Democracy dies in darkness… but leaving the lights off can keep the Capitol cooler, says Bob Mercer:
Short sleeves might, by necessity, be the “in” look Tuesday at the South Dakota Capitol, as the impeachment trial for suspended state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg begins on summer’s first morning in a Senate chamber that lacks air-conditioning.
Overhead chandeliers that are normally lit stayed off Monday afternoon in an effort to keep the huge two-story room as cool as possible, while legislative staff wrapped up preparations for the first such proceeding against an elected constitutional officer in the history of South Dakota [Bob Mercer, “There’s No Air Conditioning for Impeachment Trial,” KELO-TV, 2022.06.20].
Before anyone else attending the impeachment trial of killer Jason Ravnsborg complains about the heat, I should remind the conservative Republicans who hold Ravnsborg’s fate, the public trust, and the reputation of their party in their hands that the South Dakota Constitution does not mention air conditioning, and as fans of Alito will avidly cheer, if the Constitution doesn’t mention it, it does not matter!
Ravnsborg’s attorney Michael Butler is too cool to sweat, but the impeachment prosecutors include in their exhibits one document that will raise the rhetorical heat a couple degrees. The 2020 Student Handbook for the Law Enforcement Basic Certification Course bears Ravnsborg’s name and title on its opening letterhead and on the list of Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission members. The handbook gives beginners in law enforcement this ethics statement:
The Law Enforcement Training Center advocates a strong standard of ethical conduct by students who attend the Basic Certification Course. Your conduct reflects not only on you, but also upon your agency and the profession you have chosen to enter.
Your conduct should never betray your integrity, your character, or the public’s trust.
Have the courage to hold yourself accountable for your choices and actions, but also have the courage to hold others accountable for their actions [emphasis mine; 2020 Student Handbook for the Law Enforcement Basic Certification Course, p. 4; included as exhibit in Prosecution documents, Senate impeachment trial, South Dakota Legislature, retrieved 2022.06.20].
Imagine the prosecution directing those words to the defendant. Have the courage to hold yourself accountable for your choices and actions, says the prosecution, after offering the evidence of the defendant’s frequent infractions and invocation of his official title to avoid punishment. Have the courage to hold yourself accountable, the prosecution repeats, letting the words burn through the wires from the Capitol to the radio in the air-conditioned living room where the defendant will likely sit out his trial out of sight.
The prosecution then turns to the Senate, a body that has delayed taking action against the Attorney General, a body that cooked up a secret deal and a show trial for its own errant members to protect themselves and their party from bad press. To those Senators, the prosecution repeats the final words meant to guide the actions of South Dakota’s greenest keepers of law and order: Have the courage to hold others accountable for their actions.
Senators, you need to have more than the gumption to put up with a lack of air conditioning. Senators, have the courage to hold the Attorney General accountable to the same ethical standards to which we would hold a rookie deputy. Have the courage to repair the public trust. Have the courage to convict Jason Ravnsborg.