Many years ago, in another life and career in Arkansas, I taught Continuing Legal Education classes — courses lawyers are required to complete to keep their licenses current.
I conducted a couple of hour-long classes in real estate law. As I recall, I usually taught each of them twice during the year, once as a portion of a half-day or daylong subject-matter seminar, and again as part of a crash course of sorts for those lawyers who had waited until the last minute and needed some hours in a short amount of time to meet the yearly deadline.
At these, there would inevitably be attendees who did not necessarily practice in an area of law that was being discussed. They needed the credit hours, and because time was short, they had to take what was available.
Understandably, they were not overly interested in what was being discussed.
But because I had spent time preparing for the class and these were professionals, many of whom were friends and colleagues, I expected a level of courtesy, which I was usually given.
There was a particular instance, however, in which this was not the case, and the offending party was a candidate for Congress. I did not know him, but I immediately recognized him from campaign signs and TV commercials.
He sat on the back row with a smirk on his face, with his feet propped up on the chair in front of him. Throughout the hour, as I lectured, he alternately read a newspaper and talked to the guy next to him. There was even a moment when he laughed out loud.
I remember arriving back at my office and thinking about it. I was shocked a candidate for public office — the U.S. House of Representatives, no less — would act this way. (Today, having acquired a fair amount of cynicism over the years, I probably would not be as surprised).
His conduct would have been inappropriate in any case, but when he was running for office and his face was plastered on billboards and on TV commercials all over the Congressional district? That made it worse.
I decided to do him a favor. I wrote a letter to him. I told him I recognized him in the class and wanted to let him know he had lost my vote. If that were the way he would act in a small, insignificant gathering, how would he act if he were to be elected to the House of Representatives?
I tracked down a post office box number for his campaign and mailed the letter. To my surprise, I received a handwritten response from him a couple of weeks later, apologizing and explaining what I already knew — he needed those hours and he was obviously preoccupied. But he did offer an apology and I appreciated it.
I forgave him, of course. I don’t remember if I voted for him or not, although I do remember he was not elected. I have no idea if he ever ran for office again, but I hope perhaps that letter helped him realize his actions spoke volumes when he was in the public eye.
I had not thought of that incident in a long time, but the impeachment trial jarred my memory. A number of senators, including our own Marsha Blackburn, have been spied reading books (Blackburn), sleeping or passing notes during the proceedings.
Although cameras are not allowed to film the senators, acting as jurors, an artist has been able to capture some of it for posterity.
Senator Blackburn has already defended herself on Twitter, saying she was reading about matters pertinent to the impeachment trial, a chapter on obstruction from Kim Strassel’s Resistance (At All Costs).
She cleverly added, “busy mamas are the best at multi-tasking. Try it.”
Maybe so, Senator, but when your guy (the one you hauled down here when you were running for the seat you now occupy) is on trial for removal from the presidency of the United States, do you think those are the best optics?
We know your side is going to win. We know this is all about politics. And we know it chaps your hide to have to sit through it.
Alas, every job has unpleasant parts.
Just as the would-be congressman had to sit through a boring (to him) class to keep his law license, the senators must sit as a jury in the impeachment trial. (See Article 1, Section 3 of the United States Constitution).
Chief Justice John Roberts, presiding over the trial (also as mandated by the Constitution), early in the proceedings reminded the presenting House managers and the president’s counsel they were “addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
Let’s hope it’s not too much to ask that all members of that body, during these proceedings, conduct themselves in a manner suggesting they believe that.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at email@example.com.