Yesterday afternoon I listened to Republican Congressman Tom Cole, the ranking member on the House Rules Committee, holding forth on the floor of the House. Speaking for his party, he explained why he opposed the impeachment resolution being advanced by Democrats, the resolution that, hours later, was passed by the House over the objections of all but ten Republican House members. Cole’s reasoning was simple and clear: as a believer in due process, he insisted that it is wrong to “rush to judgment,” and it is very important instead to promote mutual understanding and sober conciliation.
Cole spoke like the visionary statesman that he surely is (readers may recall his eloquent and fulsome praise of Donald Trump’s 2020 State of the Union Address, a “masterful” speech in which Trump apparently “reminded the American people of the tremendous results delivered during his tenure”). And Cole’s sober warning brought to mind some of the great disasters in U.S. history that have followed rushes to judgment.
In the summer of 1776, a group of radical intellectuals led by Thomas Jefferson were determined to draft a Declaration of Independence from the British Crown. They were urged by sober leaders not to “rush to judgment.” They judged.
In the Spring of 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, faced with the secession of Confederate states, mobilized Union troops to suppress the insurrection. He was urged by sober leaders not to “rush to judgment.” He judged.
In December 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, confronted with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, mobilized U.S. military forces for war. He was urged by sober leaders not to “rush to judgment.” He judged.
Time and again, at some of the most crucial moments in U.S. political history, leaders like Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt believed themselves to be facing a real crisis demanding prompt action, and they rushed to judgment.
It is obvious that their impetuous mistakes brought ruin upon their country and their reputations.
Politics is complicated. It is always very important to carefully and exhaustively compile all appropriate evidence and to balance and weigh competing perspectives before taking any action. Always. This is especially true for the U.S. Congress, which is dedicated to respecting the Constitution and the rule of law, as Republican leaders like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell have demonstrated time and time again.
It was obviously rash to undertake yesterday’s rushed impeachment. True, everyone has seen what Trump said to his supporters on January 6, and how he, along with Roger Stone, Rudy Giuliani, his sons, and many others called for a “wild” demonstration followed by a march on the Capitol to “stop the steal.” Everyone has seen what those marchers did to “stop the steal.” Everyone has seen the result, in loss of life and injury, in damage to the U.S. Capitol, in threats to the lives of Congressmen and Congresswomen, and in the obstruction of the November election. Everyone has seen how President Trump responded to the attack on Congress—by doing nothing except gleefully watching it unfold on his television set.
But clearly there is still so much more to know. So many rioters yet to bring before the House to share their views on what happened. Their perspective surely matters too, right?
How can any sober political leader now support a “rush to judgment” of Trump?
What is required is serious, unbiased, protracted deliberation, say the Republicans.
There is so much to consider, say the Republicans.
Trump will only be in office for another week, say the Republicans.
This is a time for healing, say the Republicans.
There is no need to rush.
Let history judge Donald Trump.
The FBI and the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe the country is on the precipice of a major insurrection. They are obviously alarmists.
Democrats and their craven lackeys like Liz Cheney and Ben Sasse believe it is necessary to remove Trump now, because he still poses a clear and present danger to the republic. They are obviously alarmists.
Democratic members of the House and Senate, Democratic governors, the Democratic President and Vice-President-elect, all take seriously the threats they receive, and fear for their lives. They are obviously alarmists.
There is too much alarmism, too much ill will, say House Republicans.
Isn’t it obvious that House Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly, in words and deeds, their respect for constitutional due process, careful deliberation, and sober judgment?
Have Democrats forgotten the statesmanship displayed only months ago by Republican Congressmen Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, and especially Devin Nunes?
Have Democrats forgotten the moderation and sober judgment displayed only last week by Louie Gohmert, Mo Brooks, and Matt Gaetz?
How quickly they forget.
Now is the time for everyone who loves the Constitution to sit back, take a deep breath, look around, and soberly deliberate. Like the Republicans always do.
We should not rush to judgment.