Robert Repetto: Hamilton got it wrong

Published: 2/21/2021 5:00:16 PM

The Senate has failed to live up to the crucial role the Founding Fathers foresaw.

In the “Federalist Paper No. 66,” Alexander Hamilton explained why the Senate should have the power to try impeachments — because officials with the power to appoint naturally would feel that those people they appointed should show their fitness and competency. Such officials would be disposed to dismiss those appointees who showed themselves by their conduct to be unworthy, Hamilton wrote.

This, he argued, “must destroy the supposition that the Senate, who will merely sanction the choice of the Executive, should feel a bias toward the object of that choice strong enough to blind them to the evidence of guilt so extraordinary as to have induced the (House of) Representatives of the nation to become his accusers“

Unfortunately, that just happened. The House of Representatives presented overwhelming evidence that Donald Trump was guilty of an extraordinary effort to overturn the presidential election and, in the end, remain in power by inciting a violent insurrection. Then, Republican senators ignored that evidence and acquitted him, sheltering behind the discredited argument that he could not be convicted because his coup attempt had failed and he was out of office.

The Constitution’s authors endowed senators with a longer term of office and required greater age and longer citizenship because they envisaged a body of “temperate and respectable men” able to intervene “when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion … or misled by interested men, may call for measures that they themselves will afterwards … lament and condemn.”

Those passions were displayed on live TV as the infuriated mob ransacked the Capitol and hunted down the vice president and speaker of the house, whom the president had condemned. Unfortunately, in trying the impeachment, only a handful of Republican senators were able to summon the courage and responsibility to fulfill the duty that the Founding Fathers placed on them.

Robert Repetto


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