Today, I am mourning a Republican U.S. Senator that I was fortunate to know and serve during the impeachment proceedings of Richard Nixon. I must be wrong.
As the Republican-controlled United States Senate will soon consider impeachment, I have grown horrified by the contrast between what I thought I remembered and what I see today. I must be wrong.
So I went back and reread Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias’s obituary to check my recollection. I will quote the obituary from The New York Times below:
“In a 1974 campaign speech [Mathias] quoted Burke’s 1774 letter to the Electors of Bristol: ‘Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.’”
I thought I remembered that Mathias believed he served the constitution rather than a political party and did not hesitate to practice these beliefs and defend them publicly:
“I’m not all that liberal,” he told The Washington Post in 1974. “In fact, in some respects I’m conservative. A while ago I introduced a bill preserving the guarantees of the Bill of Rights by prohibiting warrantless wiretaps. I suppose they’ll say it’s another liberal effort, but it’s as conservative as you can get. It’s conserving the Constitution.”
I remembered that Mathias exercised these beliefs often at his own expense.
“However he described them, his votes, his vocal unhappiness with the growing conservatism of the Republican Party and his lack of support for Ronald Reagan cost him leadership positions. In 1979, Senator Strom Thurmond maneuvered to block Mr. Mathias from becoming senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee.”
Although he desperately wanted to be the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he saw his responsibilities to serve a greater bipartisan agenda.
“His Senate colleague for many years, Paul Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, said Monday that while Mr. Mathias’s ‘most intense critics were within his own party,’ nevertheless ‘Mac commanded enormous respect on both sides of the aisle.’”
Mathias practiced the clear intent of the Constitution, unlike the recent Republican appointees to the Supreme Court who affirmed Citizens United and refused to address the political polarization of gerrymandering.
“Mathias advocated public financing of campaigns and ceilings on contributions (measures enacted the next year). He said that in his 1974 campaign he would reject cash contributions, take no more than $100 from any individual, report every contribution and expenditure”
My recollection was correct.
All that is gone now. The strict constructionist of the Constitution will cite the clear definition of treason, which requires aiding and abetting the enemy at the time of war, and will think nothing of a President and political party that will not impeach a president for turning foreign affairs to his political benefit, who refuses to fight and actually encourages the support and intervention of foreign governments in our elections.
All that is gone now, as our foreign policies, so carefully crafted after WWII to support the allies of freedom, crumble as we abandon the Kurds to Russia, and our allies in South Korea and Japan to the threat of North Korea, as it continues missile testing despite hollow promises to us. And finally, and perhaps most painfully, Europe turns to others as we let NATO and the European Union crumble before our blind eyes.
The Republicans will let the impeachment fail. But if the country gives this president another term, America, a shining “city on a hill,” will be gone as we know it.