During Watergate Tennessee Senator Howard Baker sided with Democrats against Nixon and now there’s talk of history repeating itself, with Lamar Alexander, 79, who will be retiring at the end of this year, breaking ranks and voting to hear witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial. Politico:
Three GOP senators have expressed some level of support for calling witnesses, and if they joined all Democrats, it would result in a 50-50 tie and likely be defeated. Unless Chief Justice John Roberts shocked Washington by wading in with a tie-break, Democrats need one more Republican to break ranks and upend GOP plans for a swift Trump acquittal.
That’s got both parties eagerly eyeing Alexander. He’s a retiring defender of the Senate as an institution who’s occasionally bucked his party, but he also counts Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a longtime ally. He’s more hesitant to criticize Trump than are someother Republicans, but he also has said it was “inappropriate” for Trump to ask foreign governments to investigate his political opponents. […]
“Inappropriate” is the least that can be said. Treasonous and corrupt are more like it. But, I do grasp the thinking here. If you’ve got a Republican senator who is even willing to go on record with “inappropriate” that is a ray of sunshine coming through a crack in an otherwise impenetrable wall. Like the drowning man grasping for the straw, we’ll take hope wherever we can find it.
Democrats, meanwhile, are holding out hope that Alexander will be their hero in the mold of the late Sen. John McCain, whose extraordinary vote derailed the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare. Though Alexander would never blindside McConnell the way McCain did, he is widely believed to be a Republican who could be receptive to Democrats’ message that the Senate needs to hear more evidence.
“There is an opportunity here for Sen. Alexander, who has long been a leader in crafting bipartisan resolutions to impasses, to play a significant, even a historic role,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), who has spoken with Alexander about witness testimony. “He is so well-respected in his caucus that there are a number of other senators that are also looking to him.”
Alexander is unlikely to be the 51st vote for witnesses and throw momentary control of the Senate to the Democrats. More likely, if he’s feeling the need to hear new evidence in the trial, other Republicans would join him and scramble plans on how to handle witnesses and documents.
Hope springs eternal. Alexander is a longtime ally of McConnell, but now he’s expected to rise above that and do the right thing. Since he is retiring the end of the year, he may feel more free to vote his conscience than if he was running for reelection. On the other hand, letting Trump walk so that more more stacking of the courts with conservative judges can take place, may be voting his conscience.
It’s interesting how this impeachment trial is playing out. Everybody knows that Trump is guilty as hell and that acquittal is in the bag, anyhow, but Democrats are searching in the dark corners to see if there’s a vote that they’ve overlooked, and hoping that maybe the senator in question has some special reason to vote for witnesses and uphold the rule of law — because we live in a day and age where the world’s greatest deliberative body can no longer be counted upon to deliberate, so we have to look for deep personal motivation on someone’s part to do the job they were elected to do.
Personally, I wouldn’t look to Lamar Alexander to break ranks and be democracy’s saviour. I think this is wet dream Democratic thinking. But, on the other hand, wouldn’t it be nice to see a John McCain moment, coming from Alexander? Wouldn’t it be nice to see the second coming of Howard Baker? It would be beyond nice, it would be downright mesmerizing, the kind of gesture to restore one’s faith in humanity. Think about it, keep it in the back of your mind — but don’t count on it.