Perspective: The Hypocrisy of a Heavy Moment in History

Can Senators really live up to the oath they took?

Tim Wenger
January 17, 2020 - 1:26 pm
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swears in members of the Senate for the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)

Color me a cynic, but I don’t think our Founding Fathers quite had today’s political climate in mind when they came up with the solemn oath for Senators to take before beginning an impeachment trial for a sitting President.  

And while I’m at it, I might question the validity of naming Senators as the best choice for jurors in the trial of an elected President.

Considering what we know about Senators who have largely already led us to believe which way they will vote in the trial, is it anything short of unethical for most of them to swear to the following oath?  Because they did.

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?”

Think, for a moment, about any high profile jury trial you may have followed in your lifetime.  It could be a criminal trial, white collar crime or any trial in general.  Could you imagine if, at the end of each court day, the jurors filed out of the courtroom and to a phone or pc to offer their ‘take’ on social media?

Every day of the trial, I'm going write a twitter thread and Facebook post giving my read on the day's events (and some behind-the-scenes vignettes)”, writes Senator Chris Murphy on Twitter. 

And he won’t be alone on both sides of the political aisle.

While some Senators may quietly leave the chambers each day, there will be significant numbers of Senators who will either take to social media or give their opinions and thoughts to the cameras and microphones that will await them outside the Senate chamber.

We’ve heard much about the solemnity of the proceedings inside the chamber.  No talking. No cell phones.  Strict rules. 

But what about what happens when they leave?

Not only have most of them already decided how they will vote in the trial, many will hold a completely separate trial, more to their liking, outside of the chamber for the media and American public.

And, knowing the very likely outcome of the trial already, the trial that really matters here is the one that happens before the American people in the form of media coverage of the juror’s commentary at the end of each day, each week and at the end of the trial.

We can all have opinions about guilt, innocence and everything in between.  But we should all also understand that if this trial is to mean anything and have any credibility at all, it should happen inside the Senate chamber.

Politicians like to say that “words matter” and “words have consequences”.  What about the words in that oath they all read as they raised their right hand and spoke before God?

Think about these words as you watch the circus that follows the solemnity of the impeachment trial on a daily basis beginning Tuesday.

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?”

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