Sunday, April 23, 2017

Not Just The Death Of A Congressman

If you didn't live through the Watergate scandal, you really missed something.  A President who had just been re-elected by a historic landslide vote frittered away his political accomplishments by trying to protect lower-level campaign workers from prosecution for undeniably illegal acts.  Putting this in the vernacular of criminal law, he obstructed justice.  And he memorialized the obstruction on a tape-recording system in the Oval Office, giving Congress the ability to impeach him and thereafter leave him vulnerable to criminal prosecution though evidence that established his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  But he beat Congress and the criminal justice system to the punch, by resigning and being pardoned by his successor.

It shook our system of government, and the faith of the American people in it, to its core.  But what held everything together, and got us past this terrible episode in our history, was the willingness of partisans to come together.  On the Supreme Court, Justices appointed by Democratic and Republican Presidents came together to force Richard Nixon to surrender the evidence of his perfidy that he himself had manufactured.  And in Congress, Democrats and Republicans likewise came together to face the evidence and produced three articles of impeachment against Nixon.  They were never voted on by the full House--Nixon's resignation obviated the need for that--but, once the Oval Office tapes were produced, there was no doubt that any vote to impeach would have been bipartisan.

One of those members of Congress on the Republican side was Lawrence J. Hogan, Sr., father of the current governor of Maryland.  Hogan was the first member of his party to indicate that he would vote for Nixon's impeachment, paving the way for a bipartisan resolution of an American tragedy. One can scarcely imagine such an outcome in today's Washington.

Which is why Hogan's death this past Friday, at the age of 88, feels not just like the end of a Congressman's life, but the end of an America that could come together to meet its greatest challenges and overcome them.  I pray that I'm wrong.  But I thank him for his service, and I hope that others will rise in our present crisis to follow his example.

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