Slade Gorton has always been a man I have admired, even when we disagreed on philosophy. He was the state’s leading conservative voice in an era before politics became polarized and nasty, long before the Republican Party sold its soul to Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump.

Gorton served for a decade in the state House of Representatives, 12 years as state attorney general and eight years as a U.S. senator. During his tenure as AG, he was one of many principled Republicans who came to agree that Republican President Richard Nixon had committed impeachable acts. Now, long retired from political office but still a keen observer of the political scene, Gorton has brought his deep understanding of the law to a judgment about the latest GOP president.

“I reached the conclusion that there are a dozen actions on this president’s part that warrant a vote of impeachment in the House,” Gorton said in a recent interview with The Seattle Times. He has yet to decide if Trump should be convicted by the Senate and removed from office, but his assessment of Trump’s attempt to involve Ukraine’s president in a self-serving political scheme is clear: “It was a pure shakedown.”

The current generation of Republican political leaders has shown no similar ability to cut through the fog of hyper-partisanship and mendacity. They leap from one rickety defense of the president to another, each more ridiculous than the last. Sadly, those GOP prevaricators include Washington’s three Republican members of Congress, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse, who joined with their caucus to vote against authorizing an impeachment inquiry.

It would be wonderful if they were to suddenly develop the sort of ethical sensibility and mature intelligence Gorton has always displayed, but we do not live in an age of political miracles. Among today’s Republicans, profiles in courage are exceedingly rare.

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