Americans take pride in their judicial system, which focuses on scrutiny of evidence and witnesses by both sides in open proceedings. The presiding judge must ensure that due process for a fair trial is followed so that justice is served. Justice is an essential component of the American value system, as are democracy and freedom.
Americans tend to scorn the judicial systems of countries that operate without due process, calling them kangaroo courts. I don't know how that term originated; it seems insulting to an agile and smart animal.
The term "kangaroo court" refers to a system in which the verdict has been decided even before the trial begins. The proceedings are simply staged to give the appearance of fairness and justice, with witnesses hopping in and out notwithstanding.
I was thus bewildered to learn that US Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he would be working very hard with the White House to promptly acquit US President Donald Trump, who had been prosecuted and then impeached by the House of Representatives. As Senate majority leader, McConnell will play the role of leader of the jury at the impeachment trial in the Senate.
Can one imagine this happening in other courts of law, in Kentucky or elsewhere in the United States? Anyone found to be attempting to tamper with a jury or interfere with the fair progress of proceedings in any other way would be reprimanded or sanctioned.
But McConnell apparently was not concerned about infringing any laws or the spirit of a fair trial. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York was one of the few to stand up and criticise McConnell for actions that will make the American judicial system the laughing stock of the world.
McConnell also said the trial in the Senate is a political, not a judicial, process. This is getting curiouser and curiouser.
If the trial is not a judicial process, why would the chief justice of the Supreme Court preside over it? What business does the esteemed chief justice have with a show trial?
If indeed the trial is just meant to give the appearance of justice, wouldn't it be more efficient for the Constitution simply to say that a president whose political party also holds the majority in the Senate is not impeachable and hence stands above the law?
For over 200 years, young Americans have been taught to take pride in the Constitution and hold it in high esteem. It appears that they might have been repeatedly misguided.
Trump reacted angrily to the news of his impeachment by the House. I can understand him being upset. From now on, he will go down in history as the third US president to be impeached in the 243 years since the Declaration of Independence was ratified. This is a matter of some significance.
If Trump cares about his future reputation, he should see the trial in the Senate as an opportunity to vindicate himself on the merits of the case, not simply rely on the Republican headcount to execute a cover-up.
In his December 17 letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Trump vented his anger and anguish. It has been shown that the letter was full of exaggeration, misleading statements and even falsehood.
While most Americans are familiar by now with Trump's style of communication, why would he write such a missive? It will go down in history as well and it might be detrimental to his claim of innocence.
Among the basics that any business leader learns is to be reflective and to directly address accusations. The president would be better served by presenting evidence and witnesses who could prove his innocence. While management crises invariably occur, it is the ability to manage them that differentiates great leaders from the good and the middling.
Besides, not every senator, or jury in this case, can be counted on to get behind Trump's line of defence. Senators are expected to be people of high learning and moral standing. They have their own reputation to consider. Sustaining the Constitution calls for leaders with deep personal belief, conscience and conviction, regardless of political party affiliation.
In education, we urge students to uphold the values of honesty, integrity and the rule of law when making important decisions. Let's hope US senators will be role models for future generations.
Otto Lin is an honorary professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.