Living Through History

The sixties were cool. All boomers say that, but they were. Every day seemed to be momentous. Everything was changing, or falling apart, but history was being made, every damned day. Vietnam and race tore the nation apart in 1968 – the King assassination and the riots that followed. Bobby Kennedy stopped a few of those riots with just the right words for the nation, and then he was assassinated. And then Lyndon Johnson gave up. He wouldn’t run for reelection. The war had broken him, and then the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago broke that party for a decade or more, and may have broken the nation. But every day was chaos. Every day was historic. So was the music.

But things settled down. Nixon, the new president, was a nasty known quantity – no surprises there. Woodstock was wonderful but then the Beatles broke up and the music died – it would be Disco for a few years. And everyone settled down. Hippies cut their hair and sold insurance. And that was that. It was over.

But here we go again. Everything is historic again, and this particular day ended with this:

The House voted on Tuesday night to formally call on Vice President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to strip President Trump of his powers after he incited a mob that attacked the Capitol, as lawmakers warned they would impeach the president on Wednesday if Mr. Pence did not comply.

Lawmakers, escorted by armed guards into a heavily fortified Capitol, adopted the nonbinding measure just before midnight largely along party lines. The final vote was 223 to 205 to implore Mr. Pence to declare Mr. Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office and to immediately exercise powers as acting president.”

This has never happened before, but the guy kind of did try to overthrow his own government to stay in power, not that it mattered:

The House proceeded even after Mr. Pence rejected the call in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday. “I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution,” he wrote. “I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our nation.”

With Mr. Pence’s rejection in hand, almost all Republicans lined up in opposition. They did little to defend Mr. Trump’s behavior but argued that Congress had no role telling the vice president what to do.

Okay. Fine. Then it’s impeachment:

Democrats planned to reconvene on Wednesday to vote on a single article of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with “inciting violence against the government of the United States.” The rioters last week ransacked the seat of American government and killed a Capitol Police officer.

Every single Democrat was expected to vote to impeach, and Republicans were bracing for as many as two dozen of their members to follow suit.

And thus Trump will now become the only president to have been impeached twice. And in just one term. And after almost a week of silence, he exploded. The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker was there:

President Trump emerged Tuesday from six days out of public view defiant and unapologetic about his incitement of last week’s mob attack on the Capitol and warned that his impeachment could lead to more violence.

The president denied any culpability in the violent riot that killed a police officer and threatened the lives of Vice President Pence and members of Congress. He said his remarks encouraging throngs of supporters last Wednesday to march to the Capitol in a show of force to pressure and intimidate lawmakers to overturn the election results were “totally appropriate.”

And he issued his warning:

During a visit to a portion of newly constructed border wall here in the Rio Grande Valley, Trump warned against the effort in Congress to hold him accountable.

“The impeachment hoax is a continuation of the greatest and most vicious witch hunt in the history of our country and is causing tremendous anger and division and pain, far greater than most people will ever understand, which is very dangerous for the U.S.A., especially at this very tender time,” Trump said.

What was he saying? Keep this up and his people will get REALLY angry and burn the Capitol to the ground? He’ll tell them to do that? He didn’t say. But he was full of warnings:

Trump for the first time addressed the calls from Democrats and even some Republicans for Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to remove him from office before his term expires.

“The 25th Amendment is of zero risk to me but will come back to haunt Joe Biden and the Biden administration,” Trump said. “As the expression goes, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’”

Don’t mess with him. He has heavily-armed militias all across the nation ready to roll. Again, he didn’t say that. He didn’t have to. Everything is implicit now:

Trump at first hesitated to tell his supporters to stand down when they stormed the Capitol. He was captivated by the spectacle playing out on live television and entranced by the notion that the rioters were fighting for him, people with knowledge of the events said. And when he issued a video last Wednesday afternoon telling the rioters to “go home,” he also declared his support for them by saying, “We love you.”

Trump changed his tune here in Texas on Tuesday. Reading from a script, the president seemed to instruct his supporters not to rise up in violence. “Now is the time for our nation to heal. And it’s time for peace and for calm. Respect for law enforcement is the foundation of the MAGA agenda,” he said, referring to his “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

No one believes a word of that. They heard him as he left the White House earlier that day:

Earlier Tuesday, Trump deflected a reporter’s question about his “personal responsibility” in the Capitol attack as he boarded Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews for the flight to Texas.

“People thought what I said was totally appropriate,” Trump said, claiming that he had seen this view reflected across the media. In fact, he has been almost universally condemned for his remarks, including by many of his Republican allies.

Trump then drew a comparison to racial justice demonstrations last summer and suggested that other political leaders were more culpable for violence related to those events than he was for what happened at the Capitol last week.

“If you look at what other people have said – politicians at a high level – about the riots during the summer, the horrible riots in Portland and Seattle, in various other places. That was a real problem, what they said,” Trump said. “But they’ve analyzed my speech and words and my final paragraph, my final sentence, and everybody, to the T, thought it was totally appropriate.”

No, no one thinks that, not even his former friends:

The No. 3 Republican in the House, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, announced late Tuesday that she would vote to impeach Trump, saying there has “never been a greater betrayal” by a U.S. president.

“The president could have immediately and forcefully intervened to stop the violence,” Cheney said in a statement. “He did not.”

A spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he disagreed with Trump that his comments were “totally appropriate.” The spokesman added that McCarthy told House members on Monday that the president bore blame.

And while a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment, a person who has spoken to him says he is open to convicting Trump in an impeachment trial and thinks the president is likely to have committed impeachable offenses but wants to hear evidence.

They’re finally abandoning him. Suddenly, he’s hopeless, and useless, and actually a sick puppy:

Trump continues to say privately that he won the election, another senior administration official said, but is no longer talking about trying to stay in office after his term has ended.

Tim O’Brien, a Trump biographer, said that Trump’s first instinct always has been to lie and try to bulldoze his way through any sort of turmoil in his life – and that his response to the Capitol attack has been no different.

“His father trained him to see the world only as winners and losers, and he’s never going to acknowledge he’s a loser,” O’Brien said. “He has no remorse and no regret about any of it. It’s what makes him such a damaged and damaging man. He doesn’t have any of the minimal guilt or regret that a healthy, stable individual has.”

They didn’t know that? Everyone else knew that:

He is poised to be impeached for the second time – the first president in U.S. history to achieve that distinction – when the Democratic-led House brings an article of impeachment for a vote on Wednesday. Meanwhile, he has been silenced on social media because of messages from him that instigated violence, and he is being shunned by much of corporate America.

A poll released Monday by Quinnipiac University found that Trump’s overall approval dipped to 33 percent, tied for the lowest the pollster has recorded, with majorities holding him responsible for the Capitol attack and favoring his removal from office or his resignation.

And that explains the Texas trip:

Trump sought to escape this dark reality Tuesday by flying to the U.S.-Mexico border in a bid to burnish his presidential legacy as a crusader against illegal immigration. He toured a portion of the wall on the dusty banks of the Rio Grande, with soaring steel beams forming an imposing monument to his anti-immigrant agenda. Trump brandished a Sharpie and signed his autograph on a piece of the wall.

And with that he had become a small insignificant man, who had broken the nation:

The Secret Service and federal law enforcement agencies are spending the final days of the Trump administration bracing for a possible violent assault against the Jan. 20 inauguration, launching a security mobilization that will be unlike any in modern U.S. history.

On Wednesday, the Secret Service will take command of security preparations at the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings, backed by as many as 15,000 National Guard troops, thousands of police and tactical officers, and layers of eight-foot steel fencing.

The high-alert security posture is starting six days earlier than planned to coordinate roles for the FBI, National Guard, U.S. Marshals Service and a host of other federal agencies that will fall under Secret Service command.

“Everyone can just rest assured they are throwing the kitchen sink at this event,” said one Secret Service official involved in protective planning who was not authorized to speak to reporters.

But that might not be enough:

The accelerated timetable has allowed authorities to fortify the city and deploy officers in anticipation of potential violence on Sunday, when pro-Trump groups are calling for armed marches in Washington and the fifty state capitals.

Veteran Secret Service and Homeland Security officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share their worries described a level of concern unlike anything in their careers. Threats they fear include a plot by armed groups to encircle the White House or the U.S. Capitol and the inauguration event, as well as the possibility that gunmen could stage coordinated attacks against less-fortified targets in the city.

These are Trump’s people. This is what Trump has unleashed:

House Democrats were briefed by the new Capitol Police leadership Monday night about threats to the inauguration from groups supporting President Trump, and the new security measures they are putting in place to avoid a repeat of last Wednesday’s riot.

According to members who were on the briefing call, the threats included promises to execute members of Congress, with the most dangerous coming from a handful of extremist groups. They are surfacing amid calls for a million “MAGA” devotees to flood Washington.

On Tuesday, police in the Chicago suburbs arrested 45-year-old Louis Capriotti, charging him with making threats to lawmakers last year in which authorities say he promised to kill any Democrat who attempted to enter the White House on Inauguration Day.

If people “think that Joe Biden is going to put his hand on the Bible and walk into that White House on January 20th, they’re sadly mistaken,” he told one member of Congress in an expletive-laden phone message, according to a criminal complaint. “We will surround the White House and we will kill any Democrat that steps on the lawn.”

Really? Maybe not:

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said in an interview that the threats are real but will not stop the transfer of power.

“We’re not talking about a 90-person ISIS cell. We’re talking mainly about a bunch of yahoos who, yes, are very dangerous. People could wind up dead,” Himes said. “But there’s no danger that they’re going to overthrow the United States government.”

Many may die – Pelosi and Pence and McConnell and all sorts of Democrats in office across the nation, and many of these yahoos will die too, but the government will carry on and be just fine. That was meant to be comforting, as was this:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, the group of the most senior uniformed leaders at the Pentagon, issued a force-wide statement Tuesday condemning the riot at the Capitol as a “direct assault” on Congress and the constitutional process and affirming President-elect Joe Biden will become the nation’s 46th commander in chief on Jan 20.

The memo represented a rare step for a U.S. military leadership that has sought to keep the American armed forces out of the nation’s rancorous partisan politics in recent years. It came after a number of the rioters, who stormed the Capitol last week falsely claiming last year’s presidential election had been stolen from President Trump, turned out to be veterans of the U.S. military.

Trump seems to have his people embedded in the military. The military knows this and will do what’s necessary:

The Joint Chiefs said that they witnessed actions inside the Capitol that were inconsistent with the rule of law and that the rights to freedom of speech and assembly “do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.”

The top uniformed officers broadly affirmed that the military would continue to obey lawful orders from civilian leadership and protect the U.S. Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, while supporting civil authorities to protect lives and property and helping ensure public safety in accordance with the law. The Joint Chiefs also called on the force to embody the ideals of the nation.

“As service members, we must embody the values and ideals of the nation,” the Joint Chiefs said. “We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”

The military will not allow any sedition or insurrection. Donald Trump must be furious with these generals, but he’s always furious these days. The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni tell the tale of Pence:

For Vice President Mike Pence, the moment of truth had arrived. After three years and 11 months of navigating the treacherous waters of President Trump’s ego, after all the tongue-biting, pride-swallowing moments where he employed strategic silence or florid flattery to stay in his boss’s good graces, there he was being cursed by the president.

Mr. Trump was enraged that Mr. Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Mr. Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time.

“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

And that was that:

The blowup between the nation’s two highest elected officials then played out in dramatic fashion as the president publicly excoriated the vice president at an incendiary rally and sent agitated supporters to the Capitol where they stormed the building – some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

Evacuated to the basement, Mr. Pence huddled for hours while Mr. Trump tweeted out an attack on him rather than call to check on his safety.

But it was best to be a pussy:

The loyal lieutenant who had almost never diverged from the president, who had finessed every other possible fracture, finally came to a decision point he could not avoid. He would uphold the election despite the president and despite the mob. And he would pay the price with the political base he once hoped to harness for his own run for the White House.

“Pence had a choice between his constitutional duty and his political future, and he did the right thing,” said John Yoo, a legal scholar consulted by Mr. Pence’s office. “I think he was the man of the hour in many ways – for both Democrats and Republicans. He did his duty even though he must have known, when he did it, that that probably meant he could never become president.”

Cool, or not cool:

Not everyone gave Mr. Pence much credit, arguing that he should hardly be lionized for following the Constitution and maintaining that his deference to the president for nearly four years enabled Mr. Trump’s assault on democracy in the first place.

“I’m glad he didn’t break the law, but it’s kind of hard to call somebody courageous for choosing not to help overthrow our democratic system of government,” said Representative Tom Malinowski, Democrat of New Jersey. “He’s got to understand that the man he’s been working for and defending loyally is almost single-handedly responsible for creating a movement in this country that wants to hang Mike Pence.”

And courage isn’t an issue here:

Calm and unflappable, Mr. Pence took on the role of confidant for cabinet secretaries and other officials fearing Mr. Trump’s ire, advising how to broach uncomfortable topics with the president without triggering him.

Not angering Mr. Trump “was a key objective of his,” observed David J. Shulkin, the former secretary of veterans’ affairs.

Pence blew that in the end, and Jonathan Chait adds this:

What is perhaps most revealing about this story is that Pence is finally leaking details of his interactions with Trump. The Trump era has seen a continuous four-year gusher of widely sourced reports attesting to the president’s stupidity, laziness, corruption, and lack of ethics. Almost none of the stories have centered on one-on-one interactions between the two men. Pence has given Trump embarrassing levels of obsequious loyalty.

His loyalists now finally see a need to distance him from Trump. Joe Grogan, a former Trump adviser, tells the Times, “In many ways, I think it vindicates the decision of Mike Pence to hang in there this long.”

Oh, really? What it took for Pence to turn against Trump was not only Trump losing, and then attempting to steal, the election, but whipping up a mob that attempted to murder Mike Pence. And even all that was not enough for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, or even publicly denounce Trump. He’s just leaking unflattering stories.

Pence did not deserve to have his life threatened. But every other humiliation he has endured through his service to this cretinous gangster will never be punishment enough.

Perhaps so, and Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman cover Mitch’s moment:

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking. The House is voting on Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with inciting violence against the country.

At the same time, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader and one of Mr. Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress, has asked other Republicans whether he should call on Mr. Trump to resign in the aftermath of the riot at the Capitol last week, according to three Republican officials briefed on the conversations.

This may be the inevitable Republican crack-up:

While Mr. McCarthy has said he is personally opposed to impeachment, he and other party leaders have decided not to formally lobby Republicans to vote “no,” and an aide to Mr. McCarthy said he was open to a measure censuring Mr. Trump for his conduct. In private, Mr. McCarthy reached out to a leading House Democrat to see if the chamber would be willing to pursue a censure vote, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi has ruled it out.

Taken together, the stances of Congress’s two top Republicans – neither of whom has said publicly that Mr. Trump should resign or be impeached – reflected the politically challenging and fast-moving nature of the crisis that the party faces after the assault by a pro-Trump mob during a session to formalize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory.

The Democratic Party tore itself apart in 1968 and now it’s the Republicans’ turn. All it takes is a bit of rioting in the streets:

As more violent images from the mayhem wrought by the rioters emerged on Tuesday, including of the brutal attack that ultimately killed a Capitol Police officer, and as lawmakers were briefed about threats of more attacks on the Capitol, rank-and-file Republican lawmakers grew angrier about the president’s role in the violence.

Yet as they tried to balance the affection their core voters have for Mr. Trump with the now undeniable political and constitutional threat he posed, Republican congressional leaders who have loyally backed the president for four years were still stepping delicately. Their refusal to demand the president’s resignation and quiet plotting about how to address his conduct highlighted the gnawing uncertainty that they and many other Republicans have about whether they would pay more of a political price for abandoning him or for continuing to enable him after he incited a mob to storm the seat of government.

Mitch will help them with that:

Mr. McConnell has indicated that he wants to see the specific article of impeachment that the House is set to approve on Wednesday, and hear the eventual arguments in the Senate…

But the Senate Republican leader has made clear in private discussions that he believes now is the moment to move on from the weakened lame duck, whom he blames for causing Republicans to lose the Senate. Mr. McConnell has not spoken to Mr. Trump since mid-December, when the senator told the president that he would be recognizing Mr. Biden as president-elect after the Electoral College certified Mr. Biden’s victory.

And just like that the Trump Republican Party disappeared, and maybe he disappeared too.

What the hell just happened? That was the question in 1968 too. And what will happen next? We’ve never had a president with armed militias ready to kill his political opponents to keep him in office, nullifying the certified national election he had obviously lost. All of this is new. But it’s no fun. Boomers know. Living through history being made is exhausting. And once is enough, not that there’s a choice now. So, what’s next?

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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