Gaski: Romney as Hamlet

March 4, 2020

by John Gaski, Ph.D.

Despite Mitt Romney’s contrived and sophistic attempt to justify his Senate vote to convict Donald Trump on one impeachment article, his public verbal contortions fall short. The self-contradiction with respect to his prior vote in favor of trial witnesses is revealing and damning of Mr. Romney and his motives.

How so?  First, Romney’s vote for witnesses was inherently an admission that prevailing evidence was insufficient for a definite conclusion or verdict. If insufficient for a guilty verdict, the subsequent Senate decision against more witnesses would render Romney’s vote to convict incompatible with his prior vote. In other words, insufficient plus zero still equals insufficient. (Or, if inadequate evidence for a not-guilty conclusion, in Romney’s or anyone’s mind, the issue is immaterial because U.S. jurisprudence does not require innocence to be proven.)  

Alternatively, if Romney’s preference for witnesses stemmed from a belief that the body of evidence tendered as of then was enough for a guilty verdict but could still be overcome by further witness-based evidence, then Romney’s guilty vote is illegitimate because of his own recognition of the exclusion of potentially exculpatory information.  

One other possible option, to make it exhaustive: What if Mitt Romney voted for witnesses while believing that a) the case for conviction had been made but b) more evidence could only have bolstered the case? In that event, however, legally and logically, the prospective extra evidence would be superfluous to a valid conclusion and there was no exigency to support more witnesses, all of which suggests that Romney’s thinking must have corresponded to one of the first two scenarios. The vote for witnesses remains belied by the guilty vote, or vice versa, that is.

In any case, Mitt Romney’s vote to convict President Trump is incongruent with his own revealed position, internally inconsistent and incoherent. What this signals further is a set of unattractive inferences:  

Romney’s stated justification for voting to convict does not stand up to elementary scrutiny, so his motives must have been something other than the elevated, principled, noble metaphysics he proclaimed. What is indicated by default instead is the personal or political because Mitt Romney is far too smart not to discern the incongruence of his alleged reasoning. At least, he always was. Maybe he really is losing his mind, as some prominent critics suspect.

Or, one other hunch: Perhaps Mitt is positioning himself to be the 2020 Vice Presidential nominee — for the Democrats.  

John F. Gaski, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, is associate professor, at the Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, specializing in social and political power and conflict. Dr. Gaski is a long-time registered Democrat, and long-time registered Republican — intermittently, not simultaneously or sequentially.


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