Cognitive Dissidents — The Law Itself Is At Stake in Impeachment
— Senate Republicans released their partisan impeachment trial resolution on Monday evening, a blueprint that could result in President Donald Trump’s swift acquittal. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to pass impeachment trial rules giving …
Tomorrow, what a nation fears will be a kangaroo court will convene to Whitewash felonies, high crimes and misdemeanor in the mistaken notion that this is all “just politics.”
Well, if so, so was WWII.
But let’s not waste time on the endless minutiae and sophistry that comprises the entire core GOP case. Let’s talk about oaths and let’s talk about facts.
What is an oath?
An external pledge or assertion, made in verification of statements made or to be made, coupled with an appeal to a sacred or venerated object, in evidence of the serious and reverent state of mind of the party, or with an invocation to a supreme being to witness the words of the party and to visit him with punishment if they be false.
Now, to accept for a moment the radical Republican notion that America is a “Christian” nation, then making a false oath would be blasphemous, pure and simple.
It would be a direct plea to a supreme being for retribution against those making the false oath in His/Her/Its name.
But that’s just scratching the surface. The “oath or affirmation” lies at the core of our government and our very legal code. Black‘s (ibid.) also tells us:
What is OATH OFFICIAL?
the name given to the sworn oath of a public official on assuming office.
Each and every one of the Senators, and each member of the House and the officials of the White House, including Mr. Trump have ALL taken official oaths as a CONDITION of their service in office. Not coincidentally, a lot of this impeachment case directly addresses the breaking of Mr. Trump’s oath.
The Oath(s) of Office govern all political officers and appointees AND each and every member of the armed and police forces.
The oath and the concept of the oath are the bedrock at the base of our republic.
But never fear, the CHIEF presiding officer of the Senate — Mitch McConnell — AND the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — Lindsey Graham — have both publicly stated, in essence, that their oaths aren’t worth the air molecules they vibrated from.
Black’s Law Dictionary (ibid.):
What is OATH OF OFFICE?
A person assuming a position in a public office either through election or appointment is expected to take this formal oath which reminds them of their obligations to the public and to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
McConnell stated on Fox News (naturally):
Everything I do during this I’m coordinating with White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this. Impeachment is a political decision. The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I’m not impartial about this at all.” [emphasis added]
In other words (and subsequent events have shown this to be the intent) all pretense at fairness is to be dispensed with and the fellow who is now responsible for ONE IN FOUR of all Federal Judges (in cahoots with the semi-cultlike Federalist Society) shows us that “justice” is either a stranger to his tortoiseshell, or an absurd concept to our Mayberry Machiavelli.
And his Senate Judiciary Chairman, Lindsey Graham, has been there to shepherd the flock onto the bench. He said this about impeachment:
“This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly,“…
CNN asked Graham if he thought it was appropriate for him to be voicing his opinion before impeachment has even reached the Senate, to which he replied, “Well, I must think so because I’m doing it.” “I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here,” Graham said. “What I see coming, happening today is just a partisan nonsense.” [emphasis added]
Which betokens a long history of judicial horrors ahead. Where, formerly, we had reasonably bipartisan agreement on judges, (save for SCOTUS since Bork) we now have Mr. McConnell’s imprimatur on our federal bench in a manner that no one since the founding of the Republic has been able to force.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
Sadly, oaths have become so ubiquitous that we seldom give them any gravitas in our daily routines. But they form the bedrock of our laws and our government!
And the person in charge of the Senate trial, and the person in charge of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which rules on each judicial candidate before the Senate can vote) have both sneered at the idea of a “trial” and of an “oath.”
What kind of metamessage does THAT send about the rule of law. Someone, Locke, I think, said that words on paper mean nothing if not backed by commitment in men’s hearts to EMBODY those words.
THAT is what the Constitution and the rule of law depend on. And said men’s hearts here seem to be MIA.
But consider this: each and every person on the Senate floor for the Impeachment Trial from the Senate Sergeant at Arms to the lowly clerks, to the Mighty Senators and the Chief Justice of the United States of America is there by dint OF and only BY swearing an oath — no oath, no office.
In the latter two cases, TWO oaths: an oath of office, and a special Impeachment Oath.
The Impeachment Oath (as spelled out in the Constitution, according to Senate Impeachment rules):
“I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”
But when the “lawmakers” scoff at the law as “political” they have entirely missed the point of laws. Mr. McConnell and Mr. Graham foolishly got out in front of the world and stated: there is no law; only politics, and in politics, no promise is meaningful.
This is not merely cognitive dissonance, it is the handiwork of cognitive dissidents.
This has been coming for some time, and its prognosis is inevitably fatal.
We can therefore distill the current state of Republican epistemology in the Senate: Oaths are mere words, as ephemeral as the wind that carries them.
• • •
Facts. Stubborn? Things? Not things?
A long time ago, when I was first a writer in Hollywood, I was at science fiction critic Richard Delap’s apartment on Citrus Avenue, two blocks down from Hollywood High School, and he was touting E.L. Doctorow’s just-published novel Ragtime.
And I, as the ex-philosophy major, fresh out of university, was very upset at the notion of mixing fact and fiction. There was a long discussion in which the late Russell Bates, and the late Mr. Delap came to tee conclusion that I was being a philistine for pushing for such an outdated notion as the conservation of reality, a/k/a/ a bright line between fact and fiction.
I was unconvinced, but being politic, gave up the argument. But from that moment, I have watched the intermingling of fact and fiction grow.
And now reality is fracked with friction.
We see that opinion and news are mixed almost interchangeably, and, worse, past, present and FUTURE are spewed as fact on a regular basis. (I swear, if I hear ONE MORE PUNDIT claim that the outcome of the impeachment trial is a “foregone conclusion” I will ride the rails like a hobo from hell and beat them to death with a Pet Rock® for being a criminally obnoxious cliché. Grrrr.)
I’ve called it the Epistemology Crisis (epistemology = how do I know what I know?) and others have used similar, if less pretentious, language to describe the wholesale rupture in the firewall between reality and fantasy, stuff that happens and stuff that is made up, and the brick that hurts when it hits your head, and the imaginary brick that does not.
Evolution/”Creationism” has become an actual intellectual “thing.” (Ragtime mixed historical personages with fictional personages, actual history with fictional history and did so seamlessly.)
Global warming is pooh-poohed as a “political belief.”
Facts themselves become subject to whim, as in characters in a Lewis Carroll novel. But, unlike said novel, rarely are they subject to whimsy. The current intellectual climate counts “vehemence” as a contributing factor to “reality.”
I will offer you an example which you won’t like but which is relevant in the most practical sense, nonetheless: the fundamental trick that the Nazis used to take power (as a minority party) was to create a false reality and to dismiss the press as “fake news” (lugenpresse).
Outside of all legitimate science, Germans were suddenly the “Master Race,” and using vehemence and some cobbled together pseudo-science, this nonsense became the WORKING REALITY of the German nation.
Truth is always preferable to lies, and facts are always preferable to fiction, but we have blurred the lines, and that makes any fact-based notion of law problematic, and thus, justice becomes whatever you want it to be.
We say, along with Hassan I Sabbah and his cult of hashish-addled assassins: Nothing is true; all things are permitted.
The former justifies the latter.
When Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham openly (how many closeted adherents in the Senate do you imagine?) sneer at the oath of impartiality that they are going to make, and then TAKE THAT OATH, they echo Sabbah.
But they tell everyone everywhere in America who TAKES an oath that it is nonsense. Just a convenient lie to gain access to power: whether as a witness, a magistrate, a soldier or a public servant holding an office in trust.
And that washes away the bedrock that underlies the entire legal system.
That and facts. We are about to witness a rare moment in history, perhaps.
Akin to the moment that the Roman Senate voted* Pompey “emergency powers” to deal with the emergency of the “pirates” that were terrorizing the Mediterranean. (They never got their power back. Augustine dissolved it formally and finally by proclaiming its restoration in an Orwellian triumph of political mendacity.)
[* With extreme reluctance, having nearly killed Pompey when the emergency powers measure was first brought up. The Roman Senate always feared a tyrant, which eventually came upon them, nonetheless.]
Akin to the moment that the Reichstag (the body), responding to the burning of the Reichstag (the building) voted emergency powers to a guy named Adolf and then vanished into history.
Akin to the moment, last week, when the entire Russian government resigned to make way for Tsar Putin’s restructuring of that government to make himself more powerful and his successors much less so.
If the Senate decides that obstruction of Congress is NOT a problem, they will have, effectively, voted Pompey into office. History suggests that this would be the effective end date for the American Republic. But, without laws, and without facts, what would it really matter, after all?
If you’re lucky, it’s God’s Will.
If you’re unlucky, you’re God’s Swill.
And lost in all of this is Neo’s choice between the red and the blue pill.
The cognitive dissidents are on the verge of annihilating the republic in all but name. And facts are on the verge of extinction as a separate and vital element of our operating system.
Here is a bedrock statement on what America stands for, before there was a “USA” — a position that stands now in peril in the United States Senate:
I will enlarge no more on the evidence, but submit it to you.—Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence: nor is the law less stable than the fact; if an assault was made to endanger their lives, the law is clear, they had a right to kill in their own defence; if it was not so severe as to endanger their lives, yet if they were assaulted at all, struck and abused by blows of any sort, by snow-balls, oyster-shells, cinders, clubs, or sticks of any kind; this was a provocation, for which the law reduces the offence of killing, down to manslaughter, in consideration of those passions in our nature, which cannot be eradicated. To your candour and justice I submit the prisoners and their cause.
If facts do not matter, and oaths do not matter, then there is no law.
And if the occupant of the White House can blatantly obstruct a legitimate congressional inquiry, then there is no congress.
Only the rule of the mob prevails.
Right, Moscow Mitch?
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog, His Vorpal Sword (no spaces) dot com.