Impeachment Has Nothing To Do With Feeling Good
Bearing Drift content partner Scott Lingamfelter has offered a condemnation of the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump on the theory that it seeks not criminal justice but political revenge by Trump’s enemies, revenge that would provide them with a sense of happiness and satisfaction.
He advances this opinion within the framework of his own experience as a military commander and Convening Authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As a retired Army officer myself, one who also served as a battalion commander overseas and as a UCMJ Convening Authority, I beg to differ with his proposition.
I received the same training and had similar experiences as Scott during my 25 years of Regular Army commissioned service, including the rather extensive Military Justice training provided to incoming battalion and brigade commanders during the pre-command course at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Yes, I remember the admonition that if you are about to dispense military justice as a commanding officer and Convening Authority and it feels good, then you are probably about to do something terribly wrong. Very sage advice, indeed. However, I also remember the guidance provided in my UCMJ training as well as the ubiquitous instructions administered by the military judge to members of a court-martial board prior to determining a sentence for a convicted accused soldier.
Under the philosophy of military justice, there are three reason for punishing an offender: to demonstrate to the offender that his conduct was wrong and to deter him from such misconduct in the future, to demonstrate to the unit as a whole that the offender’s conduct was wrong and thereby deter others from such misconduct, and to maintain order and discipline in the service and thereby promote efficiency and effectiveness in the military establishment, strengthening national security. Feeling good about it does not enter the calculus.
The same philosophy applies to our criminal justice system in general and to our Constitutional process of Impeachment in particular.
My colleague denigrates members of Congress by asserting facts that are not in evidence and thereby assigning the basest and most ignoble motivations to their actions in impeaching a sitting President and then trying his impeached actions in the Senate after he has (very reluctantly and dishonorably) relinquished office.
These actions, sustained by majority, bi-partisan votes in the House and in the Senate, were in consonance with their sworn oath of office and demanded by the dictate to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
If my colleague wishes to besmirch the ethics and intentions of members of Congress, then perhaps he should direct his attention to those members of the Senate who publicly proclaimed their intention to vote against conviction prior to any article of impeachment having been presented to their body. It is rhetorical to ask what Colonel Lingamfelter’s reaction would have been if a fellow court-martial board member in the Army had declared such a pre-conceived bias to the court during voir dire.
We can argue endlessly about the facts of the case underlying the Article of Impeachment now before the Senate for trial. We can equally argue about the necessity of a conviction in which the only punishment is removal from an office that the accused has already relinquished and his banishment from any future Federal office.
That debate is on-going now in the media and will doubtlessly be the topic of many scholarly works in the future. But is completely moot since Scott Lingamfelter is correct on one point: impeachment is a political process and not a judicial proceeding.
But contrary to contemporary usage, “political” does not convey an inherently unfair procedure lacking in due process. In political science, every action by the legislature in a representative democracy is political; it is the essence of collective judgement and compromise amid conflicting viewpoints and interests.
A negative connotation becomes attached to the process when it is subverted by trivial and inconsistent objections, such as the contention that the impeachment trial of a former President is unprecedented. Our history is replete with examples of the impeachment and Senate trial of former Federal officers.
The trial of a former President is unprecedented only because the republic has never suffered the reckless lawlessness of President Donald Trump, whose distain for the rule of law was unmatched even in comparison with the public corruption of the Ulysses Grant Administration.
There is a justified outrage that should be attached to the second impeachment and trial of Donald Trump, a former Federal officer of the United States. It is justified not because his trial is an exercise in feel good justice, but because the rule of law will be perverted by the cowardly self-interested fears and survival instincts of the Senators who will refuse to fairly examine the evidence and render an impartial verdict.
These are the same Senators, by and large, who refused to hear witness testimony against the sitting President of the United States just over one year ago. And that should cause Lady Justice to lift her blindfold and exclaim, “WTF!”
–Bearing Drift: Facts Don’t Care About Good Feelings Either by D.J. McGuire