- - Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers have a rivalry that transcends any set of players, any coach, any individual season or, frankly, most logic. It is based on history, passion and geography. Such is the nature of great sports rivalries. They exist in both college and professional sports and tend to strongly taint our opinion if we’re a fan of one team or the other. As human beings, we tend to see what we want to see.

If I’m an Alabama fan and there is an extremely close call on whether a Crimson Tide receiver’s foot was in bounds or not immediately after a reception, my eyes want to tell me that yes, of course, his foot was in. Conversely, the Auburn fan, watching the exact same play at the exact same time, may come to a different conclusion. He doesn’t want Alabama to succeed so his eyes tell him that the receiver’s foot was clearly out of bounds.

When watching the exact same football pass play happen live, it is entirely possible that both of us perceive two very different things having occurred. Neither of us is lying. Neither of us is attempting to cheat. Our desire, our preference, indeed our very loyalty, impacts our perception.

In professional and collegiate sports the instant replay is now commonly used to minimize the human factor offered by the referee, umpire or other governing official. The reason is simple. Sometimes people make mistakes. By reviewing a close play in slow motion from multiple camera angles, it is usually possible to clarify beyond any doubt exactly what happened.

The key word is “usually.” Even in slow motion it is occasionally impossible to be absolutely sure. In such instances, the original ruling on the field stands. The standard that must be met in instant replay reviews in order to overturn the ruling on the field is “clear and convincing evidence” that the referee was mistaken. It can’t simply seem like he might have been wrong or even that he was probably mistaken. The standard says the instant replay must demonstrate clear and convincing evidence. Anything short of that and the call on the field stands.

The outcome of games can be altered by the use of instant replay. Championships, money and fame all hang in the balance. The notion is that if clear and convincing evidence exists, the mistaken call must be discarded and the right call must be implemented. Making as certain as possible that the rules of the game are properly implemented is essential to the idea of fair play. No call however may be overturned on anything less than the clear and convincing standard.

Few would argue with the assertion that the Presidency of the United States is more important and more consequential than a football game. The policies and actions of any President impact virtually every citizen of the United States and countless millions around the globe. The process we use in this democratic republic to choose our leader is clearly spelled out and carefully monitored. Not only are there people on the federal level who monitor the election process, there are state officials, city and county officials and even individual precinct officials. All are charged with making sure the process is completed following the law. If they see an irregularity it is reviewed and if there is clear evidence of a problem, such as ballot tampering or an unregistered voter, a vote can be tossed out.

Once the election is completed, each level of government must certify the outcome. After being certified, the people of the United States accept the result. Some may not like the result, but the public and the government both recognize the importance of respecting the rules. Much like in sports, the only way to maintain stability and credibility is to establish rules, follow those rules and then respect the outcome. That is the way it has always been done in the United States.

Until now.

Since the day after President Donald Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton in November 2016, high profile Democrats like Congresswoman Maxine Waters have been calling for his impeachment. Never mind that a President can only be impeached for actions done after taking office, Waters was calling for Trump’s impeachment 72 days before he was inaugurated. She wasn’t alone.

Since that time America has suffered through two years of investigation into whether Trump was really a Russian mole. Throughout the Mueller investigation Democrats like Adam Schiff called for the impeachment of President Trump based on the “mountains of evidence” of Trump’s misdeeds with the Russians. Others joined the impeachment chorus. When the Mueller report came out however, it found no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion. None. Zip. Zero.

Undeterred, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have decided to impeach anyway. They’ve found a new reason. President Trump pressured the President of Ukraine, we’re told, to investigate a Trump rival. The claim is that Trump withheld military aid unless Ukraine would do him this political based favor. They initially called it quid pro quo. Later, after focus groups told the Democrats (I’m not making this up) they didn’t understand what quid pro quo was, the impeachment proponents changed their wording to extortion and bribery.

Regardless of what you call it, there are problems with the claim.

President Trump says it didn’t happen.

The President of Ukraine says he felt no pressure. He says it didn’t happen.

The military aid was delivered.

The investigation into issues involving Joe Biden’s son and big money payouts never happened.

Trump actually went so far as to release the official record of the phone call between he and the Ukraine President. His intent in doing this was to demonstrate no pressure was exerted. Those reading the transcript however, are much like Alabama and Auburn fans. They see what they want to see. The Republicans are quite sure the record of the phone call clears the President. The Democrats, looking at the exact same record, claim the President was obviously pressuring Ukraine.

Much like sports, the question becomes is the evidence clear and convincing? The call on the field in this case, is the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. The people of America made that call for Donald Trump and as a result he is our President. In less than a year the public will be asked to make that call again.

In the meantime however, Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler and a couple hundred other Democrats are looking at the instant replay of a July phone call with the President of Ukraine. From their public statements it appears they may well move forward using the transcript as a basis for removing the President from office. They are looking to overturn the call on the field.

You may like President Trump. You may not. Surely however, you understand that much like in sports, the only way to maintain stability and credibility of our nation is to establish rules, follow those rules and then respect the outcome.

The phone call between President Trump and the President of Ukraine fails the “clear and convincing evidence” test. Alabama fans see one thing, Auburn another. If that is the standard for overturning a catch in a football game, Congress must not offer a lower bar in order to overturn the outcome of a US Presidential election.

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