Editorial: Lead by example

Govern like grown-ups

There is no room in America for racism, sexism, antisemitism, xenophobia and hate. Those were U.S. Rep. Will Hurd’s words after voting to condemn President Donald Trump’s recent tweets about four members of Congress. The comment came just before Hurd – one of only four Republicans who voted affirmatively – accused U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of dragging her feet in denouncing members of her own political party while rushing to do so with the president, who is a member of the opposing party.

Why are our elected leaders having kindergarten-style fights, albeit with harsher words and more widespread effects? Why is our president using social media platform Twitter to incite his supporters and pick fights?

Congressional members are tasked with creating laws, deciding how tax revenue should be spent, monitoring our defense system, and keeping their peers in check. The president is supposed to oversee foreign and domestic policy, sign into law or veto bills passed by Congress, create a cabinet and appoint federal leaders.

When Congress admonished Trump in a 240-187 vote on Tuesday for his comments, in which he suggested one naturalized and three United States-born Congresswomen should return to their countries of origin, they joined the ranks of four other sets of legislators who successfully censured past presidents.

In 1834, the U.S. Senate rebuked Andrew Jackson for his refusal to provide a document after vetoing legislation to renew the charter for the Second Bank of the United States.

In 1860, the U.S. House reprimanded James Buchanan for awarding military contracts based on party relations and pending elections.

In 1864, the U.S. Senate admonished Abraham Lincoln for allowing two military generals to return to the military after they were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1912, the U.S. Senate criticized William H. Taft for trying to influence a U.S. Senate election.

Failed attempts were made against John Adams, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Ulysses S. Grant, Harry S. Truman, Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama for (in order) judicial interference, vetoes, entering the Mexican-American War, deploying ships along the coast of the Dominican Republic, seizing steel mills in response to a scheduled labor strike, conduct during the Vietnam War and Watergate break-in, perjury and obstruction of justice, actions relating to the Iraq War, and failure to fulfill the president’s duties.

Trump’s predecessor battled to keep his Blackberry smartphone when he took office in 2009. After a custom design by an NSA engineer, Obama was allowed to have a Blackberry, but its use was limited as any correspondence would become part of the presidential record.

Trump is known for divisive rhetoric – it became a huge part of his campaign for office – and now that he is president, his Twitter use is considered official White House communication and thus included in the presidential record.

The president is the chief executive of this country, and Congress creates the laws that govern us. We expect the president and these elected officials to be held to a higher standard, and as constituents we demand it  – even if it means we must lead by example.

We learned about freedom of speech in high school civics, but the golden rule was touted in kindergarten to teach us how to get along.

Information about past censures was obtained in a 20-page document released Feb. 1, 2018, by the Congressional Research Service.

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