A Plea for Courage and Commitment

Published: October 2, 2020

By Jim Lichtman
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Photo: Diaa Bekheat

Sadly, every day brings a new low from the man who sits in the White House. Sadder still are republican Senators who lack the courage to publicly hold him accountable.

After Trump’s mockery of a debate – his lies, his indecency in attacking his opponent’s dead son and allegedly World War II soldiers buried in France – he consistently demonstrates contempt for the country he purports to make great.

While there is blame enough to go around, at this moment it is Senate Republicans who have aided, abetted, and kowtowed to a president who remains an example of our worst inclinations.

However, three years ago, one among them stood to deliver a speech after which he received a standing ovation. And yet, no matter how heartfelt, decent, and inspiring those words were, the bipartisan spirit that filled that Senate chamber is gone. There’s nothing to applaud today. It’s as if the speech had never been spoken.

If any Republican believes in the moral purpose of the Senate seat they occupy, they should revisit that speech and ask themselves one question:

“Am I living up to the stature and the commitment of John McCain?”

“I have been a member of the United States Senate for thirty years. … my service here is the most important job I have had in my life. …

“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. …

“Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries. …

“Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities… can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

“Both sides have let this happen. … we’ve all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly, I have. …

“Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’…

“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us….

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. …

“What have we to lose by trying to work together to find those solutions? … There’s greater satisfaction in respecting our differences, but not letting them prevent agreements that don’t require abandonment of core principles, agreements made in good faith that help improve lives and protect the American people.

“The Senate is capable of that. We know that. We’ve seen it before. I’ve seen it happen many times. …

“This place is important. The work we do is important. Our strange rules and seemingly eccentric practices that slow our proceedings and insist on our cooperation are important. Our founders envisioned the Senate as the more deliberative, careful body that operates at a greater distance than the other body from the public passions of the hour.

“We are an important check on the powers of the Executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and in many respects to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!

“The success of the Senate is important to the continued success of America. …That responsibility is more important than any of our personal interests or political affiliations.

“We are the servants of a great nation, ‘a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.’ More people have lived free and prosperous lives here than in any other nation. We have acquired unprecedented wealth and power because of our governing principles, and because our government defended those principles.

“America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. “We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.

“What greater cause could we hope to serve than helping keep America the strong, aspiring, inspirational beacon of liberty and defender of the dignity of all human beings and their right to freedom and equal justice? That is the cause that binds us and is so much more powerful and worthy than the small differences that divide us….”


  1. Yes, so sad from our commander — but senators and so many others excusing and following along?

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