In the mid-1950s, then-Sen. John F. Kennedy published a prize-winning book titled “Profiles in Courage.” It described eight senators who displayed bravery and integrity in defying the views of their party to do what they thought was right. The courage of Sens. Daniel Webster, Robert Taft, and six others were profiled, including Edmund G. Ross from Kansas, who voted for what he thought was right rather than going along with his party in the Senate trial to remove President Andrew Johnson.
Subsequent senators also demonstrated courage in going against their party to do what was right. In 1974, Barry Goldwater and other Republican senators successfully urged Republican President Richard Nixon to resign during the Watergate scandal. More recently, Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski, John McCain, and Susan Collins went against their Republican colleagues to defeat a repeal of Obamacare that would have eliminated health care coverage for millions of Americans.
Senate Republicans had a chance to demonstrate courage in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump. They could have cast courageous votes to call witnesses and seek documents so the Senate could make an informed decision. But many senators were too cowardly to take this action. Given the substantial evidence that Trump abused the power of the presidency to seek personal political gain and then obstructed the investigation of this abuse, Republicans could have shown the courage to vote to remove the president. But most Senators were too cowardly to vote against the president, fearing his retribution.
My hope is a new version of “Profiles in Courage” can describe the courage demonstrated by those Senate Republicans who sought a fair trial and to hold Trump accountable. But a more appropriate book title, “Profiles in Cowardice,” is warranted following the Senate trial of Trump.