It is comforting to know that, at critical times in our lives, there is a support network of people whose loyalties provide us with the strength to carry forward.
On Capitol Hill, this is all too true with the two major parties. A president whose party controls the bicameral legislature is secure in the knowledge there will be success regarding the advancement of his policy objectives. And when there is talk of impeachment, I believe a president can put his trust in that same unrelenting loyalty among party disciples during what some could call a constitutional crisis. In the event of a U.S. Senate impeachment trial of a president, the last thing an impeached president would want to see transpire would be a "Goldwater moment."
In 1974, Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., would play a part in one of the darkest chapters in the annals of U.S. presidential history, which was the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. In 1974, unlike today, Democrats held a majority in the House, as well as in the Senate. In the latter part of 1972, Democratic Congressman Wright Patman of Texas had begun to investigate links between Nixon aides and the Watergate burglary. House Republican Leader Gerald R. Ford denounced Patman's probe as a "political witch hunt," and despite increasing evidence, Nixon defenders on the Hill continued with countercharges. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., blasted the media version of the investigation as a "barrage of unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations by George McGovern."
By summer 1973, Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., R-Tenn., of the Senate Watergate Committee was trying to protect Nixon, saying he had no knowledge of efforts to cover up Watergate crimes. But Baker eventually became critical of the president. By Aug. 5, 1974, more GOP lawmakers defected in the wake of Nixon's compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's order to relinquish audiotapes that would incriminate Nixon in a cover-up plot. Two days later, Goldwater had spoken with Nixon about his chances of acquittal in the aftermath of a U.S. Senate impeachment trial. Goldwater informed Nixon he might get around 10 votes in favor of acquittal.
Some have debated just how much of a part Goldwater played in persuading Nixon to resign. Goldwater told reporters he did not actually lobby Nixon to quit, nor was resignation discussed on Aug. 7, 1974, but Goldwater saw a situation wherein GOP support for the president had desiccated. Ultimately, Goldwater informed Nixon that he, himself, would vote for conviction in the event of a trial. Another Arizona senator once had a "Goldwater moment" as the late Sen. John McCain fired back at Trump's browbeating of Congress over deteriorating U.S. relations with Russia. And no one will forget McCain's thumbs-down to the GOP attempt to repudiate the Affordable Care Act, for which an almost routine Trump lambasting of McCain ensued.
Recently, some constituents of southwestern Michigan have praised GOP Rep. Justin Amash for his call to advance impeachment proceedings against Trump. Amash was all but booted from the House Freedom Caucus in the wake of his decision to move in favor of the "I"-word, as well as his denouncement of U.S. Attorney General William Barr's misrepresentation of the Mueller Report. Amash seems to have a history of "Goldwater moments" as a Freedom Caucus member. After all, Amash did have a mind to leave the caucus after it refused to stand behind former Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., whose defeat in last year's GOP primary was an example of how a conservative voting record is insignificant next to unyielding loyalty to Trump. Amash, who has been formally admonished by the Freedom Caucus and faces the prospect of a 2020 election loss, should be applauded for his "Goldwater moment," as principle has been chosen over party.
Brent Been is a Tahlequah educator who is currently teaching at Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee.