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Both Sens. Lee and Romney show courage and character in Trump’s impeachment trial

SHARE Both Sens. Lee and Romney show courage and character in Trump’s impeachment trial
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Associated Press

The impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump has melted the sensibilities of the nation. With ever-increasing harshness, the white-hot rhetorical heat emanating from the chamber of the United States Senate has erupted across the nation, scalding the American psyche and incinerating civility. Shouting and demonizing is at the boiling point, and rage has replaced reason across the political spectrum. 

I don’t often quote the singer Bono in this column, but I think he may be on to something when he says, “To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.”

In the carcinogen that is the United States Senate, two senators who have disagreed on multiple matters relating to the impeachment proceedings have actually provided the model for something greater: how to stand on your principles, keep your promises and be authentically respectful.

Utah Sens. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney have taken different positions throughout the trial. Where they differ relating to the issues has no bearing on their relationship, their respect for one another or their commitment to principles and the people they represent. 

It is true: Two people with different opinions can both stand on principle with integrity and dignity. Both Lee and Romney have their feet firmly planted on what they believe to be true. How they are doing it is a lesson for the nation.

I am not going to wade into details of the trial, and I really don’t care where you stand as it relates to President Trump. All I ask is for you to momentarily set that aside and consider a model worth modeling.

Romney has taken a great deal of heat for his vote, with 47 Democrats, to call additional witnesses in the Senate trial. He believed information from certain witnesses would be enlightening to the task before the Senate and helpful to faithfully executing the oath each senator has taken.

Lee was against calling additional witnesses for numerous reasons, including aspects of the constitutional process, the potential evisceration of executive privilege and the need for all future presidents to be able to have open dialogue with top advisers on national security issues.

No one should be surprised by the position of either senator. They are both doing exactly what they said they would do when elected to the Senate. They continue to show that finding allies and building alliances on key issues doesn’t mean retreating from principles or promises to constituents. Interestingly, the duo from Utah seem to be the only senators who have figured out the transactional nature of the current administration.

As the Deseret News Editorial Board recently noted: “Utah’s senior senator, Mike Lee, has delivered stinging rebukes to the Trump administration relating to the ongoing U.S. military involvement in Yemen and congressional briefings relating to U.S. action in Iran. He has also stood alongside President Trump, and many of his Democratic colleagues, when the president signed historic bipartisan criminal justice reform. Sen. Mitt Romney has stood by and voted with the Trump administration on a number of tax and regulatory reform bills while speaking out against the administration’s actions relating to Ukraine and limiting certain refugees from entering the country.

“The fact that Utah’s senators can stand on principle, negotiate from a position of strength, compromise for the good of the country and disagree without contempt should be applauded.” 

Lee is regularly blasted by the political left and gets brushed back by the more establishment components of the Republican Party. Romney is regularly a target of the more conservative elements within the GOP.

It may come as a surprise to many politicos that Romney actually votes with President Trump more regularly than Lee does. According to the political analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com, Romney votes with the president’s position more than 80% of the time, while Lee clocks in at 74%. The point is that they are both willing to let their policies and principles compete in the marketplace of ideas independent of their party or Washington politics.

I have worked with and observed both of these men in a variety of circumstances. They are both good, honorable people who are willing to stand on principles, even when it is unpopular. Neither is perfect, but both regularly demonstrate the qualities the country should want in its leaders. 

Political courage and true character aren’t required to fight your foes. Courage and character are necessary when you have to stand up to your friends and supporters. 

In the days leading up to the Senate’s vote on witnesses, Romney took on a barrage of attacks. Romney never once responded in anger, never questioned the motives of his opponents or disparaged them with derisive adjectives. He has shown restraint, poise and a commitment to do what he believes is right. The attacks escalated after the vote and grew into an all-out avalanche of anger, disdain and contempt.

Lee quickly took to Twitter, boldly and unapologetically saying, “Mitt Romney is a good friend and an excellent Senator. We have disagreed about a lot in this trial. But he has my respect for the thoughtfulness, integrity, and guts he has shown throughout this process. Utah and the Senate are lucky to have him.”

This was no small gesture; it came at a price. Many of Lee’s supporters responded with condescending derision, while his Twitter feed was melted down by thousands of rants, jeers and cries that he was no longer fit to be a senator and should be tossed aside along with Romney.   

Lee showed courage and character in telling his supporters that they were wrong to judge the character of a colleague based on a different view of a vote.

Stockwell Day Jr., a Canadian politician, once said, “As all human beings are, in my view, creatures of God’s design, we must respect all other human beings. That does not mean I have to agree with their choices or agree with their opinions, but indeed I respect them as human beings.”

Oneness is not sameness in America. Our differences can lend strength. Our ability to disagree in elevated ways, with respect rather than rage, will determine whether the fabric that binds this nation will withstand the contemptuous tugs and polarizing pulls of current politics.

Both senators, whether you agree with them or not, have powerfully demonstrated the model that should mold the future of the nation: “To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.”