Self-interest is hardly new to politics. Countless politicians, both Republican and Democrat, have used their status for personal advancement.
As a Republican for most of my adult life, voting exclusively Republican for president until 2016, I have been especially attuned to abuses by Democrats, regularly speaking up for conservative principles in the face of what I saw as morally suspect behavior.
However, President Trump’s actions since taking office are self-serving in the extreme. I can now no longer call out only what is happening on one side of the aisle. The impeachment hearings have exposed the lengths to which this president will go to serve his own interests, and I have been saddened and astounded to find that not only will party leaders not check his behavior, but they are also complicit.
Trump’s presidency has brought repeated abuses of power, a disregard for the rule of law and no apparent desire to protect the best interests of the American people. If he is not held accountable, it sets a tragically low standard for future leaders of both parties. The current impeachment inquiry unfolding before us is a constitutionally sanctioned process that protects our high standards of government, and it deserves to be taken seriously by every American.
As I follow the hearings through primary sources and avoid letting the pundits on cable news interpret them for me, I see that many of our elected representatives are trying desperately to generate TV and internet sound bites.
We are hearing from distinguished career diplomats and civil servants with real knowledge of America’s policy goals in Ukraine and the events surrounding the president’s asking favors there. We must pay attention to their sincere accounts and avoid getting caught up in the partisan circus.
The president has taken every opportunity over the past few weeks to intervene in truly contemptuous fashion in ways that I don’t need pundits to point out.
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Take, for example, the testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before the House Intelligence Committee. As the ambassador offered her remarks and fielded questioning, the president took to Twitter, hurling accusations and insults.
We were able to witness her reaction in real time, confirming that she was “intimidated.” Any of us would be. The president’s online activity is indicative of his dismissive attitude toward the sanctity of our congressional processes.
Blind loyalty to a morally and legally corrupt president will not keep the Republican party alive; it is far more likely to do the opposite. The grave short-sightedness of abusing conservative principles, in the name of ephemeral political gains, destroys confidence in the political system and discredits the beliefs that I hold dear.
On the other side of the aisle, we hear the voices of many Democrats who are giddy at the thought of impeaching the president. Now is not a time for celebration or for presumptions of guilt ahead of evidence heard.
Those controlling the investigation in the House need to lead with dignity, acknowledging the gravity of the situation. For an impeachment inquiry carries with it the possibility of great division and we need leaders who can uphold the rule of law while simultaneously seeking to heal wounds and make peace.
Now is the time for every patriotic American to hold our elected representatives accountable to their professed values and oaths. We need to set aside a desire for political gain for “our side” and think about the long-term damage that extreme partisanship and corruption causes to our political system. We must resist the urge to point fingers and instead look to ourselves and our own party to identify the cankers within.
We are at an impasse – certainly this is true of the Republican Party, but most importantly as a nation. My grandchildren will look back and study this period of turmoil in our history. They will judge members of Congress by their actions: Did they fulfill their oath of office and uphold the integrity of our institutions, or succumb to the moral vacuum occupying the Oval Office? They will ask me if I upheld the principles with which I was raised and courageously spoke up and acted in opposition to such degradation.
I want to be able to tell them that that silence and complacency was never an option for me, as I hope it will not be for each of you.
Emma Petty Addams, of Omaha, was a registered Republican since becoming eligible to vote but changed her registration to independent after President Trump’s election in 2016.