I’m counting on Lamar Alexander to do the right thing

Lamar shirt

I ran across the shirts you see above at Belk the other day. The one in the middle is a dead ringer for the one Lamar Alexander wore on his famous walk across Tennessee when he ran successfully for governor in 1978 — the first statewide political campaign I ever covered.

I’ve always had a lot of respect for Lamar, as I’ve mentioned here many times. And now, the fate of the impeachment trial may lie in his hands, assuming he does the right thing. An excerpt from an NYT story from the last few days:

WASHINGTON — The ghost of Howard H. Baker Jr., the Republican senator from Tennessee who turned against Richard M. Nixon during Watergate, is hovering over Senator Lamar Alexander.

Mr. Alexander, a third-term Republican from Tennessee who is retiring at the end of this year, has said that no one outside his family has had more influence on him than Mr. Baker, the former Senate majority leader who is remembered for the penetrating question he posed as Nixon stared down impeachment: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

Now Mr. Alexander may hold in his hands the fate of another Republican president who is facing removal from office. He is one of four Republican moderates who have expressed openness to bringing witnesses into President Trump’s impeachment trial. Of the four, he stands out because he is not running for re-election and arguably has nothing to lose….

The story goes on to say Lamar “does not appear ready for a Howard Baker moment.” They based this on the fact that he wanted to wait until the first phase of the trial was completed to decide. But I have two things to say about that:

  1. That seems a reasonable hesitation to me. He was keeping his options open until the point at which a decision would have to be made.
  2. That story was written before the revelation from Bolton’s upcoming book.

So I’m going to be optimistic, counting on Lamar to do what he generally did back when I covered him as governor: the right thing.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

A shot I took of Lamar on the campaign trail in 1978.

17 thoughts on “I’m counting on Lamar Alexander to do the right thing

  1. Barry

    What did you think of Mike Pompeo calling Mary Louise Kelly of NPR a liar and Trump piling on her?

    Emails released today from NPR proved Kelly DID in fact tell Pompeo’s staff that Ukraine was a subject she would ask about during the interview and that NO subjects were off the table.

    Pompeo was obviously lying.

    Even Howard Kurtz of Fox News said today that Kelly was a very experienced journalist With a lot of experience covering foreign countries and that no journalist would agree to take subjects off the table in such an interview.

    BTW- Pompeo is a coward.

  2. Barry

    Comments from Steve Hilton, huge Trump backside kisser on Fox News. These comments were made on air.

    For goodness sake, Mr. Secretary, don’t be such a baby,” Steve Hilton, host of Fox News’ “Next Revolution,” said Sunday. Hilton said he appreciated Pompeo’s tough stance on issues, but criticized him for “unleashing a four-letter word tirade and putting out a ridiculous statement whining about what questions he agreed to answer.”

    “You should be able to handle tough questions by now and don’t be such a bully,” Hilton said. “Foul mouth ranting at a reporter doing her job is an embarrassment to you and the administration. You should apologize and people will think much more of you if you do.”

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I may have overstated the case when I said that shirt at Belk is a “dead ringer” for Lamar’s back in 1978.

    His appears not to have been a button-down.

    Also, I don’t think his was a Saddlebred. It was more likely a Pendleton….

  4. Kathleen

    And now the State Department has removed a different NPR reporter from the list of journalists accompanying Pompeo on an upcoming trip.

  5. JesseS

    In the Trump saga, when has optimism paid off? The Republican Primary? Election night? The Electoral College? Our societal norms?

    All of these things were supposed to make a difference and they didn’t.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There is no Republican Party any more. Nor is there a Democratic, in the sense of the traditional functions of parties.

      If the GOP were still a functional political party, Trump would never have had a chance of capturing the nomination. And if the Dems were, Bernie could never have given Hillary so much trouble in 2016 — the party bosses would have rejected him out of hand. After all, he isn’t even a Democrat.

      If the Democratic Party were hale and hearty now, Joe Biden would be coasting to the nomination, with Amy Klobuchar as an emergency backup. And Pete Buttigieg would be told, “You’ve got a lot of potential, kid. Go run for Congress and we’ll see how you do.”

      But now, the parties are just brands under which shifting coalitions of tribes huddle. And the nomination is expected to go to whoever collects the most votes in a crazy quilt of contests across the country, with no one, but no one, in a position to guide the process — not even the delegates to the “nominating” convention, whose function has become a farce…

  6. Mr. Smith

    Alexander has now announced he sees no need for witnesses.
    Seems like you need some new political heroes.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, he’s not a hero. But he’s usually been a reasonable man. And an honorable one. He’s a (very junior) survivor of the Nixon White House and was elected governor in the wake of a spectacularly corrupt Democrat, and post-Watergate morality has always been part of his brand. So has bipartisanship.

      I’d like to hear what he has to say to justify that. Because there’s no reason, from his perspective, to make a mockery of this process. He’s not seeking re-election, and certainly he knows that history — if, in our slide into Idiocracy, history still exists in the future — will honor him more for standing up to Trump than

      1. James Cross

        Here is his statement (https://www.alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/1/alexander-statement-on-impeachment-witness-vote):

        “I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense.

        “There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine. There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’ There is no need to consider further the frivolous second article of impeachment that would remove the president for asserting his constitutional prerogative to protect confidential conversations with his close advisers.

        “It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.

        “The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.

        “The Senate has spent nine long days considering this ‘mountain’ of evidence, the arguments of the House managers and the president’s lawyers, their answers to senators’ questions and the House record. Even if the House charges were true, they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.

        “The framers believed that there should never, ever be a partisan impeachment. That is why the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate for conviction. Yet not one House Republican voted for these articles. If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist. It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party.

        “Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.”

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          So he’s buying into the approach that goes, “Yeah, he did it all right, and it was bad, but it’s not impeachable.” It’s the approach that I dismissed back here. That’s disappointing.

          I’m more disappointed by the fact that he’s buying into the idea that the impeachment is illegitimate because “not one House Republican voted for these articles.”

          That fact condemns the Republican members, showing just how far partisanship and Trump’s domination of their party has gone. To say their gross, uniform dereliction means the impeachment itself is wrong is backward, inside-out thinking…

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