1. Susan Collins is a genius at holding a Republican Senate seat in Maine. There are only two Republicans in all the northeast who presently have been able to get elected and reelected to the U.S. Senate. Collins is one of the two. When she is desperately needed to uphold a critical Republican cause, like the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, she is there. To maintain her electability in Maine, a purple state, she therefore carefully picks and chooses causes and issues on which she can maintain her image to Independents and moderate Democrats of open-mindedness and can show she is not a “lock-step Republican.” On those, she casts “balanced ” votes on bills and in situations where her vote does not matter anyway.
Her vote does not matter on impeachment. To convict, it will take a two-thirds “guilty” vote: 67 of 100 U.S. Senators to convict. As things stand, there are 49 or 50 Democrats for convicting, depending on which way Democrat Joe Manchin of deeply Republican West Virginia ultimately goes, and there are some five Republicans who will vote to convict. That leaves Pelosi twelve votes short at 55-45. Thus, it does not matter how Susan Collins votes.
2. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is the only other northeast sitting Republican senator. The analysis for him is almost identical to that for Collins. The difference is that, while Collins just got reelected for six more years, Toomey is leaving the Senate in 2022. Briefly put, he may be contemplating running for governor of Pennsylvania one of these days. It is much more enjoyable being a governor, living at home and being the executive in charge, than being a U.S. Senator who has to keep flying back and forth between home and Washington, D.C. where a person then is one of a hundred in the Senate.
If he runs for governor, he will need Independents and some moderate Democrats to win in increasingly purple, and less blue (Democrat), Pennsylvania. Therefore, he does as Collins does, for the same reason, in the same circumstances. His vote does not matter on impeachment but may help him become a Republican Pennsylvania governor some day. OK with me.
3. Ben Sasse is a Don Quixote, reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” He is bright, passionate, and is there to clean up the U.S. Senate, which is like sanitizing a garbage dump. That is, it can be sanitized a great deal – until the very next delivery.
He understands the great moral causes for which he fights, although no others on the planet do. So, like Don Quixote, he goes “where the brave dare not go” to “right the unrightable wrong.” He “loves pure and chaste from afar.” He even seems to enjoy being “scorned and covered with scars.” His vote mattered on Brett Kavanaugh, and he voted for justice and against perjury. He is there when Republicans need him. On impeachment, his vote does not matter. Let the guy be. It’s nice to have a soul in the Senate who stands for principle — even if no one else can figure out what the principle is.
4. Lisa Murkowski is complex because she would not even be in the Senate if her daddy, one-term Governor Frank who soon after got kicked out in an Alaskan primary that saw him iced by the widest margin ever lost in American history by a sitting Republican governor, had not appointed her to the seat. Since then, she has suffered her own slings and arrows, as Republicans primaried her out — like father, like daughter — and she then needed Democrat write-ins to remain. So, like Toomey and Collins, she is a Republican U.S. Senator highly susceptible to political peril unless she has a Democrat base. Inasmuch as Alaska is very Republican, a real Republican could do quite well there and will replace her one of these days. In the meantime, though, that is Murkowski.
5. Mitt Romney, alas, has a personal Trump thing. He ran for president and lost. Then Trump did four years later and won. Romney is nicer than Trump, more dignified than Trump, has a cleaner mouth than Trump, has lived a morally better public and private life than Trump. And yet Trump is more liked and was electorally more successful. To borrow an image I have heard from the recently passed tzaddik, Rav Dr. Avraham Twerski z"l, Trump lives in Romney’s head without paying rent. It is what it is.
Those five are who, what, and why they are.
The sixth Republican vote to proceed with the Annual Pelosi Trump Impeachment, making the vote 54-46 to proceed instead of 55-45, is Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. That means nothing. He already saw that the procedural vote would pass anyway. So this makes him seem very fair-minded and impartial. Perhaps it will open the door for Democrats to work with him on other matters with more gentility. In the end, he will vote to acquit.
And that brings the analysis to the other consideration: How and why politicians lie for a living.
This is subtle and yet not so subtle. The final vote on impeachment is going to be somewhere along the lines of 55-45 to convict. Maybe Joe Manchin, facing reelection in 2024 when Trump may again be on the ballot and would win a landslide in West Virginia, will vote not to convict. Maybe some other Republican will vote to convict. But basically it is a 55-45 vote to convict — which means an acquittal. Trump again will be brandishing newspapers with headlines that say “Trump Acquitted!”
Here is the thing: In politics, whether in America or Israel or anywhere, very few politicians tell the public honestly what they are thinking and planning. They are concerned that too many voters are too stupid to handle the truth or to understand the deeper issues and ramifications. For example, the vast majority of Americans have absolutely no idea what is going on when it comes to American civics and government. They may soon be learning “critical ethnic studies” in U.S. high schools and colleges and may major in identity studies, but they have absolutely no idea what is going on. I have been a law professor for sixteen years. I get some of the better students who graduate college. I know first-hand whereof I speak.
Since most Americans do not understand the system, they have no grasp that a law does not become a law when it passes the House of Representatives unless, pursuant to the filibuster rule that was revised in the 1970’s, it also gets 60 out of 100 U.S. Senators to go along. That filibuster rule, and the way it has changed since the days of that Jimmy Stewart movie, accounts for most of the gridlock in Washington — why “nothing ever gets done.” It is equivalent to getting 72 votes in the 120-seat Knesset. When your party is in the minority, you love the filibuster rule that prevents an extreme-oriented majority from destabilizing the country. But when your party has the power, you hate the contemporary filibuster rule.
Because the filibuster rule somewhat helpfully prevents passage of destabilizing legislation by a majority that is bent on extremism, it also has given rise to two very unfortunate developments in American government:
1. Presidents now routinely bypass Congress and sign “executive orders.” Obama took that vehicle and sent it into orbit. Trump emulated Obama the other way. And now Biden is on a binge. Fortunately, executive orders are as easy to terminate as they are to implement. The next president just signs one the other way. It is a terribly destabilizing system. One day you have no Keystone XL pipeline. Then you do. Then you don’t. And America eventually will again.
Instead of legislation being done by the Congress as intended in the Constitution, the country now get fiats by Keystone Cops. It is far better to have a functional Congress make the law. But Congress is more dysfunctional than ever, and that leaves the president, who is supposed to execute Congress’s laws, making the laws instead. It is not the way the system is supposed to work. It also opens the door perilously to dictatorship some day. Jews who live by the Torah and who understand Jewish history and destiny know all too well that every Exile will end, and the seeds are sown sometimes subtly.
2. Since Congress cannot get laws passed because of the 60-vote filibuster rule and the parties’ inability to compromise with each other for the common good, the Democrats began running to the courts to make laws. In reality, judges are supposed to judge, not legislate.
Imagine in baseball, where the umpire is supposed to call the balls and strikes and to call whether a runner is safe or out, if the umpires started also changing the rules. A batter hits a ball that is just barely foul, and the umpire says: “Y’know what? It was darned close, and a batter deserves to have more fair territory than the chalk marks allow. So I say it was fair enough.” Or an NFL football referee saying that a missed field goal is good because “I say the uprights are too narrowly separated. Look, maybe that width is reasonable from 20 yards (18.3 meters) out, but you were kicking from 47 yards (43 meters), and you deserve an extra five feet (1.5 meters) of width.”
That is not the role of a judge. A judge is supposed to take a compendium of rules and laws, crafted by the people assigned to that role, and then make the call whether certain facts fall within or outside those set laws. The legislature — in federal terms, the “House” and “Senate” — are supposed to make the laws. However, even though Congress has become dysfunctional and it is almost impossible to get 60 senate votes on something other than naming a post office, if even that, laws still sometimes do need to be made.
So the Democrats converted the judiciary into an alternative bypass legislature. By appointing judges who are willing to ignore the law as legislated, and instead are eager to use their elevated status to make their own laws on the bench, the Democrats have enjoyed a half-century-long legislative bypass, going back especially to the Warren Court of the 1960s. No one ever voted for that; yet it did not matter. That is why Democrats started character-assassinating decent human beings like Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas, and Brett Kavanaugh. While Congress is dysfunctional, the courts now make the laws, too.
Israel has exactly the same problem with activist unelected judges who try to enact and impose their own laws instead of those duly passed by the Knesset. That tide is changing but has much more to go.
In the same way, most Americans are too ignorant to understand what is going on now with the Annual Pelosi Trump Impeachment. The vote already is over. It just has not yet been taken yet. Trump will be acquitted 55-45, give or take. There will not be even close to 67 votes to convict. However, for a politician to say now that “I will vote to acquit Trump” simply is not politic. So the Republican says instead “I will wait to see and hear all the evidence. I am coming in with an open mind. And my vote will follow what I see and hear.” That way, although the Republican is lying because he or she already is decided on acquittal, when he or she does vote to acquit, that vote seems to have greater strength: “I would have voted to convict if the testimony and other evidence had been persuasive, but it was not.”
The same is true of most Senate Democrats, particularly those in “purple states” that are neither predominantly Republican nor Democrat: “I am not yet decided how I will vote. I will wait to see and hear all the evidence. I am coming in with an open mind. And my vote will follow what I see and hear.” In this one small way, the Democrats and the GOP sound alike. And then (except, perhaps, for Manchin) all the Democrats will vote to convict, and they will say that they “would have” voted to acquit if the evidence had been otherwise. But they are and will be lying. They already know how they will vote. It just is not politic to admit the truth.
That is the system of government America has. It is the same in Israel, with some few exceptions. Gantz will never sit in a government with Bibi as prime minister. Neither will Amir Peretz, the head of Labor. Bibi will annex parts of Judea and Samaria, especially in the Jordan Valley. It is the same everywhere. It is an Olam shel Sheker — a world of lies.
As long as the average American allows it — those are the leaders the country always will have. A House with “nut jobs” and haters like Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Alexandra Ocasio, Hank Johnson, Jamaal Bowman, Maxine Waters, Betty McCollum? The thing speaks for itself. They reflect the voters based in homogeneous districts who elect them to represent them because they reflect them.
Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer is adjunct professor of law at two prominent Southern California law schools, Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, congregational rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California, and has held prominent leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations. He was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and served for most of the past decade on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His writings have appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, and Israel National News. Other writings are collected at www.rabbidov.com .