I didn’t like the President’s speech on January 6. I thought he was wrong to assert that the Vice President and Congress can pick and choose which electoral votes to count. He was wrong to set such a confrontational tone in a politically tense situation.
But what did he actually say? His exact words were, “I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” That’s impeachable? That’s called freedom of speech.
He also threatened to oppose candidates in future elections. By the way, that was directed at Republicans like me who had resolved to uphold the constitutional process and protect the Electoral College. So what? That’s called politics.
If we impeached every politician who gave a fiery speech to a crowd of partisans, this Capitol would be deserted. That’s what the president did. That’s all he did. He specifically told the crowd to protest “peacefully and patriotically.” The vast majority of them did.
But every movement has a lunatic fringe.
Suppressing free speech is not the answer; holding rioters accountable for their actions is the answer. And we are. IF we had prosecuted BLM and Antifa rioters across the country with the same determination these last six months, this incident may not have happened at all.
Short of declaring war, the power of impeachment is the most solemn and consequential act that Congress can take. To use it in this manner – in the heat of the moment, with no hearings, no due process, many members phoning in their votes after a hastily called debate, exactly one week before a new president is to take office, trivializes this power to the point of caricature.
The Democrats have won everything in sight: The House, the Senate and the Presidency. In a Republic, that calls for magnanimity by the victors. Only in a banana republic does it call for vengeance.
Benjamin Franklin warned that “Passion governs, and she never governs wisely.” In our passions this week we have set some dangerous new precedents that will haunt us for years to come. Yesterday, we redefined intemperate speech as a physical incapacity requiring removal from office. Today we define it as a high crime and misdemeanor.
The moment any member of this body gives an impassioned speech, and the lunatic fringe of their movement takes license from it, be prepared to answer to this new precedent we establish today. I could cite plenty of provocative speeches made by Democrats that directly preceded violence this summer, but we’ve already had enough of that.
After 600,000 Americans had perished in the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln appealed to the “better angels of our nature.” He said, “With malice toward none; with charity for all…let us bind up the nation’s wounds.” Those words were so important to the unity of the nation they are inscribed in marble at the Lincoln Memorial.
I cannot think of a more petty, vindictive and gratuitous act than to impeach an already defeated President a week before he is to leave office. President-elect Biden’s promise to heal the nation becomes a hollow mockery in the harsh reality of this unconstitutional act.
God help our country.
Congressman Tom McClintock represents the 4th District of California.