The oddest of odd couples can do their patriotic duty, or just quietly allow the worst to happen.
Who will save America? John Bolton or John Roberts?
The incongruity of placing these two men in the same question is not lost on me, but the question itself is not without its share of practicality. Both men possess the ability, and maybe the responsibility, of turning the impeachment hearings from a rubber-stamp farce to an actual trial, one in which a person’s acts are decided by evidence, and where a judge ensures the protocols of a trial are upheld.
First off, John Bolton does not need a subpoena to speak. He can call any major network and simply say that he has a statement to make relevant to the withholding of aid for Ukraine. Now maybe his statement will exonerate the president, and maybe it will corroborate the House charges that Trump abused the office of the presidency, but Bolton can be counted upon to tell the truth—or at least to tell what he has written in his book, especially if he hopes to sell any copies. As one commentator said this morning, it’s not something he can do; it’s something he must do as a patriotic American. To let criminal behavior go unchallenged contradicts everything for which he has always stood. By issuing a statement, he would at least rise to the level of Lev Parnas: it’s a low bar, but it’s a bar that John Bolton still lies beneath.
As for John Roberts, he has the freedom and the authority to declare that the trial cannot be completed to his satisfaction until all suitable evidence has been heard. Philosophically (and maybe sympathetically) Roberts is a Republican and a judicial conservative, but he has defended health care, LGBT rights, and freedom of speech. He’s a consensus builder more than an ideologue; unfortunately, here he has no consensus to build. He is on his own. Roberts and the president have clashed in the past, and one can only imagine the altitude of the mushroom cloud that would follow any last-second intrusion into the current hearings. But again, making the trial less of a sham is not something he can do, but something he is bound to do. He would have the backing of the majority of Americans, a minor point since he has a lifetime appointment. But also, he can save himself from the question that will be posed by historians and students in perpetuity: why did the judge allow a trial to proceed without evidence? What was his name again?
So far the president’s only defense is that he can do whatever he thinks is best for the country, and if that includes rigging elections to ensure his re-election, than that’s all right too because he is best for the country. It's sophistry at its best, with just a dollop of autocracy on the side, but if neither John Bolton nor John Roberts does anything to communicate that fact, it will carry the day.
Democracy needs an eleventh-hour hero. It will not come from the executive branch or the legislative branch, not from a conspirator or his co-conspirators. If there is to be a hero, it will require either a bold move from the judicial branch, or, since we do live in a democracy, the assistance of a citizen. We've seen it happen with Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill. Why not John Bolton?
Why not soon?