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McConnell’s choice is emblematic of the GOP’s rot

The Republican Party now stands for nothing but Donald Trump. There are no principles, there are no convictions. There is only Trump. They have thrown everything else away in defense of the man.

McConnell’s choice is emblematic of the GOP’s rot

Jonah Goldberg, writing for the Los Angeles Times.

McConnell’s choice is emblematic of the GOP’s rot. Republicans claim to fight for fidelity to the Constitution, traditional morality, law and order, economic liberty, fiscal responsibility, etc. As a conservative, I believe these are things worth fighting for. But most Republicans today don’t see these as principles to stand for, they see them as slogans to campaign on.

That is the only way to reconcile their sloganeering with their slavish support for Donald Trump — a thrice-married, admitted sexual predator who, as president, lavished praise on dictators, imposed tariffs with drunken abandon, tried to steal an election so brazenly he was impeached twice and set in motion a multi-pronged anti-constitutional assault on Congress and democracy that left dead cops in its wake and the impeachment clause of the Constitution a dead letter.

“Courage,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.”

Again and again, at the moment of highest political reality, the bulk of the Republican Party has chosen Donald Trump — and the voters who dominate the primaries — over all other considerations.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Impeachment Republicans

Trump’s weak impeachment defense will expose the depravity of GOP senators who acquit him

Even more of the case for impeaching Donald Trump. Not only is he guilty, guilty, guilty, but if the Republican Senators acquit him, they’ll be guilty of putting the party—and the man—far above the Constitution that they swore an oath to defend.

Trump’s weak impeachment defense will expose the depravity of GOP senators who acquit him

Greg Sargent, opining in The Washington Post.

The real choice they face is not between sticking with Trump or going against him. Rather, it’s between sticking with Trump or remaining faithful to their oath of office, which requires them to defend the Constitution against those who would undermine or destroy it, and to the oath of impartiality they take as impeachment jurors.

Trump tried to overthrow U.S. democracy to keep himself in power illegitimately, first through corrupt legal efforts, then through nakedly extralegal means, and then by inciting intimidation and violence to disrupt the constitutionally designated process for securing the peaceful conclusion of free and fair elections.

Trump fully intended to subvert the constitutional process designating how our elections unfold, and intended this every step of the way. GOP senators cannot remain “loyal” to Trump without breaking their oaths to execute their public positions faithfully.

The weakness of Trump’s own defense will reveal the true contours of this choice — and demonstrate how his defenders, both on his legal team and in the GOP Senate caucus, will try to bury the inescapable nature of this choice under mounds of obfuscation.

Trump’s laughably weak defense

Trump’s lawyers will first argue that the Senate “lacks jurisdiction” to try Trump, on the grounds that he no longer holds office. This idea has been roundly debunked by lawyers across the political spectrum, including Chuck Cooper, a conservative legal icon.

As Cooper argued, the Constitution provides for a Senate vote not just on removal for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but also for “disqualification” from ever holding office again, which by definition must also apply to those who are no longer in office but might run again later.

But the larger thrust of this “defense” is pernicious in another way.

GOP senators hope to take refuge in the idea that former presidents are exempt to give themselves a rhetorical and political means of dodging a direct vote on whether what Trump actually did constitutes high crimes and misdemeanors.

This has been widely depicted as mere tactical maneuvering. But it’s much worse than that: It’s an active evasion of their own duty as public officials to defend the Constitution. This defense, then, actually unmasks their dereliction of this duty.

Trump incited violent insurrection

Trump’s lawyers will also argue he is not guilty of “incitement of insurrection.” They will say he didn’t “direct anyone” to carry out the attack, as he used the word “peacefully” while haranguing the mob on Jan. 6.

And they will say that because the riots were “preplanned by a small group of criminals,” then Trump cannot have “incited” them.

All this is pure baloney. Trump spent months urging his supporters to mobilize for war over the election results, which he said could not be legitimate if he lost, meaning a struggle to overturn them would inevitably be a righteous cause in their own defense. If some preplanned the attack, they did so at what they understood — correctly — as his direction, as their own language has confirmed.

What’s more, if some preplanned the attack well in advance, many did not, and people in this latter group also attacked the Capitol. They, too, were incited by Trump’s haranguing leading up to and on Jan. 6.

And if Trump intended them to be peaceful, it’s strange that he again whipped up rage at then-Vice President Mike Pence while the mob rampaged into the Capitol looking for Pence and lawmakers who were counting electoral votes. It’s also odd that as the rampage worsened, he refused entreaties to call for the very calm his lawyers claim he wanted to see.

Acquitting Trump means declaring that these known facts do not point to high crimes and misdemeanors.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult President2020 Impeachment Republicans

The worst thing about impeachment? The lawyers

More of the case for impeaching Donald Trump. He’s guilty, guilty, guilty.

The worst thing about impeachment? The lawyers

Jonah Goldberg, writing in the Los Angeles Times.

in their defense brief, the president’s lawyers claim that Trump’s remarks egging on the crowd on Jan. 6 are protected under the 1st Amendment. They’re probably right. But so what?

The president of a corporation has every freedom to go on TV to declare that his company’s products are defective. But the board of his company could — and would — fire him according to whatever procedure they liked. If the head of the Smithsonian invited a mob to protest outside the Air and Space Museum and the mob ransacked the place because of lies he told them, the regents wouldn’t await a legal verdict before firing him.

The Senate is like a board of trustees for the government. The Constitution gives the senators the authority to conduct impeachment trials as they see fit, subject to a handful of procedural rules. Even the judges in impeachment trials don’t function as judges would in a regular court; the Senate can overrule their decisions.

My analogy, while imperfect, is useful because impeachment is about self-government not criminal behavior. Yes, crimes can be impeachable, but as James Madison explained, impeachable acts don’t have to be criminal.

We all understand that private and most public institutions have every right to police the professional conduct of their officers. Why the standards for corporations, museums, universities, or Little League coaches should be so much higher than for presidents is a mystery to me. In almost every other realm of life, leaders are held to account not just to the law, but to notions of leadership, common sense and the basic decency and maturity we expect from responsible adults.

Countering the big lie

A public radio station stands up for the truth and promises to hold Republican politicians accountable for the lies that they’ve told. No one should be able to so blatantly mislead the public and expect to escape without any consequences.

Countering the big lie: WITF newsroom’s coverage will connect lawmakers with their election-fraud actions

Tim Lambert and Scott Blanchard, writing for WITF.

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, WITF’s journalists worked to remind listeners and readers in story after story that results from Pennsylvania would take days to be finalized, and why that was the case.

Our goal was to prepare listeners for any disinformation or misinformation about the count and any attempts by President Donald Trump to claim victory before all the ballots were counted.

What we didn’t realize was that false claims of voter fraud would be amplified by the president’s allies in Congress, state legislatures, right-wing media and conspiracy theorists on social media.

What we didn’t realize was a large portion of the electorate would fall for this lie.

What we didn’t realize was elected leaders, who took an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, would actively work to overturn an election that county, state and federal judges and public officials of both political parties, and election experts, concluded was free and fair.

To be clear, all the false claims about Pennsylvania’s results were attacks on the truth. On democracy.

The constant drumbeat of falsehoods that the election was stolen came to a head on Jan. 6 with a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, as far-right extremists tried to halt the certification of President Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory and overturn the results.

The attack’s purpose was to ignore the will of the people, throw out their votes and allow former President Trump to remain in power.

If it had succeeded, democracy would have failed. Some experts called the national security nightmare a coup.

The insurrection was the culmination of a lie that was allowed to fester and grow.

A lie that was pushed by several Republican members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation and by many in the state legislature.

To be clear, all the false claims about Pennsylvania’s results were attacks on the truth.

On democracy.

On the work of dozens of journalists at WITF and across the state, who were doing on-the-ground reporting and talking with the county-level leaders who ran elections.

Those stories revealed the hard work of election workers to get it right, and that the election amid the coronavirus pandemic went smoothly, with no signs of massive fraud.

At WITF, our editors and journalists held dozens of discussions on how to counter the election-fraud lie with facts and original reporting.

Because of the unprecedented attack on an election and democracy, it’s important to discuss some of the basic facts:

  1. Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 legally cast votes. Court challenges were dismissed for reasons including lack of evidence. In tossing out one case, conservative federal judge Stephanos Bibas wrote: “… calling an election unfair does not make it so.”
  2. Eight Pennsylvania congressmen supported Trump’s lies about election fraud and irregularities as he attempted to illegally retain power. Those lies led many to believe the election was stolen from Trump. After the insurrection at the Capitol to try to overthrow the U.S. electoral system, those eight lawmakers voted to nullify Pennsylvania’s election results.

So, as part of WITF’s commitment to factual reporting, and because many who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 have said their goal was to overthrow the U.S. electoral system and government, we will use language in our reporting to show how elected officials’ actions are connected to the election-fraud lie and the insurrection.

Here are two examples:

“Sen. (name), who signed a letter asking members of Congress to delay certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral votes despite no evidence that would call those results into question, today introduced a bill …”

and

The congressmen who voted against certifying Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes are __ eight of the commonwealth’s nine GOP representatives. The one who did not vote for that is U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican who represents the Bucks County-based 1st Congressional District.

We understand this may be an unusual decision for a news organization to make. But, these are not normal times.

We are not taking this approach lightly, and will apply it for lawmakers who took at least one of these three actions: signed on to a Texas lawsuit aimed at invalidating Pennsylvania’s election; signed on to a state House or a state Senate letter urging Congressional representatives to object to or delay certification; and voted against certification. The list of lawmakers is here.

When using this language, we’ll consider whether the lawmaker has admitted their mistake, and how the language fits in to each particular story.

… We would like to emphasize our approach is based in fact and provides the proper context to the decisions made by Republican elected officials in the commonwealth.

This wasn’t a policy disagreement over taxes, abortion, or government spending.

This wasn’t lawmakers spinning an issue in their favor.

This was either knowingly spreading disinformation or outright lying by elected officials to overturn an election in an attempt to keep former President Trump in office.

This was an unprecedented assault on the fabric of American democracy.

To us, this is a matter of holding elected officials accountable for their actions.

Impeachment Shows How Partisan Politics Have Swamped the Constitution

Opening with a useful summary of the case for impeaching Donald Trump.

Impeachment Shows How Partisan Politics Have Swamped the Constitution

Jonah Goldberg, writing for The Dispatch.

Let me say up front I think it’s an open-and-shut case that Trump committed numerous impeachable acts, and in a healthy republic, any self-respecting Congress would have moved within hours of the assault to impeach, try, and convict him.

Over the 63 days between Election Day and the siege, Trump manufactured fraudulent claims that the election was stolen. He was recorded improperly—and almost certainly illegally—pressuring Georgia election officials to “find” the votes he needed to win the state. He invited supporters to come to Washington to pressure the vice president and Congress to commit unconstitutional acts so he could overturn the election he lost and hold power.

Whether Trump intended to incite violence or just negligently incited it is immaterial. The violence makes it worse, of course. But even exhorting the peaceful intimidation of officials conducting their constitutional duties would be a violation of his oath. Moreover, that the president was derelict in his duty to do everything he could to put down the violence once it was unfolding as he watched TV and fielded calls for help is also nakedly impeachable.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult President2020 Impeachment Republicans

Three ways the media can vanquish the Big Lie that will linger even after Trump is gone

We must be up front about calling lies lies and not pretending that there are two sides to every story. If the two sides are “truth” and “lie” or “truth” and “debunked conspiracy theory”, then there’s really only one side to the story.

Three ways the media can vanquish the Big Lie that will linger even after Trump is gone

Margaret Sullivan, writing for The Washington Post.

His administration is down to its last hours, but you can bet that the false belief held by millions of Americans that the election was rigged is not going away when President Trump does.

Journalists, if they take their core mission seriously, should think hard about how they’re going to confront this Big Lie, as it’s become known.

Our goal should go beyond merely putting truthful information in front of the public. We should also do our best to make sure it’s widely accepted — “to create a public square with a common set of facts,” as Tom Rosenstiel, an author and the executive director of the Virginia-based American Press Institute, put it.

But how? Here are a few ideas I’ve gathered.

Stop relying on shorthand.

Too often, even the most credible journalists who are trying to cover the disastrous effects of the Big Lie explain it by sprinkling phrases into their reporting like “baseless claims” or “without evidence” — and seem to expect them to do all the work.

But that’s simply ineffective. “People don’t notice this boilerplate language after a while,” Rosenstiel said, “or even begin to bristle at it.”

What’s the alternative? Journalists should take the time — even in an ordinary news story or brief broadcast segment — to be more specific. Let’s offer a few sentences that give detail on why the claims are baseless and how they’ve been debunked.

The second paragraph of this January national security report in The Washington Post does just that: “By mid-December, President Trump’s fraudulent claims of a rigged election were failing in humiliating fashion. Lawsuits were being laughed out of courts. State officials, including Republicans, were refusing to bend to his will and alter the vote. And in a seemingly decisive blow on Dec. 14, the electoral college certified the win for Joe Biden.”

That’s far better than a mere nod to “baseless claims.” As Rosenstiel put it: “Engage in verification and explanation, not labeling.”

Use an honesty litmus test.

Journalists long ago made a virtue of getting input from both sides of an issue. It’s generally a healthy practice, but it also became a crutch. And when one side consistently engages in bad-faith falsehoods, it’s downright destructive to give them equal time.

Joe Lockhart, President Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, offers an extreme example: “If I went on the air and said the Holocaust didn’t happen, the interview would end right there.”

We must stop calling Trump’s enablers ‘conservative.’ They are the radical right.

Similarly, the election-fraud lie — which was the foundation for the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — shouldn’t be given a huge megaphone either. But you can expect some Republican members of Congress will trot this out during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial, Lockhart warned. He argues that news organizations should think hard before allowing these claims to be broadcast live and at length.

“It’s no longer a case of no harm, no foul,” Lockhart told me. We know what damage has come from helping the Big Lie to spread.

The NYU professor and press critic Jay Rosen put it memorably: “In the same way that you might begin an interview with a pro forma, ‘this is on the record,’ or ‘how do you spell your name?’ journalists (and talk show bookers) should set the ground rules with, ‘Very quickly before we start: who was the legitimate winner of the 2020 election?’ ” If the answer is “we need to investigate that” or “President Trump,” simply withdraw the opportunity.

In the bad-faith political world we live in, these kinds of sound policies will be branded as liberal bias and a free-speech violation. Not so.

“This isn’t a cancel culture,” Christopher Krebs, whom Trump fired as head of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told CNN last week in arguing why it’s essential to shoot down harmful false claims as he did. “There has to be an accountability culture in the United States right now.”

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Republicans

New poll shows Trump’s GOP has an ugly authoritarian core

Donald Trump’s voters believe lies, oppose democracy, and support the man, not the platform or the party. This is why I’m a former Republican.

New poll shows Trump’s GOP has an ugly authoritarian core

On questions that probe underlying attitudes about Trump’s efforts to undermine democracy, the contrast between the broader public and Republican respondents is stark. Here’s a rundown:

  • By 66 percent to 30 percent, Americans overall say Trump acted irresponsibly in his statements and actions since the election. But Republicans say Trump acted responsibly by 66 percent to 29 percent.
  • By 62 percent to 31 percent, Americans say there’s no solid evidence of the claims of voter fraud that Trump cited to refuse to accept Joe Biden’s victory. But Republicans say there is solid evidence of fraud by 65 percent to 25 percent.
  • 57 percent of Americans say Trump bears a great deal or good amount of responsibility for the assault on the Capitol. But 56 percent of Republicans say Trump bears no responsibility at all, and another 22 percent say he bears just some, totaling 78 percent who largely exonerate him.
  • 52 percent of Americans say Republican leaders went too far in supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. But 51 percent of Republicans say GOP leaders didn’t go far enough, while 27 percent say they got it right, a total of 78 percent who are fully on board or wanted more. Only 16 percent of Republicans say they went too far.

On these questions, independents are far more in sync with the broader public: In this poll, support for what Trump did is largely a Republican phenomenon.

Meanwhile, solid majorities of Americans believe Trump should be charged with a crime for inciting the riot (54 percent) and removed from office (56 percent). But among Republicans, opposition to both is running in the mid-80s, demonstrating extraordinary GOP unity against any form of accountability.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Republicans

We Mock the Rioters as Ignorant Buffoons at Our Peril

It wasn’t antifa. It was us. White, middle-class, evangelical Christian Americans.

We Mock the Rioters as Ignorant Buffoons at Our Peril

Jack Shafer, opining for Politico.

we’ve learned that many who rallied or rioted on January 6 were, in Trump’s memorable 2016 phrase, only “the best and most serious people.” Take, for example, Bradley Rukstales, a tech CEO in suburban Chicago who faces charges of illegally entering the Capitol “with the intent of and impeding government business” or others arrested on similar charges: retired Air Force officer Larry Rendall Brock Jr; Republican state legislator Derrick Evans (who live-streamed his storming of the Capitol Building); Aaron Mostofksy, the son of a Brooklyn Supreme Court judge; Olympic gold medalist Klete Keller; and former Midland, Texas, mayoral candidate Jenny Cudd, who said in one video, “We did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door.” Cudd was arrested Wednesday for her role in the Capitol rumble.

Then there are the ranks of those who haven’t been charged: a Seattle doctor, who appeared in a video recounting her storming of the Capitol. A former Republican state representative, who resigned his adjunct professor position at a college after posting a video of the melee outside the Capitol, as KDKA reported. A California physician (and vaccine critic), who read a speech inside the Capitol, and her communications director. A Texas attorney, alleged by the Houston Chronicle _to have posted video from inside the Capitol, got sacked by his bosses for his “activism.” A housing entrepreneur, who was arrested for violating the curfew. An unnamed Pennsylvania teacher who was reportedly suspended for his role in the unrest, as the _Morning Call reported. A retired SEAL, who bragged about “breaching” the Capitol. A Chicago real estate agent, who posted selfies from the crowd outside the Capitol on Facebook and was fired, in turn, by her bosses. Then there was an active-duty U.S. Army officer who led a group to the rally, making herself the subject of an Army probe, according to CBS News. Police departments in Seattle, New York, Philadelphia and other jurisdictions have opened investigations into whether any of their officers participated in the rebellion, as have some fire departments. And finally, let’s not forget Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force vet and QAnon devotee who was shot dead as she tried to vault through a just-broken window into the Speaker’s Lobby just outside the House chamber.

It would, of course, amount to an overcorrection if we attempted to characterize the riot as a middle-class insurgency. But many of the protesters who filled Washington’s 17 Hilton hotels to capacity and made the Grand Hyatt’s lobby their after-action lounge did not come from Dogpatch. Many hail from the Republican professional and political classes, and they fueled the rampage with their organizational skills and reputations just as much as the face-paint guy did with his horns, fur, a U.S. flag mounted on a spear, and tattoos. Some of the criminal interlopers will argue that they only invaded the Capitol to exercise their First Amendment rights to petition the government for a redress of grievances. But that doesn’t fly. Nowhere does the First Amendment empower citizens to bull their way through a line of police—causing murderous injury to one—shatter windows and break doors, make violent threats and disrupt Congress. Nor does anybody have a right to stride into the Capitol behind the mob as long as they don’t break anything. The masses who coursed through the Capitol grand rooms and hallways clearly broke the law, and their overwhelming numbers abetted the rioters who spearheaded the attack.

Yes, there was plenty of class resentment at play at the Capitol and lots of overt racism, but we can’t assume that this was just a revolution by the powerless, the pathetic and the rural. The most shocking thing about the attack on the Capitol was that so many of the rioters were people who better resemble our kin and neighbors than they do the so-called barbarians from the boondocks.

The point here isn’t to sympathize with the rioters, or even seek to “understand” them, but to see them as they are and to prepare ourselves for future confrontations. How are we to deal with them as a country? I want to believe the intruders who now say they regret their actions of January 6. That’s exactly the sort of response you would hope to hear from an otherwise lawful American. But for every such apology we can be certain at least one person—and likely more—has been radicalized, maybe irreversibly, by the events. There are no easy ways to quell this national rebellion, a rebellion that appears to be gaining velocity, but the first step has got to be organizing a political taxonomy that doesn’t marginalize them as aliens. Instead of thinking of the rioters as “them,” try thinking of them as “us.” It’s bound to make you uncomfortable, but at least it’s a start.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Jesus and John Wayne Republicans

Republicans must unambiguously admit that Trump’s lies threaten more violence

Republicans can either be a party that participates in American democracy or they can be the party of Mr. Trump. They can’t be both.

Republicans must unambiguously admit that Trump’s lies threaten more violence

Greg Sargent, opining in the The Washington Post.

Alarming new details are emerging about the true nature of the violent insurrection that we witnessed last week — and the critical point about this insurrection is that it is ongoing.

This raises the stakes on what we’re seeing from many Republicans, who are working to obscure the true source of this ongoing threat. By piously calling for “unity,” and claiming impeachment will “divide” us, they are striving to manufacture the impression that the cause of our ongoing breakdown is some species of generalized division.

In fact, it’s a straight cause-and-effect: One side (Trump and his democracy-despising enablers who are still trying to illegitimately overturn the election’s outcome) is threatening and inciting violence against the other (those who stand for constitutional democracy and are affirming the legitimacy of that outcome).

This has now been crystallized by none other than a senior Republican congressional staffer. Politico reports that Jason Schmid has resigned from the House Foreign Affairs Committee with a blistering letter attacking his party’s efforts to overturn the election.

Schmid argued in his letter that Republicans had failed to sufficiently condemn the insurrection. I want to highlight this:

The sad, incontrovertible truth is that the people who laid siege to the Capitol were and continue to be domestic enemies of the Constitution of the United States. A poisonous lie that the election was illegitimate and should be overturned inspired so called “patriots” to share common cause with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and conspiracy theorists to attack the seat of American government.

GOP lawmakers who voted to overturn the election, Schmid charged, “harmed the ability of every service member, intelligence officer, and diplomat to defend the nation and advance American interests.”

What’s important here is the unflinching acknowledgment of two things: First, the claim by Trump and his enablers that he won is a deranged lie and anyone telling it is an enemy of U.S. constitutional democracy. Second, this lie is what incited the violent siege of the Capitol.

That is what many Republicans will not say, and it’s why this letter is important news.

… Trump is enforcing this line among Republicans. He told reporters on Tuesday that “I want no violence” and that Democrats pursuing impeachment are “causing tremendous anger.”

There’s that veiled threat again — Hold me accountable for inciting violence and you’ll meet more violence! — but it’s also a command to Republicans: Keep denying that I’m the chief instigator of the violence, and keep claiming the real threat of incitement comes from Democrats.

… Making this worse, as Simon Rosenberg points out, countless elected GOP officials are already on record having propped up these lies for months. The only way to reverse this is to flatly and unequivocally declare that those were lies and that Biden legitimately won:

I would add that Republicans must also say unequivocally that this lie caused last week’s violence, and that it threatens untold more to come.

Republican calls for “unity” are conditional: Unity can only be premised on a blanket agreement not to acknowledge the truth about who and what are actually to blame for violently tearing the country in half. Until Republicans tell the truth about all of this, their professed hopes for unity are empty nonsense, to be treated with derisive contempt.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump January 6 Insurrection MAGA Cult Impeachment Republicans