it has allowed itself, through fears of electoral opposition, to become simply the Trump party. This week that party reached a new low. It was not the foregone conclusion of a vote to acquit President Donald J. Trump of the two articles of impeachment.
Although it might have reflected some minimal degree of independence from Trump had a few Republicans, beyond Sen. Romney, voted for conviction based on the evidence already made available.
It was the abject collusion with the President, explicitly acknowledged by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leader, to refuse to seek relevant documents or testimony from important witnesses who had offered to provide information relevant to the impeachment charges.
Absent that witness testimony the American people, who overwhelmingly supported calling them, would not have sufficient clarity to make their own informed judgment.
The abject failure of the Republican-led Senate to exercise its constitutional mandate of holding the president accountable — in this case, for withholding authorised funds to aid an allied country against Russian aggression, in exchange for their investigating allegations against Trump's political rival, then stonewalling the House's request for relevant material testimony — makes the Senate into an enabler of Trump's unrestrained exercise of self-serving power.
That runs counter to the intent of the original framers of the Constitution. Having won a war of revolution against a king, with "their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honour" at stake, these men were intent to create a government of co-equal branches, one in which each part would act as "checks and balances" to prevent any part from exercising total power, especially the executive.
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The argument that Trump's defenders and his party's fellow travellers articulated to rationalise their acts both to withhold new evidence and ultimately to quickly acquit him undoes the founders' intent. Alan Dershowitz, Trump's lawyer, claims that if the president believes his election is in the national interest, then anything he did in pursuit of that interest cannot be grounds for removal from office.
Here, history repeats, not just as farce but also as tragedy. John Dean, the original whistleblower in the 1973 investigation of President Richard Nixon for abuse of power and obstruction of justice, says that Dershowitz's argument would have given Nixon a clean exit from the scandals of Watergate. Then, too, Nixon told David Frost (1977), "If the President does it, it's not illegal." He was apparently unchastened even after his successor pardoned Nixon of all potential crimes, claiming "At last our long national nightmare is over."
Trump, free of the threat of removal, and with the rationale of Dershowitz and McConnell's help, is now unfettered, annointed by his Trump Senate party as a monarch. Whether Democrats can summon sufficient unity to avoid Trump's re-election is far from certain. What's more certain is that the people will render their own judgment in November. If they choose not to hold him accountable, a long international nightmare is only beginning.
Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.|