The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The chief justice cannot continue to accept obvious lies and call it neutrality

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. during the Senate impeachment trial on Capitol Hill on Jan. 22.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. during the Senate impeachment trial on Capitol Hill on Jan. 22. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
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I was braced for Dana Milbank’s usual snark, as he seems to have taken Maureen Dowd’s place in our national conversation, but his Jan. 24 Impeachment Diary column, “Roberts comes face-to-face with the mess he made,” was spot on and not for yuks.

Mr. Milbank is right about the legacy of Citizens United, but I wonder if the chief justice has a more basic problem. Sitting there while the president’s counsel spins lie after lie — and not saying a word about it — may be the death blow to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

The chief justice’s passive acceptance of obvious lies does not show him to be a neutral arbiter. It instead shows to those who might come before him in his day job that bad-faith arguments are acceptable rhetoric. In calling out some of those lies, and Republicans’ abdication of their credibility in accepting them, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) was intemperate!

So let’s scold the parties “in equal terms.” Hogwash. The chief justice’s fake neutrality may well neuter the Constitution.

Bill Kalish, Alexandria

Michael Gerson’s charge of “bad faith” against Republicans is uncalled-for [“GOP senators’ barefaced bad faith,” op-ed, Jan. 24]. His efforts toward rhetorical high-mindedness simply echo the phony gravitas of Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) et al. regarding their “somber” impeachment process.

Democrats have been throwing spaghetti at the wall since President Trump took office with every charge they could dig up, from “Russian collusion” to “obstruction of justice” to “bribery.” None of it stuck.

Democrats in the House had their chance to present their case in a compelling manner. They failed. Charges of “abuse of power” are so vague they have been reduced to mind reading about “motive” as culpable evidence. The probability of a guilty verdict approaches zero.

It is time to wrap this trial up and for Democrats to try to win elections by offering serious policy proposals rather than shamefully using impeachment as a political weapon, a strategy they might soon regret.

Tom O'Hare, Charlestown, R.I.

Many years ago, when my husband and I were dating (our 58th anniversary is this week), he received a ticket for making an illegal right turn on a street in New York. He asked the policeman why the turn was illegal, and the officer’s response was, “Look at the sign.” What sign?

As a college student with few dollars to spare to spend on expensive tickets, my husband researched the law pertaining to that street and found that “signs regulating the entrance to state highways had to be visible at all times” on that road; it was a state highway.

However, it was rush hour, and the corner where he made the turn was crowded with people waiting to cross the intersection, and they had totally blocked the sign. 

Naturally, he went to court to contest the ticket. He showed the judge pictures of pedestrians waiting to cross the street at that intersection, which he had taken on a subsequent day, as well as a copy of the state law pertaining to that road. The judge responded, “Never mind the law, son. Pay the fine.” 

Today’s Republican senators are doing the same thing with the impeachment charges: Never mind the law. Ignore the facts of the charges against the president.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Judy Jonas, Bethesda

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