His explanation, and he, were bogus all along.
Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy drew an avalanche of criticism concerning his vote to proceed with the Senate trial attendant to (another dubious) impeachment of GOP former Pres. Donald Trump, Cassidy took to social media to attempt a defense of it. He had the raw material to do a credible job; while the case that trying a former officer of the U.S. has merit through a reading of the Constitution and past argumentation during impeachment trials, the case against is stronger. Still, he could have offered a principled defense of his decision that he used reasoned judgment to make the call.
Instead, he mostly rehashed his initial explanation. He said the Democrats who comprised the majority in the House of Representatives managing the trial – the prosecutors, in essence – spoke to an learned case for permissibility of late impeachment, although briefly adding that the sources for this came from Constitutional scholars, including some allied with the Federalist Society which is an organization that promotes interpreting the Constitution through original source materials supplemented by learned extrapolation, often favored by conservatives. By contrast, he said the defense lawyers provided little of the same, which clinched his affirmative vote.
But, he never gave an explanation to why, on a Jan. 26 point of order challenging the trial on constitutional grounds, he voted for that, nor reasons for why he voted differently earlier this week. Perhaps he omitted this because the implications seemed embarrassing: Cassidy, rather than acting as an informed public servant, instead like a child became mesmerized by adults’ rhetoric. He implies he never really considered the constitutional issue before that day; rather than using his mind for what it was intended, he entered it into the proceedings as a blank slate, unwilling to do his own homework, deliberately shutting himself off from the copious amounts of material backing both sides of the issue, and surrendering himself to whatever sounded the best at the passionate present moment.
This is the mark of a careless legislator, and certainly not a conservative approach. Ironically, in his short address – by claiming he gave the Constitution, or at least his interpretation of it, precedence over the fortunes of Trump, Cassidy further tried to arrogate that “conservative” mantle to himself in this action, blissfully unaware his very inattention to the debate prior to the speech-making contradicts a venerable definition of conservatism, as articulated by one of the forebearers of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke.
A statesman himself, Burke cautioned that representatives of the people must act prudently, or in a manner that balances principle and practice that requires judgment and doesn’t yield to passions of the moment culled from abstract conceptions. By Burke’s estimation in this instance, Cassidy comes up short.
He didn’t act as a conservative not because he didn’t judge the trial as an unconstitutional exercise; he failed to behave conservatively because he so cavalierly allowed himself to be caught up by an exercise in argumentation with little apparent recourse to reasoned judgment of a comprehensive set of facts. This isn’t an International Public Debate Association meet where forensics count; it’s the floor of the U.S. Senate where outcomes matter, and prudence requires evaluating information beyond what presenters put forth.
If Cassidy had stated that he had reviewed all arguments for and against and judged the better intellectual case as for constitutional, he would have done his job. He didn’t when he as much conceded he gave the matter the same attention that would a patron called in to settle a barroom verbal joust between a sober and a drunk guy.
Cassidy didn’t seem to anticipate the amount of blowback he received from his choice, although most of the criticism came from his unwillingness to vote to stop the proceedings then and there rather than shortcomings in the care he took to fulfill adequately his obligation as an elected representative of the people. In the final analysis, his doubling down on his rationale behind the vote, and failure to do his duty, was merely a dodge to provide a fig leaf for his true intention to vote to convict.
This is disingenuousness of the highest order for Cassidy, especially given the absolute speciousness of the case against Trump. It wouldn’t have come close to a conviction in a court of law for “insurrection,” but recall that the impeachment process isn’t a legal one, but a political one to achieve political ends. Cassidy, nor any dispassionate observer, cannot legitimately claim a vote to convict occurred on the basis of reasoned analysis, so clearly political ends were his motive.
That Cassidy abandoned a measured, detached review both of the constitutionality question and evidence and instead took a political course of retribution against Trump demonstrates the reason he gave the impoverished explanation that he did about the constitutionality vote: he needed political cover to permit a vote to convict (only one senator voted against unconstitutionality but for conviction, the retiring Republican Pat Toomey). For all his posturing about principle, Cassidy’s actions revealed him to be just another grubby politician without honor.