Come On, Lamar! There’s Still Time for Senator Alexander to Show Courage 

How Lamar Alexander might reclaim his proper place in history.

It seems all so obvious now.

Last January 31st, Lamar Alexander, Tennessee’s senior senator, voted to dismiss John Bolton’s testimony at the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump. Had Alexander voted for presentation of further evidence, several others in the Republican Party may well have joined him. And we as a country might be in a very different place than where we are today.

Now that everyone knows the contents of Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened, the testimony that the former National Security Advisor was willing to give might well have tilted the Senate toward a Trump conviction, resulting in a Pence presidency.
Six months later, there is no point crying over spilt milk. But it is worth taking a moment to think about what might have been, had Donald Trump been removed from office last winter.
click to enlarge Lamar Alexander
  • Lamar Alexander


The past six months under a Pence presidency would have been difficult — the pandemic could care less who’s in the White House — but perhaps he would have handled the virus’ omnipresence differently. He’s no favorite of mine, but I believe a President Pence would have approached the crisis altogether differently. He certainly would have listened more closely to the doctors. And he wouldn’t have played so much golf.

Pence would have made mistakes; after all, everyone on the front lines did at first. But he and the governors, I feel confident, would have put together a cogent federal/state pandemic plan. Having been a governor himself, he would have worked closely with others from both parties.



I also believe that a President Pence would consider hourly tweeting beneath the dignity of his new position. And he would know that his new job was way bigger than his ego, well aware of where the buck stops.

By now, President Pence’s policies might have saved 25,000 lives, maybe more. At the moment, he would be in the middle of a closely contested election race, just 77 days away. The outcome would be a toss-up at this point.

The interim President would be well liked, and so would Lamar Alexander, the man who demanded that John Bolton’s testimony be heard. The retiring Tennessee senator forever would be remembered for not letting the Bad Cat out of the impeachment bag.

Lamar Alexander was our governor for eight years in the Eighties, our senator now for the past eighteen. I don’t know a Democrat in Tennessee who hasn’t voted for him a time or three. Alexander’s public service reflects competence, dedication, and civility.

Sad, isn’t it, then, that his distinguished Senate career is ending on an ambiguous note. Sad that all but one GOP senator chose to ignore evidence of the President’s criminal behavior regarding the Ukraine. Shortly after his acquittal, Donald Trump rode a victory lap in his limo at the Daytona 500, and the rest is history. Real history, unfortunately, not what-might-have-been.

Things have gone from bad to worst this past week, with President Trump’s blatant attempt to disrupt the USPS so completely in the weeks and months ahead as to make voting by mail well nigh impossible. This President’s bald attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election goes far beyond what any of his 44 predecessors had ever contemplated. Most contemporary American historians now speak with one voice, already calling Trump’s blatant power grab one of the darkest political gambits in our country’s history.

Here’s how I think our state’s senior senator could achieve a degree of redemption for his January vote. Lamar Alexander could recover much of the integrity for which he has always been admired, if he simply announced his retirement now, rather than waiting until January 2021, and by just stating the obvious: “I have lost confidence in Mr. Trump’s ability to govern these United States.

He need not say another word; let others whose political futures are in the balance slice and dice Donald Trump’s decidedly dangerous behavior. I believe a one-sentence resignation would be well-received by most Americans, a large percentage of whom remain terrified by this human loose cannon, still rolling around in the White House.

It’s a small gesture, but perhaps Senator Alexander’s resignation would inspire others in his party to stand up to the President’s blatant attempt to meddle with our country’s electoral process. We find ourselves now in a very dark place; our retiring senator has a genuine opportunity to make things inside that place a little bit brighter.

Kenneth Neill is publisher emeritus of the Memphis Flyer, which he helped launch in 1989.

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