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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: Profiles in historic courage

by John Brummett | June 23, 2022 at 2:49 a.m.

Rusty Bowers, the Republican speaker of the House in Arizona, emerged for history Tuesday as an American hero.

He brings shame to all of us who ever painted Republicans with too broad a brush.

So do a few others, namely U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, former federal Judge J. Michael Luttig and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

These are seriously principled and character-strong Republicans to whom I'd entrust the country, no matter the policy differences.

They powerfully reveal to all Americans willing to listen that Donald Trump and his disgraceful excuse for outside lawyers engaged in a bogus and cynical conspiracy to steal a second presidential term for the Godzillian ego that tried to eat American democracy alive.

These people put country over party both matter-of-factly and stirringly.

We can't credibly settle policy differences anyway until we are led again by clearly expressed competence and integrity.

It would be an honor and luxury to argue about Roe v. Wade with Speaker Bowers, a traditional and deeply conservative Reagan Republican. That would be so much more sane and civilized than having to argue with Kevin McCarthy about whether insurrection is any big thing.

We know that Cheney has likely ended or interrupted her congressional career by putting her genuine conservative principles to the right use. That would be her deliberately relentless takedown of Trump for pressuring Republican state officials and his vice president to let him win in defiance of the real outcome, as well as for shamelessly inspiring primitive yahoos to invade the U.S. Capitol to try to stop a constitutionally mandated election-certification procedure in Congress.

We know that Raffensperger stood his ground when Trump called him in December 2020 and told him to find him 11,000 or so votes so he could carry Georgia.

We know that Judge Luttig, a Republican-nominated federal jurist of whom former law clerk Ted Cruz has spoken reverentially, testified to the House committee investigating the horrors of Jan. 6, 2021, that Trump's pressure on Vice President Mike Pence to reject on non-existent authority the Electoral College posed a clear and present danger of revolution and was a horror he'd have thrown himself across the road to stop.

Now the newest profile of conservative Republican courage is that of Bowers, a devout Mormon who paints, sculpts, countenances no bull from Trump or Rudy Giuliani, and holds a television audience spellbound telling the easy-flowing truth about the "tragic parody" that Trump and Giuliani became.

Arizona and Georgia were the states that went against form in narrowly favoring Joe Biden. Trump could not abide it. He badgered Georgia's Raffensperger on the phone and, directly or via Giuliani, leaned on Bowers in the ways described below, all unsuccessful because of Bowers' moral clarity and strength:

• Giuliani wanted Bowers, as House speaker, to convene the Legislature to reject the certified Arizona returns, which Bowers said he lacked the state constitutional authority to do and for which there was no evidence.

• Giuliani told Bowers just to do it and let the courts sort it all out, even though he acknowledged his case was heavy on theory but short on evidence, a circumstance Bowers testified to finding humorous in part but breathtaking in larger part.

• Trump and his zany legal staff advocated that Arizona (and other key states) secretly submit an alternative slate of state electors--for Trump instead of the winning Biden--on the thinking that lathering Congress with conflicting sets of electors might discredit the legal ones. That was what Bowers specifically called a "tragic parody."

The strength of Bowers' testimony was not merely its vivid detail, clarity and confident delivery, but the eye-moistening sense of right and wrong upon which Bowers seemed clearly to be relying. He said he lives by the letter and spirit of his sworn office-holder's oath to the Constitution, which he said he considered a God-inspired creation.

I get a little leery when someone even hints that America is God's country or a Christian nation. It is, by the Bill of Rights, a free-religion country and, for citizens so inclined, a free-from-religion nation.

But this wasn't Bowers saying we had to agree with his religious dogma. It was Bowers telling us what the Constitution meant to him. And Trump, for whom he campaigned, was not going to get between him and anything he held sacred.

The political analysis that is emerging is that maybe 10 percent of the people are watching these hearings and no one in either base is willing to rethink comfortable emotions. But it's that Trump is being laid bare for a few independent swing voters and thus harmed a bit politically.

The broader analysis is that history is being served, in large part by delivering Americans like Rusty Bowers to it.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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