COMMENTARY: Presidential Candidates Must Do Their Duty by C. Ellen Connally

For the third time in American history the Congress of the United States is gearing up for an impeachment trial. In the wake of ongoing revelations about the Trump administration, it appears likely that the House of Representatives will vote in favor of impeachment — which is essentially an indictment.

The proceedings will then move to the Senate for a trial. The fate of the Trump presidency will then be in the hands of the members of the Senate who will sit as jurors in a trial presided over by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Of the 20 or so Democrats running for the presidency, six are members of the Senate — Michael Bennett, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. As in any case before a court, it will be their duty to listen to the evidence and cast their vote — an awesome responsibility. As a result, presidential wannabes who are also senators should get off the campaign trail when and if the proceedings start and show up to do their duty.

In a recent interview, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker was asked about his plans to forego campaigning in the event the trial goes forward. He danced around the issue while expounding some political mumbo jumbo. The bottom line is he never answered the question. When faced with the same question, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was equally evasive — and for once she didn’t say “I have a plan for that.” Bernie Sanders tried to cleverly evade the issue by saying he hoped to be in two places at one time, which I didn’t find as comical as he apparently did.

Every member of the Senate who happens to be a presidential candidate should answer the question in an unequivocal and resounding “Yes, I’ll be there. It’s a part of the job that the people of my state elected me to do.”

We all know that candidates who hold elective office must put their day jobs on hold and delegate at least some of their duties to surrogates while they are out shaking hands and hoping for better name recognition and votes. Generally, the electorate has given candidates a pass for their absences, bowing to their greater ambitions.   But not being present at this crucial time in American history smacks of dereliction of duty.

Back in October, a Florida judge locked up a young man who overslept and missed his appearance as a juror. The tactic is periodically used by a judge who takes it upon himself or herself to make an example of a missing juror to ensure public awareness of the importance of jury duty. In the case of the Florida judge, I felt he was too harsh, but eventually and rightfully backed down from the jail sentence he originally imposed. But his point about the importance and responsibility of jury duty cannot be overlooked.

Being on a jury is a serious obligation and a duty of every citizen, whether it is in your local court or the Congress of the United States. Chief Justice John Roberts will hardly be concerned if a senator, especially a Democratic senator, is missing in action when the votes on impeachment are cast. But we the voters should be. What does it show about a candidate’s work ethic and sense of responsibility if he or she is campaigning while the fate of the presidency is debated in Congress?

Before these sitting senators decided to run for president, the people of their respective states elected them to the Senate. They took an oath to fulfill the duties of the office. So let the campaign buses cool their engines in a parking lots in Iowa or New Hampshire. Doors can be knocked on by surrogates. The consequences of an impeachment trial and vote are too important for any senator to be out on the hustings while others decide the fate of Donald Trump.

C. Ellen Connally is a retired judge of the Cleveland Municipal Court. From 2010 to 2014 she served as the President of the Cuyahoga County Council. An avid reader and student of American history, she serves on the Board of the Ohio History Connection, is currently vice president of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers and Sailors Monument Commission and president of the Cleveland Civil War Round Table. She holds degrees from BGSU, CSU and is all but dissertation for a PhD from the University of Akron.

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