This impeachment felt like a bad divorce: One person walks away with everything, having gutted the house. The other gets the gutted house to build their life upon.
I am sidestepping the guilt or less-than-full-guilt — surely not innocence as Lamar Alexander admitted — but rather I worry for process and fairness. Once a structure that is meant to enlighten is torn asunder and set as precedent, to whom or to what might we look for redress when the next harm is done?
I am a process person. I like to have structure to make things move as smoothly and unbiased as possible. Process is there to help cool ardor and help restrain villainy. Now the Senate has chosen to redefine what a trial looks like. It has chosen to ignore that a president — regardless of party — can quash witnesses and documents when the House requests or subpoenas them.
If you see yourself on the “winning side,” you are not looking at the big picture: How will the House and Senate adjudicate wrongdoing by future presidents when witnesses and evidence are no longer required?
What if the House and Senate use the same technique when the president is of the “other” party? The outcome would feel very different and threatening. What happens when they condemn without documents and witnesses? The stage is now set for that.
Congress has chosen to gut a balance of power that was meant to protect the nation.
If you can dare to step back and look at the loss of process and put yourself in a room where no evidence is allowed to acquit you, and those in judgment do it with minds made up, is that what you want?
If you are actually innocent and called upon to document your actions and allow witnesses to speak to your actions and innocence, that should be a process you would welcome. But here it was not.
But when that is swept away, is one judged innocent if there is no demonstration of fact?
On top of the loss of justice, without impeachment we must now reconcile ourselves with the idea that whatever a president does cannot be considered a crime.
I find that horrifying, not just for now but for the future of our country as a whole. That sounds like tyranny to me. To never be able to question the actions of a senator, representative or president because they believed their self interest equals national interest?
Self interest is just that — it includes no one else. It is delusional to think that one person’s personal goal overrides just process.
One can argue about the merits of the case brought in any impeachment. Opinions will vary, but that is what evidence, witnesses and paying attention to arguments are meant to provide: clarity wrought by process.
Left to ourselves, humans will choose self interest, and that is why we need process to guide us and not be swept away just because it is an election year, and fear of failing seems greater than judicial process.
We need to guard against ourselves.
So our house is divided and a rule of justice has been made moot. And on that day when the time comes that another president commits a great crime, will we sit by and allow him/her to say, “No documents. No witnesses. I did it in the national interest and you must, by precedent, allow me to continue.”
It is not an election thing that happened; it was a very small earthquake that will come back to shake our very core.
In fact, it has done just that now, but the heady inebriation of what feels like victory for some has clouded our national judgment and traded the expedient for the righteous.
Having cut down due process, behind what law shall we hide ourselves when this president or any other decides to do more in their self interest? Just where shall we look for justice and honor then?
Joyce Reehling lives in Pinehurst. She retired here from New York after a 33-year career in theater, TV and commercials.