Schiff explained that because we know we cannot trust Trump to put the national interest over his own interest, he poses a threat to the nation. He won’t stop China or Russia from interfering in the election. He’ll give up the national interest (e.g., a better trade deal) to advance his own interests. Schiff then delivered an impassioned plea: “Here right matters. ... If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is," Schiff declared. "It doesn’t matter how brilliant the Framers were. It doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well-written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The Framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what he did was not right.”
His remarks will no doubt be essential reading and viewing for years to come long after the horror of Trump has evaporated:
Donald Trump must be convicted and removed from office.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 24, 2020
Because he will always choose his own personal interest over our national interest.
Because in America, right matters. Truth matters.
If not, no Constitution can protect us.
If not, we are lost. pic.twitter.com/USfx6v9KsT
If you are as cynical and consumed with ambition as are the Republican senators, the words will bounce off you like water off a duck. But for those of us who have watched with a mixture of awe and amazement, with incredulity that anyone could argue against the merits of the House’s case, it was gut-wrenching because we know what he says is true, and we know that to the Trump cult and timorous Republicans, right and truth do not matter.
We can hold out hope that Schiff’s magnificent words will resonate with Americans, if not with a majority of the Senate. Perhaps Schiff’s call to our better angels will provide the emotional lift and inspiration to banish Trump from the Oval Office in the November election. Whether they do or not, Schiff’s words will serve as a message in the bottle — a love letter to democracy and truth for future generations. When historians look back on this dreadful time, at a president devoid of humanity an decency and a party overtaken with cultish reverence for evil, they might ask: “Didn’t they know better? Couldn’t they see right through him?”
The answer will be that most everyone saw Trump for what he was — a danger, a pathological liar, a self-serving demagogue with authoritarian aspirations. However, too few were willing to say it, and more important, to do something about it.
Scripps College philosophy professor Rivka Weinberg recently wrote in the New York Times on the nature of evil and collaboration with evil. “The truth about how massive moral crimes occur is both unsettling and comforting. It’s unsettling to accept how many people participated in appalling moral crimes but comforting to realize that we don’t have to be heroes to avoid genocides,” she wrote. “We just have to make sure not to help them along.” She argued: “Heroism is not morally obligatory, not teachable and not what we must demand of citizens in order to avoid catastrophic crimes against humanity. What we must emphasize is the cruelty and destructiveness of hate and the perils of collaborating with it.”
Republicans cannot bring themselves to do even that. But the rest of us surely can. The rest of us can say, “Enough.” We can say in November, “Trump is not who we are. We are a free people. He must go. We will not indulge this any longer.” The danger, Schiff reminds us, lies in what happens in the meantime.