Bill Nemitz: Jared Golden follows his conscience – and takes a big risk - Jared Golden for Congress

Bill Nemitz: Jared Golden follows his conscience – and takes a big risk

Via Press Herald

What’s more head-turning than a politician who, with one historic vote, ticks off half of his constituents?

A politician who ticks off all of them.

That is the reality in which Maine 2nd District Rep. Jared Golden found himself on Friday as a week for the ages reached its conclusion in Washington, D.C. A week that saw the impeachment of a president for only the third time in U.S. history.

When the rhetorical smoke finally cleared, the House of Representatives voted largely along party lines to impeach Donald Trump. The vote on the first article of impeachment, charging abuse of power, was 230-197. The vote on the second, charging obstruction of Congress, was 229-198.

The difference was Democratic freshman Golden – the only congressman to vote for one article and against the other.

The tongues haven’t stopped wagging since.

From the right: “Jared Golden has locked down some support from Nancy Pelosi by doing her bidding on impeachment, but he has not gained any votes by defying his district,” Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, groused in an email fundraising blast the morning after the vote.

From the left: “If my congressman, Jared Golden, votes for only one article of impeachment, I will work with all my might to see him defeated next year,” vowed renowned Maine author Stephen King after Golden announced his plans on the eve of the impeachment.

Then there are the Washington pundits, more than a few of whom speculated that Golden, poor child, had tried to “split the baby” by satisfying both his Democratic base and the Republicans who awarded Trump an electoral vote in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District in the 2016 election.

They know not of what they speak. Maine’s junior congressman may be young, he may be new to the treacherous currents of the national’s capital, but he’s not stupid.

“I just took the biggest vote I will likely ever take,” Golden said in a telephone interview on Friday. “And as many people have pointed out, this may be the type of vote that could lead to my not being reelected.”

But he did it anyway for one simple – and, like it or not, refreshingly honest – reason: In the constellation of remedies to a constitutional crisis pitting a lawless president against a hopelessly divided Congress, Golden sees impeachment as the absolute last resort, one to be utilized only after all else fails.

Just before Wednesday’s vote, Golden released a four-page statement that examined Trump’s misdeeds not just via the latest headlines, but through the lens of history – from Alexander Hamilton’s writings in The Federalist Papers to James Madison’s and George Mason’s comments during the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

His conclusion: Article 1, which accuses Trump of misusing his power by pressuring Ukraine to dig up damaging information on political rival Joe Biden and the 2016 election, is a no-brainer.

“I exercised every tool available to me to try and put myself in the shoes of my Republican colleagues,” Golden said in the interview. “I searched for any hesitancy or doubt in my mind about whether or not the president had committed an impeachable offense. I tried as hard as I could to put myself in their shoes. And I couldn’t get there.”

So, he voted to impeach.

Not so for Article 2. Much as he can understand why almost all of his Democratic colleagues supported the obstruction charge, Golden could not get past one simple flaw: Rather than go to court over the Trump administration’s refusal “without lawful cause or excuse” to comply with House impeachment subpoenas, the Democratic majority fast-forwarded immediately to impeachment.

The conventional wisdom, of course, was they had no choice. To invite in the judiciary at this point clearly would have bogged the entire proceeding down for months, putting it on a collision course with the 2020 presidential election. Besides, while the House can ask for judicial intervention in its standoff with the executive branch, nothing in the Constitution requires it to do so.

Still, Golden said, he found himself stuck.

“I’m not blind nor naïve,” he said. “I know he’s trying to obstruct us. I just think that because impeachment is about last resorts and only when necessary, we have a responsibility to take every last step before we go there – not just for impeachment broadly, but for every specific article brought against him.”

In these with-us-or-against-us times, how anyone can view such a nuanced position as politically advantageous is beyond me.

On Thursday, as the political intelligentsia dissected his votes, Golden found himself at “rock bottom … almost near depression.”

But then a battle buddy from his deployment with the Marines to Afghanistan contacted him. A former machine gunner who now lives in North Carolina, the old comrade chided Golden for being “courageous enough and stupid enough” to vote unlike any other member of the House.

Then the fellow Marine turned more serious.

“He said, ‘When you’re in a trench, you want to know that the guy next to you is going to do the right thing, even if it costs him his life. I want you to know that if I ever have to be in that trench again, like we were in Afghanistan, I want you standing next to me,’” Golden recalled.

Pausing to collect himself, he added, “And that’s all I needed to hear.”

So, brace yourselves, fellow Mainers, for the 2nd Congressional District campaign that lies ahead.

Golden’s Republican opponent, whoever that may be, will have a field day railing about how the incumbent sold out his district just as the pro-Trumpers warned he would.

And Stephen King will impulsively take to his Twitter feed (sound familiar?) to berate the congressman who failed the master of horror’s purity test. (Question for Mr. King: Now that you’ve pledged to take down Golden, have you given so much as a thought to who might replace him?)

“If (King) feels this strongly about the future of the country, then he can get off the sideline and run for office,” Golden said. “Because now’s the time to step up and do the best you can for our country. I think obviously that’s where we’re at. That’s why I just voted to impeach a president. I wasn’t thinking about myself. I was thinking about the country.”

Go ahead, disagree with one of his votes – or the other – if you’re so inclined.

But as the fallout rains down on Jared Golden from all directions, know one thing. The man’s integrity remains intact.