Following Wednesday’s Insurrection at the Capitol…
An incredibly brave Not-Soon-Enough-President Biden boldly denounced both Trump-the-inciter and the “domestic terrorists” (good for him for using the term) who ransacked the Capitol last Wednesday.
It’s worth noting that Biden has stated that he’d decided he had to run for President after Charlottesville, when Trump referred to the white supremacists as some of the “good people on both sides.”
Even before he selected Kamala Harris as his running mate, they had both framed this election against Trump as the “battle for the soul of the nation.”
And though the election is over, that battle is not.
Several commentators have compared this period to Reconstruction. The heightened awareness of racial injustice that led to peaceful demonstrations joined by a huge swath of diverse Americans showed that the “arc of Justice” could be bending once more toward equality.
The fact that President Biden won with so much support from Black Americans, that he publicly said “I have your backs,” was just what the white supremacists feared most.
With grievances against an increasingly multicolored nation continually stoked by their hero in the Oval Office, these self-styled patriots have been organizing for action for some time.
They believed Trump’s Big Lie that the election had been stolen from him/them—a lie fueled by right-wing media and cowardly elected Republicans—and saw themselves as revolutionaries.
The run-off election in Georgia, the state whose Senators Herman Talmadge and Richard Russell had fought against President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights legislation in 1964, had just given Democrats control over the Senate.
That development must have simply heightened the fury in these hate-filled insurrectionists.
And what could have been more quintessentially American—and thus more infuriating to them—than this duo of the Senate’s newest members: (in Jon Ossoff’s words) “a Jewish son of immigrants and a Black preacher”?
(I can’t help wondering how Jared Kushner felt when he watched his father-in-law goad a sea of people ready to pounce, some of them wearing sweatshirts reading “University of Auschwitz” above a skull; others wearing apparel bearing the initials “6MNE,” which stands for “six million not enough”—more Jews should die. Perhaps Kushner thought the angry mobs would spare him because of his exalted position.)
So let’s not forget that Trump’s determination to invalidate primarily the votes of Black Americans was no accident. And the far right domestic terrorism, which some former Trump Administration officials have warned is a major danger to our national security, is at the very heart of our current situation.
We are at Reconstruction 2.0. And we damned well better get it right this time. No turning back. Never Trumper Stuart Stevens dubbed the then-14 Senators threatening to overturn the election results “the Jim Crow caucus”—an apt name, I believe.
Enter the Speaker
The other incredibly brave American in this period is Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, whose office was violated by the terrorists and is one of their favored targets.
Pelosi knows she’s third in the line of succession. With an “unhinged, dangerous” man in the Oval Office, and the Vice President seemingly immobilized, she has stepped into the breach.
One of her most important acts was to ask General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to assure her (and the nation) that Trump couldn’t access the nuclear codes. She received that assurance.
A consensus appears to be mounting that Trump is too erratic and dangerous to remain in his position even for the next 11 days. Pelosi said her caucus has determined they must act.
Since Trump will not resign, and Pence has declined to explore a 25th amendment move for removal by the Cabinet (even though some have said they’d go along with it), the House Democrats have decided on impeachment.
The sentiment is that after Trump committed such abhorrent acts, it is essential to try to remove him—or at least go on record as having gone beyond mere censure.
You can read a draft of the single Article of Impeachment here. It will be introduced on Monday. To date, Mitch McConnell has said he will recess the Senate until January 19—essentially throwing the vote into the next Senate.
Perhaps, at this critical juncture, he can be pressured to act like a responsible legislator? Probably not. This is his last shameful act as Senate Majority Leader.
Constitutional scholar Lawrence Tribe is one of many who support the House action. In the Washington Post, he wrote:
“By approving articles of impeachment, the House would give the Senate the option to swiftly convene, try, convict and remove the president — and, upon a separate vote, disqualify him from future officeholding. (emphases mine)
“To be sure, the Senate may lack the willingness or the time to hold a trial. Still, the very pendency of articles — and the possibility of trial and conviction — may itself chill Trump’s worst impulses as he contemplates his final days as president. And it appears as though there is now bipartisan support in the Senate for serious consideration of articles of impeachment.
“In any event, if the House approves articles of impeachment but the Senate does not act before he leaves office, those articles will mark the historical record, serve as a valuable deterrent in the interim and draw a line against future abuses. (Scholars debate whether an impeachment may proceed against a former official.)
“The impeachment power must never be exercised lightly. But the House would be fully justified in finding that Trump’s incitement of mob violence against the United States government warrants that drastic remedy.”
The hope of many is that there will be a legitimate way to rule out the possibility of Trump ever running for office again.
Once the Biden administration takes over, the prosecutions will be up to the incoming Justice Department. I was pleased to read that Lisa Monaco, who will be Deputy Attorney General to Merrick Garland, is considered a “badass”—a tough, strong woman.
So I think things are moving in the right direction now. But there’s one enormous gap that worries me still.
When previous major national events have occurred, we’ve received briefings from those in charge. But aside from a single news conference with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, there has been no information about how this terrible national security breach occurred.
It seems highly likely, as Rep. Jim Clyburn has stated, that the insurrectionists received help from inside the Capitol. The Sergeants of Arms of both House and Senate have been fired, and the Chief of Capitol police is gone.
What is known to date about how this catastrophe (which all agree could have been much worse) occurred? Whom can the Senators, Representatives, staff members and others trust to protect them?
And who is ensuring that the January 20th inauguration of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be secure?
There isn’t much time. I understand that investigations require secrecy, but there are surely some things the public needs to know that can be transmitted.
Our Incoming Optimist
In the meantime, our President-elect is expressing just the right balance of fury and optimism. When asked if he thought the assault on the Capitol would make his job of working with the Republicans to heal the nation easier or harder, he responded it will make it “a lot easier” because he’s heard from many Republicans how appalled they were.
Commentator Jonathan Capehart said in an MSNBC interview that he thought Biden was right.
“There are moments in American history that move members of Congress closer together. Biden knows that.”
I sure hope Biden and Capehart are correct. And I hope every American—aside from Trump’s army of terrorists—will at least want to believe that this moment can be turned into a nation vastly different from the horrific one in evidence on January 6th.