A Number of People of Good Will

Why not say it again? This will not end well. This feels like the early thirties in Germany. Michelle Goldberg suggests this:

Donald Trump has been telling us for years that he would not accept an electoral defeat. He has cheered violence and threatened insurrection. On Tuesday he tweeted that Democrats and Republicans who weren’t cooperating in his coup attempt should look “at the thousands of people pouring into D.C. They won’t stand for a landslide election victory to be stolen.” He urged his supporters to mass on the capital, tweeting, “Be there, will be wild!” They took him seriously and literally.

The day after Georgia elected its first Black senator – the pastor, no less, of Martin Luther King Jr.’s church – and its first Jewish senator, an insurgent marched through the halls of Congress with a Confederate banner. Someone set up a noose outside. Someone brought zip-tie handcuffs. Lest there be any doubt about their intentions, a few of the marauders wore T-shirts that said “MAGA Civil War, Jan. 6, 2021.”

If you saw Wednesday’s scenes in any other country – vandals scaling walls and breaking windows, parading around the legislature with enemy flags and making themselves at home in quickly abandoned governmental offices – it would be obvious enough that some sort of putsch was underway.

But this isn’t the early thirties in Germany:

More than any other episode of Trump’s political career – more than the “Access Hollywood” tape or Charlottesville – the day’s desecration and mayhem threw the president’s malignancy into high relief. For years, many of us have waited for the “Have you no sense of decency?” moment when Trump’s demagogic powers would deflate like those of Senator Joseph McCarthy before him. The storming of Congress by a human 8chan thread in thrall to Trump’s delusions may have been it.

Since it happened, there have been once-unthinkable repudiations of the president. The National Association of Manufacturers, a major business group, called on Vice President Mike Pence to consider invoking the 25th Amendment. Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr, who’d been one of Trump’s most craven defenders, accused the president of betraying his office by “orchestrating a mob.”

Several administration officials resigned, including Trump’s former chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who’d been serving as special envoy to Northern Ireland.

So, this is good, in a limited way:

In an interview with CNBC, Mulvaney was astonishingly self-pitying, complaining that people who “spent time away from our families, put our careers on the line to go work for Donald Trump,” will now forever be remembered for serving “the guy who tried to overtake the government.”

Mulvaney’s insistence that the president is “not the same as he was eight months ago” is transparent nonsense. But his weaselly effort to distance himself is still heartening, a sign that some Republicans suddenly realize that association with Trump has stained them.

And he himself has been neutered:

Trump’s authority is ebbing before our eyes. Having helped deliver the Senate to Democrats, he’s no longer much use to Republicans like Mitch McConnell. With two weeks left in the president’s term, social media has invoked its own version of the 25th Amendment. Twitter, after years of having let Trump spread conspiracy theories and incite brutality on its platform, suddenly had enough: It deleted three of his tweets, locked his account and threatened “permanent suspension.” Facebook and Instagram blocked the president for at least the remainder of his term. He may still be able to launch a nuclear strike in the next two weeks, but he can’t post.

That’s the good news, such as it is, but there’s this too:

Most of the Republican House caucus still voted to challenge the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s election. And the MAGA movement’s terrorist fringe may be emboldened by Wednesday’s incursion into the heart of American government.

“The extremist violent faction views today as a huge win,” Elizabeth Neumann, a former Trump counterterrorism official who has accused the president of encouraging white nationalists, told me on Wednesday. She pointed out that “The Turner Diaries,” the seminal white nationalist novel, features a mortar attack on the Capitol. “This is like a right-wing extremist fantasy that has been fulfilled,” she said.

But she’s not all that worried:

Neumann believes that if Trump immediately left office – either via impeachment, the 25th Amendment or resignation – it would temporarily inflame right-wing extremists, but ultimately marginalize them.

“Having such a unified, bipartisan approach, that he is dangerous, that he has to be removed,” would, she said, send “such a strong message to the country that I hope that it wakes up a number of people of good will that have just been deceived.”

Okay. But where are these only temporarily bamboozled people of good will? Ah! They’re in the intellectual middle of the right. Axios’ Shawna Chen found them:

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board on Thursday urged President Trump to resign to avoid a second impeachment, saying his actions before and after Wednesday’s deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol crossed a “constitutional line.”

It is one of the strongest editorial board rebukes of the president by the WSJ, which is owned by conservative media mogul and former Trump confidante Rupert Murdoch. The board was generally favorable of Trump for much of his presidency.

“In concise summary, on Wednesday the leader of the executive branch incited a crowd to march on the legislative branch,” the WSJ editorial board wrote in a piece titled, “Donald Trump’s Final Days.”

Presidents don’t do that. The full item is here but this is quite simple:

“When some in the crowd turned violent and occupied the Capitol, the President caviled and declined for far too long to call them off. When he did speak, he hedged his plea with election complaint,” it added.

“In our view it crosses a constitutional line that Mr. Trump hasn’t previously crossed. It is impeachable.”

“If Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign.”

“We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate.”

“Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.”

“It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.”

Chen also offers this context:

Late last month, the WSJ published an editorial effectively accusing Trump of sabotaging Republicans’ chances of winning the Georgia Senate runoffs with his push for $2,000 stimulus checks.

That editorial came a day after the New York Post, another Murdoch publication, said Trump was “cheering for an undemocratic coup” with his efforts to overturn the election he lost.

No one wants a putsch, not even the Fox News folks that Jeremy Barr identifies here:

Over the last four years, President Trump has relied on Fox News as a bastion of support and encouragement – even as he occasionally faced tougher assessments from news-side anchors like Shepard Smith or Chris Wallace.

Days after Joe Biden’s election victory, two of Trump’s Fox friends said he should run again in 2024. “Of course he should run in 2024,” Pete Hegseth said. “This is not the last you heard of President Trump,” declared Geraldo Rivera.

But for some of the president’s fans on Fox, the events of Wednesday afternoon seem to have changed the calculation. Boosters like business host Stuart Varney, who once claimed that Trump has never lied, said the pro-Trump mobbing of the U.S. Capitol that left four people dead signaled the end of his political viability.

“He cannot come back from this,” Varney told viewers on Thursday. “I think President Trump, Donald J. Trump, is done, politically.”

When Varney’s guest, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, argued that “we have to get through this moment before we understand what the political consequences are,” Varney replied, “I think the political consequences are beginning to unfold. I think the president is tarred with the brush of Wednesday, January the 6th. I think the support for the president, within the Republican Party and the administration, is crumbling.”

That’s the word there:

Also speaking out on Fox on Thursday was libertarian Fox News personality Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, appearing on the show “Outnumbered,” where she criticized Trump’s rally speech preceding the charge on the Capitol, which she said was “rambling” and “full of self-pity.”

“I have to say: After the losses in Georgia, after his speech yesterday … he can no longer be the leader of this movement,” she said. “I think it is unacceptable for members of his party to say that he should run again in 2024.”

Looking ahead to the next election, she said, “Who is going to emerge as the phoenix from these ashes? These painful ashes? That remains to be seen, but it cannot be this president.”

And there was this:

On Wednesday night, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume also predicted Trump’s political demise during a conversation with anchor Bret Baier.

Referencing Trump’s less hardcore supporters as “everyday Republicans,” Hume said, “I think those people now almost certainly have deserted him” in the wake of the violence.

“Trump’s post-election conduct, I think, has split him off from about half, maybe more than that, of his voting base,” Hume added. “If the election was held tonight he’d lose by far more than he lost the last time. And I don’t think they’ll be around for any effort by Trump to be elected again four years from now.”

“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade also questioned what the future of Trump’s political movement will be. “Where does this movement go from here, if this is the calling card, they’re leaving us with?” he asked on Thursday morning.

And that left Trump with this:

Trump’s backers among Fox News’s corps of opinion hosts have condemned Wednesday’s violence but have either attempted to shift the blame away from Trump and his supporters to outside “agitators,” a claim for which no evidence has been presented, or to provide cover for the behavior of the pro-Trump rioters. Hegseth, who has endorsed a Trump 2024 candidacy, repeated this argument on Thursday morning: “These are not conspiracy theorists motivated just by lies,” he said. “They love freedom and they love free markets, and they see exactly what the anti-American Left has done to America.”

That hardly explains the Capitol putsch attempt, but never mind:

When asked by “Fox & Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt whether Trump “has a shot” if he runs again in 2024, Hegseth replied assuredly, “Of course he does. Will he? I don’t know. But the movement that he’s created is not over.”

Yes, it is. That Washington Post tag-team of Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey reports on that:

President Trump spent more than 24 hours after instigating a mob to violently storm the Capitol trying to escape reality.

Cloistered in the White House, Trump raged uncontrollably about perceived acts of betrayal. He tuned out advisers who pleaded with him to act responsibly. He was uninterested in trying to repair what he had wrought. And he continued to insist he had won the election, even as his own vice president certified the fact that he had not.

Only after darkness fell in Washington on Thursday, after the Capitol had been besieged by death and destruction and a growing chorus of lawmakers had called for his immediate removal from office, did Trump grudgingly accept his fate.

“Now Congress has certified the results,” Trump said in a video recorded in the White House’s Diplomatic Reception Room late Thursday afternoon. “A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”

Trump did not talk of winners and losers, nor did he utter the word “concede,” but it was the closest he seemed willing to go.

He read this – someone else’s words – from a teleprompter. This was a hostage tape. His captors made him do this:

Some of his advisers had pleaded with him to give this kind of speech in November, after it was clear he had lost. Those appeals only intensified this week. During his 2-minute, 41-second speech, Trump read from a script that he agreed to only after a pressure campaign from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, legal counsel Pat Cipollone and members of his family, officials said.

“My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results,” Trump said. “My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote. In so doing, I was fighting to defend American democracy.”

His legal counsel Pat Cipollone was relieved. His client had cleared himself:

President Trump late Thursday called the storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of his supporters a “heinous attack” and said he would leave office peacefully Jan. 20, after facing bipartisan criticism for his reaction to the riot and increasing pressure for his removal.

In a nearly three-minute video, Mr. Trump accepted no responsibility for the riot, which followed a rally where the president urged supporters to head to the Capitol and “fight.” He warned rioters, “To those who broke the law, you will pay.”

The video, tweeted shortly after 7 p.m., followed pressure from advisers to more forcefully respond to the riot at the Capitol, which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer. Several of his closest advisers have publicly condemned his response to the violence, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone warned the president that he risked legal exposure related to the riot, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Trump said the right things. Those people were wrong. He never told them to do any of that. None of this was his fault. And he’s outta here soon anyway.

But the Washington Post item points to damage already done:

An array of top aides – including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, both original members of his Cabinet – abruptly resigned. Many more privately discussed whether to follow suit. Some of those who stayed on kept their distance from the vengeful president, and none stepped forward to defend his complicity in the attack – not even White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, his professional defender.

Outside the administration, a growing number of allies have given up on Trump. Rather than trying to persuade him to do the right thing, they are simply hoping he does no further damage before his term expires Jan. 20.

They see what they’re dealing with now:

The portrait that emerged from interviews with administration officials and Trump advisers and associates, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, is of a president indignant, unmoored and psychologically fragile – one who some aides believe has sabotaged his legacy and threatens the orderly transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden.

One administration official described Trump’s behavior as that of “a total monster.” Another said the situation was “insane” and “beyond the pale.”

“He is alone. He is mad King George,” said a Republican in frequent touch with the White House. “Trump believes that he has these people so intimidated they wouldn’t dare mess with him. I think Trump doesn’t understand how precarious his situation is right now.”

Precarious is the right word:

John F. Kelly went even further, saying on CNN that what happened at the Capitol “was a direct result of him poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the fraud.” He urged the Cabinet to meet to discuss invoking the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to remove Trump from office. Scores of Democratic lawmakers, as well as Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), called for the same.

Some senior administration officials have been discussing doing so out of fear that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office for even a few more days, said a person involved in the conversations.

A former senior administration official briefed on the talks confirmed that preliminary discussions of the 25th Amendment were underway, although this person cautioned that they were informal and that there was no indication of an immediate plan of action.

Perhaps there ought to be a plan:

During the Capitol occupation, aides said, Trump resisted their entreaties to condemn the rioters and refused to be reasoned with.

“He kept saying: ‘The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,’” an administration official said. “He didn’t want to condemn his people.”

“He was a total monster today,” this official added, describing the president’s handling of Wednesday’s coup attempt as less defensible than his equivocal response to the deadly white-supremacist rally in 2017 in Charlottesville.

Donald Trump is a difficult man:

A former senior administration official briefed on the president’s private conversations said: “The thing he was most upset about and couldn’t get over all day was the Pence betrayal. All day, it was a theme of, ‘I made this guy, I saved him from a political death, and here he stabbed me in the back.’”

Trump’s fury extended to Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short. The president told aides he wanted to bar Short – who was with the vice president all day at the Capitol – from the White House grounds, according to an official with knowledge of the president’s remarks.

Short has told others he would not care if he were barred.

Short was not alone:

Trump’s support rapidly eroded in the Senate, where a senior Republican aide described the mood among GOP senators as “pretty apoplectic.”

The outgoing majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has been estranged from the president in recent weeks, has told fellow senators and other confidants that he does not plan to speak with Trump again.

That might be wise:

The top federal prosecutor in D.C. said Thursday that President Trump was not off-limits in his investigation of the events surrounding Wednesday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol, saying “all actors” would be examined to determine if they broke the law.

Asked if federal agents and prosecutors will look at the incendiary statements made by speakers at Trump’s rally shortly before a mob of his supporters breached security at the Capitol and wreaked havoc inside, acting U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin said: “Yes, we are looking at all actors here, not only the people that went into the building, but were there others that maybe assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role in this. We will look at every actor and all criminal charges.”

Asked specifically if that included Trump, who had urged the crowd to “fight like hell” before the rioting began, Sherwin replied: “We are looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, if the evidence fits the element of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”

Trump’s “not my fault” video may not save him, so it came back to this:

President Trump has suggested to aides he wants to pardon himself in the final days of his presidency, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, a move that would mark one of the most extraordinary and untested uses of presidential power in American history.

In several conversations since Election Day, Mr. Trump has told advisers that he is considering giving himself a pardon and, in other instances, asked whether he should and what the effect would be on him legally and politically…

No president has pardoned himself, so the legitimacy of prospective self-clemency has never been tested in the justice system, and legal scholars are divided about whether the courts would recognize it. But they agree a presidential self-pardon could create a dangerous new precedent for presidents to unilaterally declare they are above the law and to insulate themselves from being held accountable for any crimes they committed in office.

That’s a long shot, but no one is happy:

On the website that was the epicenter of plans for the violent insurrection at the US Capitol Wednesday, some of President Donald Trump’s most loyal followers, who had for months shamed, silenced, and banned anyone who criticized the president, grappled with a new feeling after the riot ended: betrayal.

For months, the forum The Donald has been a gathering place for people planning to try to overturn Trump’s election defeat. But when its users actually broke into the Capitol, as they had promised to do for months, the site tried to rapidly change course, saying it would “follow President Trump’s lead” and would not allow “organizing, or calling directly for, violence of any kind.”

The reversal, which moderators hinted was made under pressure from the site’s hosts, left some Trump loyalists in disbelief that they had done anything wrong: They were, they said, only following the president’s orders.

“I don’t understand the thinking,” said one popular post on the forum. “Trump told us to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. We listened to the president. They should be thanking us.”

No, everyone is trying to save their ass now. Donald Trump certainly is. But it may be too late for any of that. An item in the Los Angeles Times shows why:

Members of armed right-wing groups that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday in blind support of President Trump’s futile attempt to stay in office said they supported the mob attack, calling it the beginning of another American revolution.

As the rabble pushed through barricades and swept through government corridors, Trump’s followers – wearing camo, backpacks and MAGA hats – created a disturbing, surreal scene that revealed the loyalty and violent inclinations among the extreme elements of the president’s base.

But that’s normal in their world:

The attackers, mostly white men, some of whom espoused the sentiments of hate groups and white nationalists, were condemned by President-elect Joe Biden, who said of the mob violence: “This is not dissent. It’s disorder. It’s chaos. It borders on sedition, and it must end now.”

But Trump’s supporters saw themselves in a different light, even as courts, electoral boards, judges and bipartisan members of Congress have agreed that the president’s claim that he won the November election was dangerous fantasy and a threat to American democracy. Trump lost by more than 7 million votes.

“You’ve got pissed-off patriots that are not going to accept their form of government being stolen,” said Stewart Rhodes, who traveled to Washington to join the protest with members of the right-wing group he founded, the Oath Keepers.

“We’re walking down the same exact path as the Founding Fathers,” said Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper and Yale law school graduate who urged members to monitor the polls during the presidential election.

Rhodes said his group, which includes veterans and members of law enforcement, did not enter the Capitol or confront police.

They didn’t have to jump in:

Members of other armed right-wing groups – whipped up by Trump’s speech earlier in the day in which he refused to accept his election loss – praised the rioters for entering the Capitol by force.

Chris Hill, a Marine veteran who leads the 75-member Georgia-based III% Security Force called the attack on the Capitol a “shot heard round the world.”

“The second revolution begins today,” Hill said.

Is that what Trump had in mind? Who knows? And that may not matter. Read the web postings:

Some called for peaceful protests at state capitals on Inauguration Day.

Others were disappointed that those who stormed the Capitol appeared to be unarmed and didn’t seize the building.

“You took and held the high ground just to walk away without even drawing your sword,” Nino Brunori wrote.

So, where are these only temporarily bamboozled people of good will? Yes, this won’t end well. How could it?

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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