Steny Hoyer (D-MD) actually said… We allowed him [President Trump] every opportunity to come prove his innocence. Did we take a vacation and leave the United States?
One of the most sacred principles in the American criminal justice system, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. In other words, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each essential element of the crime charged.
In Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, and now in President Trump’s impeachment trial, we have Democrats advancing a dangerous notion. The accused are required to prove their innocence. Let the accusations fly. Most – if not all – are without evidence and corroboration. Hearsay, innuendo, second and third hand sourcing suffices to destroy a nominee or a president. It’s fertile ground for lies. False accusations can ruin reputations and destroy careers.
Anyone who thinks this is just politics isn’t thinking deeply enough. A confirmation hearing and an impeachment don’t take place in courts of law, granted. But in any society, worldviews and standards tend to migrate. Look how political correctness has metastasized throughout the culture – corroding civility, common sense, and imposing a smothering blanket of silence and conformity.
From commentary by Michael Spratt, at the CBC, January 30, 2018:
You see, the presumption of innocence operates in our courts of law to protect people charged with crimes from the power of the state to deprive them of their liberty. It does not operate to immunize political leaders from scrutiny. [snip]
To insist on the strict application of the presumption of innocence in everyday life is an absurd and insidious act of complicity to the realities exposed by the #MeToo movement. In no other aspect of our daily lives do we employ the presumption of innocence or apply a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence should not be used as an excuse to disregard common sense.
Why does a Canadian’s take on presumption of innocence matter to Americans? Because “progressivism” is a Western movement. Canadian progressives don’t think much differently from their U.S. or European counterparts.
What Spratt is saying is that in politics and everyday life, it’s no holds barred. If Professor Blasey Ford goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee to make unsubstantiated and uncorroborated charges of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh, have at it. If a majority of senators had cared to believe Ford, so be it. That an honest man’s career and reputation lay in tatters, that’s the way it goes.
Progressives – that includes Democrats – see “prove your innocence” and attendant say-so as weapons. They’re means of laying low opponents and scuttling their aims. But those approaches are double-edged swords. The day may come when their nominees and presidents are subject to reckless and unfair charges, which they then have to prove are false.
Moreover, who wants a society where making accusations against a neighbor is followed with: “Now prove you’re not what I say you are?” The American social fabric has been ripped up enough since the 1960s. A lowering of standards to the point where accusations fly, free and fast, would only do lasting harm to society.
After describing the accusations against him as “absolutely false,” Piven laments the fact that “allegations are being printed as facts” and “lives are being put in jeopardy without a hearing, due process or evidence.” He wonders what happened to “the benefit of the doubt.” To “tear each other down and destroy careers based on mere allegations is not productive at all,” he says.
He’s right. In defending himself, Piven is also defending one of the core principles of an advanced society: the presumption of innocence.
Presumption of innocence doesn’t just have applications to the legal system. It has applications, informally, throughout our society – and that includes politics. Without it, society becomes a banana republic… a place where the malicious, the scheming, and the unscrupulously ambitious see false accusation as a reaper to clear-cut paths to their goals. Or just as a means of settling scores. Is that the sort of society we really want?
What do you think? Weigh in!