The morning after being acquitted in a United States Senate impeachment trial, President Donald Trump attended a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
The breakfast is traditionally an affair at which Republicans and Democrats check their individual religious beliefs at the door and embrace non-partisan neutrality and tolerance for the beliefs of others.
At least that’s the theory and most of those attending the meeting achieve the highest standards of tolerance and understanding for each other. President Trump isn’t exactly an outstanding attendee, so it is quite possible that he hadn’t been adequately briefed on protocol or if he had been briefed, he had forgotten his instructions – or decided he knew better than his advisers.
Whatever. Peter Bain, covering the event for The New York Times, reported that just moments before the president “took the lectern” he “without naming them, singled out Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was sitting just a few feet away at the head table, and Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican from Utah who had voted to convict him, accusing them of hypocrisy for citing their faith while supporting his impeachment.”
Senator Romney had, in an emotional 10-minute speech on the final day of the Impeachment debate, condemned, as “personal and political,” President Trump’s request that a foreign government – Ukraine – investigate political rival, Joe Biden. Other Republican senators have agreed President Trump’s actions may not have been wise, but they insisted they were not criminal in intent.
Senator Romney insisted Trump’s actions were “a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security and our fundamental values. Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and destructive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
Upsetting the president more than Republican Senator Romney’s support for the Democratic move to have him removed from office was the senator’s confession that his strong beliefs and faith in Christian doctrine were as important and binding as his oath of office.
“As a senator-juror, I swore an oath before God to exercise impartial justice. I am profoundly religious. My faith is at the heart of who I am. I take an oath before God as enormously consequential. I knew from the outset that being tasked with judging the president, the leader of my own party, would be the most difficult decision I have ever faced. I was not wrong,” Romney said.
If President Trump enjoyed even a whisper of understanding of the power of unshakable faith, he might have arrived at the National Prayer Breakfast the next day in a slightly chastened mood. But he doesn’t chasten easily, or at all.
He arrived for breakfast, waving two newspapers with screaming headlines proclaiming acquittal. Sitting at a table, a few feet from the head table, he rambled loudly enough to be heard and quoted by some reporters: “As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people.”
Speaker Pelosi spoke briefly, but the keynote speaker for the meeting was Harvard professor Arthur Brooks. Times reporter Baker describes his speech as a “passionate plea for Americans to put aside hatred in national life and love your enemies.”
At one point, writes Baker, he asked the audience, “how many of you love someone with whom you disagree?” In response hands around the room shot up and Brooks said I’m going to round that off to 100 percent.”
Baker reported that the professor didn’t seem to notice that “Mr. Trump was among those who didn’t raise their hand, and while the rest of the audience gave Brooks a standing ovation, President Trump clapped politely but remained seated.”
And thereby restated his personal and arrogantly held belief that Shakespeare got it wrong.