I want to start by thanking Congressman Ben Cline for holding a town hall in Harrisonburg. He clearly takes constituent services seriously. With some important exceptions, I believe Mr. Cline when he says he wants to work across the aisle. The first exception involves Mr. Cline’s commitment to defending the Constitution, so it is pretty serious.
In response to my question, Mr. Cline said that Congress can only impeach a president if he committed an actual crime — i.e., he did something that violated a specific statute. Mr. Cline argues that that the Democrats focused on the wrong things in their impeachment process, which he takes as proof that their concerns are entirely political and not substantive. Therefore, he finds no reason to follow the lead of Watergate-era 6th District representative, Caldwell Butler, in concluding that he is compelled to vote to impeach a president of his own party.
Mr. Cline wants us to see him as a frustrated bipartisan leader trying to work across the aisle for the common good in spite of the Democrats’ politically motivated attacks on the president. He wants us to see him as a defender of the rule of law in preventing congressional (Democratic Party) overreach. And, he wants us to know that he takes the rule of law seriously.
All of this falls apart when we consider the substantial evidence that this president has been violating multiple statutes. The Trump children lack security clearances but they insert themselves into high-level diplomatic meetings while still running the family businesses that can benefit from those conversations. Visiting officials are encouraged to stay at the Trump hotel. The president’s campaign routinely fails to pay bills from cities where he has held rallies. The president holds meetings with foreign leaders, including one known to have interfered in the 2016 elections, off-book without a note taker and then silences the only witness, the translator. He regularly mixes comments about his personal business interests into diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders. The list of likely criminal behavior is very long.
If Mr. Cline truly cares about his oath to protect and defend the Constitution and he genuinely believes in bipartisanship, he should be working with Democrats who share his perspective on what constitutes an impeachable offense to investigate what is going on. At a minimum, he should be calmly explaining his concerns as he did at the town hall. Instead, he is on TV delivering partisan talking points defending the president and excoriating the Democrats at every turn. Mr. Cline cannot credibly claim to be a champion of bipartisanship while simultaneously promoting hyperpartisan talking points. Nor can he position himself as a rule of law champion while ignoring his oath to protect and defend the Constitution because the president happens to be a Republican.
Jayne Docherty lives in Harrisonburg.