I admit that Mitt Romney surprised me on this. Didn’t expect it. It’s easy to say that this is just a personal decision and it doesn’t matter. I don’t think that’s quite true. Obviously Trump will be acquitted. Almost certainly Romney will be the only Republican who votes to convict the President. But a couple days ago I noted how much Republicans gain by their unanimity. That has a profound, opinion-shaping, normalizing effect.
There’s one line that jumped out at me. Romney said about how history will record his vote that “they will note merely that I was among the senators who determined that what the president did was wrong, grievously wrong.”
There’s a key point here. After the witness bar was surmounted, a number of Republican senators piped up and said well, he clearly did something wrong but it’s not wrong enough or it doesn’t matter or something else. Romney’s statement puts the lie to this in what I suspect is a pretty uncomfortable way, and one which will be damaging to at least a few reelection candidates in November. He’s saying, no, you weren’t willing to say he was wrong. You said it was fine. And that really is what they’re saying. Because they’re cowards and derelict in their duties.
There is a reasonable argument and one that I believe in that you can believe the President is guilty of wrongdoing but still have it come short of what is necessary for removal from office. I think you can also say the President is guilty but there are prudential reasons to refrain from removal. What you can’t say is that I will vote to block even hearing any witnesses. That doesn’t add up. That means you know it is very bad but you have different priorities. You don’t care.
Again, go back to what I wrote Monday. One party unanimously endorsing something has a profound impact. Yeah, Romney’s only one guy. But this is significant. It was so significant in the House that Justin Amash was basically run out of the party. The other Senators will have to react to this and for a significant number it will be difficult.