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Pence praises senator who sold impeachment vote

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Although some proclaim that we now live in a post-truth society, we cannot afford to garble our history, nor leave egregious statements uncorrected. That’s especially true on impeachment. We have few historical precedents, and we should be sure to learn the right lessons from them.

Unfortunately, Vice President Mike Pence has perpetuated an appalling misunderstanding of President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial of 1868. He did it by parroting the account of the Johnson trial in John F. Kennedy’s popular but sloppy history, "Profiles in Courage" — exalting Kansas Sen. Edmund Ross’ supposedly valiant vote to acquit Johnson.

Kennedy adopted the view of a Kansas historian who called it “the most heroic act in American history.” But both Kennedy in his book, and Pence in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, got their facts totally wrong. Ross’ vote was bought and paid for with patronage promises and, very likely, cold cash. It was crooked business as usual, not heroism.

Edmund Ross owed his seat in the Senate to the leading scoundrel in Kansas politics in the 1860s, Perry Fuller. Fuller stole most of his money from Indian tribes and government programs designed to help them. He illegally cut timber from reservations and rustled tribes’ cattle, covering his tracks by paying off officials in the federal Indian service.........