Act 4: Et Tu?

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”    (Cassius to Brutus, Act 1, Scene II, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare)

Cassius (John Gielgud), Brutus (James Mason), Julius Caesar, MGM, 1953

Shakespeare had the benefit of Caesar’s death in 44 BC to shape his 1599 play. While there’s no reason to believe that Cassius actually uttered the playwright’s famous phrase, the words fell nicely from Shakespeare’s pen. Those words were used again 355 years later when the foundations of liberty were under attack by another senator. Not a Roman Senator. A United States Senator - Joseph McCarthy. 

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” (Edward R. Murrow, “No Fear” Broadcast, March 9, 1954)

Edward R. Murrow, March 9, 1954 (Tonight on See it Now, CBS)

Caesar’s fate ended in the play as it ended in life. Dead at the hand of Brutus.

After abusing his power and ruining the lives of good, decent Americans, McCarthy’s life took its own due twist of fate. The Senate voted to condemn and censure McCarthy on December 2, 1954. McCarthy - a hideous stain on humanity - died at age 48 on March 2, 1957.

McCarthy commenting on his censure, NBC News, December 1954

No, this isn’t an essay on Shakespeare, Murrow or McCarthy (although one might do well to study Murrow and the present state of journalism).

Here we take a turn from pages poised to take their own place in history. A history that is already being written. The impeachment of President Donald Trump. The formal impeachment inquiry began on September 24, 2019. And today, November 13, the impeachment hearings move from the basement of the Capitol into full public view. That’s as it should be. 

We can read about the life and death of Julius Caesar. And McCarthy’s attack on freedom and his ultimate disgrace are relatively fresh, starting and ending fewer than 70 years ago.

But we can only speculate about the closing paragraphs of the Trump impeachment story. We still think we know much more than we actually know. Perhaps that materially changes during the public hearings. Perhaps not. Still, practically speaking, the final chapter teeters around a handful of possibilities.

Donald Trump, Nov 2019 (© Philip Shucet Photography)

  • The House of Representatives falls short of passing Articles of Impeachment.
  • The House passes Articles of Impeachment largely along party lines.
  • The Senate convenes a trial and acquits Trump.
  • The Senate convenes a trial, convicts and removes Trump.
  • The 2020 Republican candidate for president is Donald J. Trump.
  • The 2020 Republican candidate for president is Michael Richard Pence.

Of the final two outcomes, one is certain. Trump or Pence.

I ask you to reach beyond your personal political opinion to consider the finale. 

We’ve been continuously bombarded with interpretations of the five-page record of the president’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. Never before has the term “quid pro quo” been uttered by so few, only to fall on the deaf ears of so many. Latin is not our language of choice.

You may write your own scenes of the Trump impeachment saga. Your slant will depend on where you stand; with or against the president. But will your pages alter the final chapter?

I doubt it. I believe we will fall short of a compelling “so what.”

I believe the outcome - the correct outcome - will be a presidential election on November 3, 2020 between Donald J. Trump and the Democrat nominee.

And remember this. On November 8, 2016, the Republican candidate for president beat the Democrat by securing 304 electoral votes.

If there’s a ball to follow, that is it. Everything else is a distraction.

Cast whoever you wish in the roles of Cassius, Brutus, McCarthy and Murrow. Choose your side.

But the phrase still rings true, does it not?

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Photographs are here.

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