Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


A "DAY OF INFAMY" WE SHOULD HAVE SEEN COMING: As the Republicans in Congress scattered Wednesday to seek safety and protection from the siege on the Capitol, they were fleeing the product of their failure to stand up to for the Constitution they’d sworn to uphold. It was the toll for bowing to a dictatorial narcissist. Even as the mobs were overrunning the Capitol, Trump couldn’t bring himself to stand up for an election that he lost, continuing to claim it has been “stolen.” He refused to condemn the horrible behavior the world was witnessing. It was another tragically familiar disturbing display of tone deafness and dangerous behavior. For four years those who should know better and should have stood up – Republican leaders and office holders – instead backed and voted support for a serial liar and petty dictator. This is a nation built on the rule of law and trust in the system where the peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of our national stability. Wednesday that was shattered.

TRUMP AND HIS GOP ENABLERS FUELED A CAPITOL COUP ATTEMPT: Shortly after supporters of President Donald Trump breached the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, an alarmed Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to urge his father’s backers to stop. He tweeted: “This is wrong and not who we are.” No, Donald Jr., this exactly who you are. The disgraceful invasion of the People’s House to deny the people’s will is an ugly last step in a march toward autocracy that the president has led and his followers have happily joined. The president has shattered norms and possibly broken the law in his refusal to concede to President-elect Joe Biden and in his efforts to overturn the election’s results without a shred of evidence that widespread fraud was involved. Republicans, including members of Congress from North Carolina, have either joined him or meekly declined to correct him. All this outrage about a fiction. And all this after Trump and his supporters railed against the summer protests by people upset by very real and deadly police brutality. The mob invasion was hardly brought about only by zealous members of the Trump cult, or even by the increasingly unstable president. This was brought about by many of the same lawmakers who scurried for cover inside the breached Capitol. The credibility of a presidential election isn’t something that members of Congress should toy with on the national stage. Some will believe it’s real, that the election was stolen by Democrats who added “millions of fraudulent votes.” And if they believe that, if they’ve been told that by the president and urged by him to come to Washington to protest, then chaos is all but inevitable.

NC REPUBLICANS IN U.S. HOUSE EMPOWER A LIAR AND HIS INSURRECTIONISTS: Make no mistake, there are seven members of Congress from this state who, evidenced by their votes, put themselves in with the vandalizing and looting insurrectionists who overran and ransacked the Capitol. Just a few days into the current congressional session and they’ve mocked the trust of the voters who put them in office. Talk is cheap and hollow. Action – voting to falsely claim that ballots cast in Pennsylvania and Arizona were illegitimate – tell the world they’re in league with the serial liar who is our president and the thugs who rampaged through the Capitol. The logical conclusion, from how they voted early Thursday morning (and NOT WHAT THEY MIGHT SAY) is that seven North Carolina Republican representatives -- Dan Bishop; Ted Budd; Madison Cawthorn; Virginia Foxx; Richard Hudson; Greg Murphy; and Rep. David Rouzer – don’t believe those 26 from Arizona and Pennsylvania have a right to their seats. That, tragically, is the real mark of illegitimacy. They have failed those they represent and the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold. They are the ones who’s place in office should be questioned and challenged.

THE MYTH OF AMERICAN INNOCENCE: The days leading up to the mob invasion of the Capitol presented several echoes of the intricately planned coup d’état carried out against the city government of Wilmington, N.C., in 1898. White supremacists overthrew a government that had been elected through an alliance that included African-Americans and white progressives. As Mr. Hofstadter and Michael Wallace report in “American Violence: A Documentary History,” military units poured into Wilmington from other places to assist the new regime: “African continued to cringe before Caucasian as the troops paraded the streets, as the guns barked and the bayonets flared, for a new municipal administration of the ‘White Supremacy’ persuasion.” Untold numbers of Black citizens were killed, and well-known Wilmingtonians were banished from the city under pain of death. As was the case at the Capitol on Wednesday, the Wilmington mob was especially keen to silence journalists who had resisted the rising tide of racism. To that end, the marauders burned the Black-owned Daily Record, whose editor, Alexander Manly, fled the city. White supremacists eventually took control of the state, bringing down the curtain on Black political participation. Given this history, it is in no way a coincidence that North Carolina remains a battleground where African-Americans continue to struggle against the effects of gerrymandering and other forms of suppression. The mob assault on the Capitol was an outgrowth of what came before. It followed a heavily racialized campaign by a president who falsely portrayed African-American cities as hot spots of voting fraud, while endearing himself to white supremacists. Republicans who subscribe to this toxic strategy deserve to be held responsible for the chaos it reaps. For shades of things to come, they need look no further than the damaged Capitol and the dead and injured who were hauled away on gurneys.

JOSH HAWLEY DESERVES CONSEQUENCES. LOSING HIS BOOK DEAL IS A GOOD START: It’s reasonable to debate which ideas fall outside the spectrum of acceptable public opinion: Attitudes change, sometimes very quickly, and these boundaries are constantly being renegotiated. But we should all agree that there are some views and behavior that must be met with social, professional and moral sanction. Or, to borrow Hawley’s own words: “It’s community that helps us find moral purpose.” Inciting, enabling or participating in an attempted insurrection aimed at overturning the results of a free and fair election should fall into that category. Everyone else who played a role in Wednesday’s disgraceful spectacle deserves far more than the annoyance of losing a prestigious publisher and being forced to hunt for a down-market conservative alternative. If the prospect of canceling a book on an unrelated subject in response to the attack on the Capitol raises First Amendment-adjacent concerns for you, recent days offer some creative suggestions for how to reestablish the moral guardrails that were plowed down during the Trump era. Randall Lane, the editor of Forbes magazine, has announced that if private companies hire Trump press officials who lied to the public, “Forbes will assume that everything your company or firm talks about is a lie.” Publishers can certainly hold authors who peddled lies about the 2020 election to a more rigorous fact-checking standard than currently is the norm. CNN’s Brian Stelter suggested that some Trump officials were searching unsuccessfully for agents to represent them as they try to sell book and film projects. It’s possible to believe in someone’s right to speak without helping them to make money doing so. And certainly, high-profile institutions can opt to not offer paid speaking opportunities, board seats or prestigious appointments to people who have demonstrated themselves self-interested to the point of recklessness or worse. But with those caveats in place: Five people are dead because of the mendacity Josh Hawley legitimized, and he’s the victim? He, and everyone else who made Wednesday possible, should be beside themselves with shame. The rest of us should help them feel it, for as long as it takes.


WILLIAM MCLENDON: AN ASSAULT ON OUR FRAGILE DEMOCRACY: As a 10-year old I remember vividly the radio news on Dec. 7, 1941 that a Japanese air attack had sunk much of the U.S. Pacific Fleet killing several thousand Americans at Pearl Harbor. As a 70-year old on Sept. 11, 2001, I was anguished by the death and destruction the world watched that day as planes crashed into the Twin Towers. As a 90-year old, I watched Wednesday in disbelief as a U.S. president urged a mob of supporters to invade the Capitol while the Senate and House were in session to confirm election results. This symbol of our almost 250-year-old democracy was assaulted and our elected leaders rushed to safety while a mob desecrated their meeting places. Once again, our fragile democracy has been violently assaulted. Hopefully the latest challenge can inspire all Americans to continue the essential efforts to preserve and enhance this unique nation.

SUZANNE MATTHEWS: WE NEED TO BLAME TRUMP VOTERS, TOO: Reporting on the havoc in the Capitol places the blame squarely on the president for inciting it. However, let’s not forget that four years ago he was put in place by his base of voters, with some 74 million of them voting for him in 2020. We need to hold every Trump voter accountable for this tragic event. Over the past four years, President Trump has shown that he is a pathological liar and a racist, and is willing to openly engage in criminal activity to advance his own power. Yet Trump supporters chose to turn a blind eye to his crimes and incompetence, enthusiastically showing up at his rallies, cheering at his insults and slurs, and wildly applauding his conspiracy theories. I do not for one second believe that Wednesday’s rampage was the work of a small group of extremists. What we saw was the natural conclusion of a massive number of voters who have completely lost their moral integrity. The challenge to our country is not how to get rid of Mr. Trump, but how to restore a sense of morality and social responsibility.

WILLIAM WILSON: TRUMP SHOULD FACE CRIMINAL CHARGES OVER INVASION OF CONGRESS: The scenes of protesters storming the U.S. Capitol were surreal and sickening. It is beyond comprehension that these actions are happening because the president won’t accept the legal and lawfully executed will of the majority of U.S. voters and spews inflammatory lies to incite his base. His words on Wednesday met every criteria for the definition of a coup, and the crowd’s behavior met every definition of sedition. Until now, I thought Trump should be allowed to go away and not have any federal prosecution follow, but this behavior has shown more clearly his intention to take over the government. He needs to be formally charged with treason and held accountable for his atrocious and traitorous behavior. Without such accountability our democracy, a source of American pride for over 200 years and the envy of the world for much of that time, will die an ugly death.



About those calls for Impeachment...

First let me say, I am absolutely furious about what happened in our nation’s Capital the other day. I want justice, I want retribution, I want that pound of flesh from Trump for inspiring such an outrage. But we can’t always get what we want.

I’m seeing countless calls for Impeachment from both friends and Democratic elected officials. And those calls are justified. Trump held a rally on the White House lawn, then sent his enraged followers over to the Capitol building to do his dirty work for him. What followed hasn’t been seen since the British burned Washington nearly to the ground in 1814. He must be held accountable for that, in one form or another. I’m just not sure Impeachment is the right vehicle for that.

It’s been said that politics is the “art of the possible.” After a long back-and-forth (via text) with my niece a few days ago, I am convinced that Impeachment, at this late a date, is somewhere between impossible and highly unlikely. Mitch McConnell has already stated that unless all 100 Senators demand a trial prior to the 20th, when Trump becomes an “Ex” President and civilian, the trial itself will be held after that date.

Understand, this has only happened one time in history, when William Belknap (War Secretary for Ulysses Grant) was Impeached after he had resigned. The evidence of his corruption was overwhelming, and the Senate did vote to convict him. But it did not achieve the 2/3 margin necessary for the conviction to stand.

In other words, it was only attempted once, and it failed.

If anybody reading this actually believes that 17 of our current Republican Senators would vote to convict Trump (even civilian Trump), I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you. Some 70% of their base believes the election was rigged somehow, and 50% of those idiots actually blame Biden for the invasion of Congress. Most of those R Senators are deathly afraid of pissing off his base, and they will vote accordingly.

It takes an additional vote by the Senate to bar him from running for future office (but I think that can only follow a 2/3 conviction on Impeachment, not sure about that), and I can imagine 7 or 8 voting for that so they wouldn’t have to face him in the 2024 Primary. But again, hoping for 17 to flip is akin to believing in the Tooth Fairy.

And just a snide aside: When you adamantly state that no Republicans can be trusted, but turn around and speculate that 17 of them will vote for what’s right on Impeachment, you’re doing some mental gymnastics of Olympian proportions.

So, when the second effort at Impeachment fails, what will we have accomplished? We will have kept Trump in the limelight past his shelf date, made the first acts of our shiny new Democratic Senate Majority an abject failure, and he and his supporters will be able to croon about his victory over the Democrats. They won't feel the "shame" that should accompany that process, because they have no shame.

It has also been said, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” We must think and act strategically, if we are to accomplish the things that need accomplishing. Long shots and hail mary passes are dramatic as hell, but they do not make for sound public policy.

p.s. I recently banned somebody because his(?) constant and predictable criticisms crossed into troll territory. I'm sure many disagree with my above take on Impeachment, and the last thing I want is for you to fear voicing your opinion. I arrived at my position via healthy debate, and I could arrive at a different position the same way.

On Impeachment...

We need to see how this plays out. It's a very volatile situation and we need to keep in mind several moving parts.

First, the Democrats are going to lose credibility with a large part of the American public if they don't use any and all means at their disposal to have some kind of accountability here. Take a look at this polling just released by ABC News:

-56% of Americans think Trump should be removed now. 43% don't.
-94% of Democrats support removing Trump; 13% of Republicans approve it, as well as 58% of Independents
-99% of Democrats and 75% of Independents view Biden's win as legitimate; 73% of Republicans do not
-Overall, 30% of Americans trust Trump to defend democracy and 31% say the same of Congress

And, this:

Sixty-seven percent of Americans lay blame squarely at Trump's feet for the Wednesday riot and the unprecedented breach that led to the death of five, including a Capitol police officer who succumbed to injuries suffered during the attack. This includes 52% who believe he shoulders a great deal of the responsibility. Only 15% of those polled say that he bears none of the blame.

In my thinking, impeachment isn't a waste of time, even if we lose in the Senate - it will demonstrate to a majority of the public that they can trust Democrats to defend the Constitution. It allows the evidence of Trump's responsibility to be made public and discussed.

The next Congress could take up impeachment as a way to strip Trump of his post-Presidency perks - an annual salary, a budget for administration and staffing, and Secret Service protection - and his ability to run again in 2024.

The main point for me is this. We stand at a crossroads here with our two major parties representing polar opposite views of our future.

One party supports the preservation of democracy and accountability.

The other is promoting a future based on authoritarian regimes where power and corruption are the only goals, even if it means using domestic terrorism to get what it wants.

We can't let the terrorists win.

This part would be fantastic:

The next Congress could take up impeachment as a way to strip Trump of his post-Presidency perks - an annual salary, a budget for administration and staffing, and Secret Service protection - and his ability to run again in 2024.

But again, that would require a 2/3 Senate majority vote to make it happen. I don't think that's even remotely possible, but I would love to be proven wrong by them.

Never say never ...

The Washington Post is reporting on a focus group of Republicans that was conducted by Republican pollster after the attack. He said they fell into three camps: "those who believe the fact that President-elect Joe Biden won the election and think it's time Trump move on; those who think it was stolen from Trump but he still should move on; and those who think it was stolen and Trump should continue to fight."

Lentz said he was "flabbergasted".

"They were very emotional with each other, very harsh with each other. This has never happened in a Trump focus group I've done. . . . Trump voters are like single moms with kids. They back each other, they empathize with each other, because they know the stresses and strains they each have. Not anymore. These Trump voters are ready to declare war with each other."

The Democrats need to recognize that the wall of Republican solidarity is breaking and move forward with presenting evidence and impeachment.

There's another thing impeachment could be used for...

even if the Senate does not vote to convict. It could be used as a basis for banning Trump from even holding federal elective or appointive office again. Once he has been impeached, regardless of what the Senate does, Congress should pass a law forbidding any citizen who has been impeached by Congress more than once (note: not impeached and convicted, just impeached) from holding office in the future, on the grounds that any such individual has proven themselves opposed to the conduct required of an officeholder and would bring ill repute onto the government and democracy. Since this would be a general law that does not name an individual, it would not run afoul of the constitutional ban on bills of attainder and could likely pass constitutional muster. It would have the practical effect of neutering Trump and allowing the (semi-)sane wing of the Republican party to perhaps overwhelm and reject the wingnuts. It would absolutely demoralize and undermine the Trumpists. And, of course, it would protect our democracy from the most dangerous demagogue we've ever contended with.