For centuries politics and sports have been treasured American pastimes. We obsessively follow campaigns waged by candidates and athletes chasing records as they try to win elections and championships.
Now, we are witnessing another common trait between politics and sports: cheating.
Baseball is considered the great American pastime and as American as apple pie. That’s why the recent revelation that the Houston Astros cheated by stealing signs to gain an unfair advantage to win the World Series is so stunning. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred repeatedly stated that the scheme was “player-driven,” yet he didn’t punish one Astros player. That sends a clear message: cheating is acceptable.
Every contest “won” by those who cheat is forever marked with an asterisk. Baseball players who won batting titles and other honors as they transformed into the Incredible Hulk, only to admit later their use of performance-enhancing drugs, are so marked. And now an asterisk has been applied to Houston’s World Series win.
We now see a similar pattern of cheating being laid out in the impeachment trial. The question is, will President Trump and others who participated be punished for their wrongdoing?
The pattern began in 2016 when Trump publicly asked Russia to interfere with our election to help him. His comment was in response to a question about a foreign government hacking an opponent’s emails. "I'd like to have them released," Trump said. "No, it gives me no pause ... if Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I'd love to see them." Soon WikiLeaks was releasing thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The pattern continued three years later, with the call that led to his impeachment trial and the article charging him with abuse of power, when Trump sought Ukraine’s help in investigating his political rival Joe Biden. His claims of executive privilege that attempted to thwart the investigation of the call and related matters led to the second article charging him with obstructing Congress.
The House’s vote to impeach on these two articles puts an asterisk next to the president’s name. It will be there forever.
The House’s vote to impeach on these two articles puts an asterisk next to the president’s name. It will be there forever. Now, it is up to the Senate to determine if there will be punishment for these actions.
If senators condone Trump’s conduct, the betrayal of his oath of office, our elections and our national security, then they will be declaring that cheating is acceptable. If they refuse to hold Trump accountable they are telling the country that the president is above the law. Worse, they are giving him permission to cheat again in this year’s election. And if that helps him “win,” well, that’s fine too.
Senators who refuse to hold Trump accountable and protect our election are abdicating their responsibility and betraying their oath of office. If they don’t stand up to Trump in the face of a torrent of indisputable facts they aren’t standing up for the American people and our democracy.
These same Republican senators, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have already signaled their lack of interest in securing elections, refusing to vote last year on measures passed by the House that would have protected our election systems from interference by foreign powers. Isn’t that an endorsement of cheating, in the 2020 presidential election and every other race too? Is that the message they want to send America? That “winning” by cheating is acceptable? Really?
For years, Russia has masqueraded as a superpower. But under Vladimir Putin, Russia is a third-rate country with a pitiful economy and military capabilities. Their only clout comes from undermining a real superpower, with the assistance of Americans in power. Cheating doesn’t make Russia a great power. In fact, it underscores just how weak it is because it demonstrates they are incapable of competing without cheating.
Of course, Russia also cheats in sports. For decades, Russians have used performance-enhancing drugs to “win” international competitions. Its athletes and “wins” are littered with asterisks, and it has been banned from this year’s Olympics.
Is Russia the future for America? A country that cheats at politics and sports? Is that the American way?
At the end of this tragic chapter in American history, Donald Trump won’t be the only one with an asterisk next to his name. History will place asterisks next to the names of all who refuse to hold him accountable and rationalize that cheating in politics, at the highest level, is acceptable. That would indeed be a tragedy.