America needs another Baker

Now that the public meetings of the impeachment inquiry are opening

in the Congress, it is not altogether illusory to hope for a moment like

the one that saw a Republican, Sen. Howard Baker, ask a question that

contributed to bring down the Nixon presidency: “What the President

know, and when did he know it?” That question was asked during the

Watergate hearings on June 1973 just after former White House

Counsel John Dean had testified and exposed the pattern of corruption

and obstruction of justice by the president. Curiously, that question had

the purpose of proving that the accusations against the president were

based on circumstantial evidence. Shortly after, the answer came from

the publication of the secret White House office tapes.


What should be remember at this stage of the House enquiry on President

Trump is that Baker and all the Republicans on the Watergate committee

voted to subpoena the tapes. As for Sen. Baker, he stopped being an apologist

for President Nixon and moved out of the President’s camp. Could something

like that happen today? Judging from the obdurate defense of President

Trump by the Republican senators and representatives, it is unlikely. But as

the House gears up to investigate the president and his misdeeds in the

Ukraine episode, another Baker could emerge with a willful or inadvertent

question in the course of the inquiry.


The accusations against President Trump are based on the very sort

of misconduct for which the impeachment exists. As Alexander Hamilton

wrote in the Federalist Papers, the “abuse or violation of some public trust”

constitutes an impeachable offense.After President Trump held up hundreds

of millions of congressionally appropriated aid for Ukraine, in order to extort

a political favor from that country’s president, the Democrats in Congress

have to explain whether that conduct is indeed an impeachable offense.

The weight of the accusations falls upon the many witnesses that the

Democratic controlled committees will bring to testify. The question that should

then be asked and debated is this one: is it acceptable that an American president

pressure an ally for personal political gain?


A modern-day Howard Baker would ask this question. But you never can tell

in the sordid world of politics where political survival trumps the devotion

to the principles of the constitution. Public opinion may rise up to the

challenge of pushing Republicans to see the handwriting in the wall. Or it

may not, and the Republicans may continue to characterize the congressional

investigation as a partisan witch hunt. There is hope, however, that the

damning testimonies that the public is about to hear will defeat the efforts

to impede the progress of the investigation and later on of the inevitable

trial in the Senate. We will know soon enough.

One thought on “America needs another Baker

  1. 16+1 novembre 2019

    Caro Marino,

    complimenti per i tuoi interessantissimi articoli! Grazie per mandarmeli. Tanti auguri per i prossimi giorni prima delle feste. Con affetto,



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