Category Archives: Later, on politics

Don’t Be Stupid

On January 13, the House impeached Donald Trump again (he had been impeached before in 2019), this time finding that he “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” He “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud.” On January 6, he incited a mob to break into and vandalize the Capitol, injure and kill law enforcement personnel, menace Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and “engage in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.”

Senator Marco Rubio told Fox news reporter Chris Wallace that the impeachment of the former president was “very bad” for the country: “I think the trial is stupid.” He vowed to vote to end the Senate trial “the first chance I get.” He praised President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon in 1974 for “moving the country forward,” suggesting that the Senate should acquit—in effect, pardon—Donald Trump and simply move forward.

Most Republican senators are ready to endorse the fiction that Trump did not provoke a mob to attack Congress and trash the Capitol. We saw it with our own eyes, but for these Republicans truth has become irrelevant and facts have become alternatives.

On January 26, the Senate tabled a motion by Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who grabbed the spotlight to argue that the impeachment trial of the former president would be unconstitutional because he is now a “private citizen.” Among other failings, this argument ignores the fact that the impeachable conduct occurred while Trump held the office of president. Most Republican senators—45 of the 50—voted with Paul to avoid a trial.

The Paul ploy failed. The senate will begin its Trump trial in less than two weeks. It seems likely that most Republican senators, either lacking a conscience or choosing to ignore it, will find that Trump bears no responsibility for the insurrection that his lies caused. Acquittal will allow him, once again, to escape personal responsibility.

What message will the acquittal send to the mob that attacked the Capitol and to their fellow travelers? It will be an endorsement of the lies that fueled the insurrection. It will be to say that his words were not intended to stir the passions of the mob to unleash chaos in the Capitol and war against Congress. It will be to conclude that the lies were not even lies, that it was okay for him to say what he said and okay for the mob to do what it did. It was okay to believe that the lies were instead truth and that mob violence was justified and righteous, somehow even patriotic.

The acquittal will say (as Trump said on January 6) that “fake news” is our “single biggest problem”; that the election was “rigged” by the news media and “big tech”; that the Vice President is to blame for Trump’s (fake) defeat because he did not reject electoral votes and ask states to “recertify”; that the Democrats “used the pandemic as a way of defrauding the people in a proper election”; that we have “an illegitimate president”; that Congress must be rid of “the ones that aren’t any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world”; that Congress and state legislatures must pass sweeping election reforms “before we have no country left”; that “we have truth and justice on our side”; and that “if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”

I think I know where truth and justice reside, and it is not in the mouth of Donald Trump.

The individuals arrested for the January 6 attack are claiming they are not guilty because Trump sent them. They are acknowledging that they were provoked by his inflammatory words. They broke into the Capitol wearing MAGA hats and carrying Trump banners on a blood-thirsty rampage to hang Mike Pence and shoot Nancy Pelosi. It would not have happened if Trump had not wanted it to happen.

Soon the trial will begin. The senators know what he did because they themselves were witnesses. The case will be laid out for the record and for history. It would be a demonstration of willful stupidity not to vote to convict the former president of high crimes and misdemeanors and pass judgment that he should be disqualified from holding federal office ever again.

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America Divided

In the Senate last week, Mitch McConnell stood at the rostrum. He said in somber voice: “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side, our democracy would enter a death spiral.” Further, “self-government, my colleagues, requires a shared commitment to the truth and a shared respect for the ground rules of our system.”

McConnell’s commitment to truth and actual evidence, though, was sorely missing on November 9 when he said that the president (who had clearly lost the election by that time) was “100% within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options.”

In America Again, I wrote that the president’s right to “look into allegations” was a dodge. McConnell did not acknowledge the truth that Trump had lost the election. Instead of standing up for truth and “ground rules”—such as the tradition that the loser should concede when the results are clear—McConnell did what he has done time and time again during the Trump presidency. He enabled, and thereby reinforced, Trump’s lies.

He did not speak up for the truth when the president continued to riff on the epic falsehood that he had won the election and that “they” had stolen the election— “they” include, apparently, the overwhelming majority of voters.

McConnell spoke not a public peep about the truth when Attorney General Barr said that the Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of voter fraud “that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

For two months, the election lie went unchallenged, not only by McConnell, but by most Republicans in Congress. This liars’ caucus was determined to disrupt the ceremonial counting of electoral votes on January 6—votes certified correct by each state. The premeditated disruption was instigated by the president’s allegations of voter fraud. The “death spiral” had already begun.

The belief that the election had been stolen festered in the minds of Trump voters, day-by-day raising the scope and temperature of their anger as they gathered at the March to Save America rally on January 6. The president had asked the vice president to reject “fraudulently chosen electors.” At the rally, he said: “All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people.”

Pence declined. In a statement released minutes before the vote count began, he said: “the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”

As the electoral vote count got underway in Congress, grievance went ballistic. The mob became a munition, the president aimed it at the Capitol, and it detonated in the halls of Congress. Amid chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Stop the Steal!” the mob looted and vandalized the building and five people died while the Vice President and the members of Congress hid, fearing for their lives.

Later, the mob was cleared from the building, and Congress completed its work and declared Biden the winner, but 147 Republicans had objected.

In America Defiled, I wrote that there was a “moment of unity” as the men and women of Congress hid from the attackers and shared the horror and the anger at what was happening. I commented that an attempt to remove the president from office would turn a rare moment of unity into “another tedious partisan divide.”

I was wrong on two counts. First, there must be a penalty for a president whose lies would incite a mob to attack the Capitol. Belying his weak suggestion that the crowd would march “peacefully,” he did nothing to stop the riot and even praised the attackers with his “love.” Impeachment holds the president to account, inaction excuses.

Second, impeachment would not be the cause of partisan divide, tedious or otherwise. Our divisions as a people have existed for a very long time. Even a civil war did not change that. Impeaching this reprehensible president will not cause division in our country any more than failure to impeach will cause unity.

Trump has exploited and exaggerated divisions that existed before he became president. He promised to build a wall to keep “them” out. He found “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, giving aid and comfort to white supremacy. Even wearing a mask to defeat the coronavirus was for other people. He blamed “Democrat cities” for civil unrest. He said that “they” stole an election. His appeal is Trump versus “them.”

On January 13, 2021, the House voted to impeach Donald Trump for the second time.

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  • 86
    On January 13, the House impeached Donald Trump again (he had been impeached before in 2019), this time finding that he “engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States.” He “repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the…
  • 82
    Election day was three weeks ago. Joe Biden won the presidency by well over six million votes in the popular vote, winning a majority of Electoral votes, 306 to 232. More people voted for Biden than for any presidential candidate in history. His 306 electoral votes matched Trump’s total in…
  • 80
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