“We all were here. We saw what happened. It was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next. That’s what it was.” — Mitch McConnell
One swallow does not a summer make, of course. And it is important to stipulate a few things:
McConnell has broken with Trump before, but (a) voted to acquit him in his impeachment trial, and (b) has refused to rule out supporting Trump 2.0 in 2024.
He’s Mitch McConnell.
The GOP has leadership problem — but it has a much worse followership problem. (Hat tip David Frum.) The vast majority of Republican voters are Trumpist or Trump-adjacent and until that changes, the comments of folks like Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell are really just political sea foam.
But . . .
At this point, any recognition of reality is a step forward. A baby step, perhaps, but a sign of progress, nevertheless.
In his statement, McConnell went further than Pence did last week. He (1) acknowledged that the election was legitimate, (2) described Jan. 6th graphically as “a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power,” and (3) explicitly pushed back against the Trumpified RNC.
This is necessary but not sufficient. So now the remaining questions:
Will McConnell embrace the recommendations of the House Jan. 6th Committee?
Will he finally break with Trump 2024?
Will other GOP senators follow his lead and speak out?
Based on past experience, this may be merely sound and fury, signifying nothing. But there are real signs of stress as Republicans come to grips with the latest fiasco caused by their fealty to TFG. A few scenes from what the NYT is calling the GOP’s “food fight”:
The text of the [RNC] resolution made no distinction between peaceful protesters and those who stormed the Capitol, referring to that day’s events simply as “legitimate political discourse.” . . .
It was one of those polarizing moments that forced other Republicans to react, with some — notably, a bunch of sitting U.S. senators — denouncing the national committee’s move as “wrong” and “absurd.”
In the view of many Republicans, censuring two of their own was much like that old saw attributed to Charles Maurice de Tallyrand-Périgord, the 19th-century French diplomat: Worse than a crime, it was also a mistake.
Here’s Brave Sir Kevin running away from a question about whether January 6 was “legitimate political discourse.”
Here’s Ron DeSantis refusing the answer a question about whether he agrees with Pence or Trump about overturning the election:
“I’m not. I … ,” DeSantis told reporters at an immigration-related media event at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami before he cut himself off.
And of course, Nikki Haley beclowning herself . . .
Some folks in the right-wing media are also apparently having a hard time coping. Via Christian Vanderbrouk:
Act I: [January 8, 2021]
Act III: [Yesterday]
It’s almost as if they are full of sh*t.
Bonus: Don’t miss this gem from Rep. Liz Cheney’s GOP primary opponent:
Ms. Hageman said she didn’t know who the legitimate winner of the 2020 election was (“I don’t know the answer”) and couldn’t say if former Vice President Mike Pence had the authority to block congressional certification of President Biden’s election (“I’m not an elections attorney”).
“I wasn’t there on Jan. 6,” she said. “I can’t tell you everything Pence did or didn’t do. What you need to understand is that, for most people out in the real world, none of us really care that much about what happened on Jan. 6.”
On the flip side, the targets of the RNC purge are unbroken and unbowed. ICYMI: I talked with Rep. Adam Kinzinger on Tuesday’s podcast — and it’s very much worth your time.
Political orphans are planning a grassroots summit for later this month:
Principles First is excited to announce a two-day grassroots summit in Washington, DC to be held the weekend of February 26 - 27 focused on discussing and advancing a more principled center-right politics in the United States. We look forward to bringing together conservative and independent speakers, thought leaders, and grassroots activists for two days of panels, speeches, networking, and substantive discussion about what conservatism means today and the future of our movement.
I’ll be there along with much of the Bulwark crew. But the big draws?
And ICYMI: More than 140 current and former Republicans signed an open letter on the RNC’s censure of Cheney and Kinzinger.
History will mark this censure as a turning point for the RNC – a time of choosing between civility and patriotism, on the one hand, and conspiracy and political violence on the other. We stand firmly for the first set of values. We stand proudly next to principled leaders such as Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And we stand united against efforts to defile our democracy.
Read the rest (and the signatures) here.
Is Joe Biden blowing his COVID moment?
When it comes to the pandemic, President Biden is leading from behind. His administration’s inability to appreciate the widespread political frustrations over indefinite COVID regulations—mask mandates for children in school, in particular—is costing the president any potential goodwill he would otherwise receive in the wake of the Omicron variant’s rapid retreat.
Even as blue-state governors from New Jersey’s Phil Murphy to Connecticut’s Ned Lamont moved to end mask requirements in schools this week, the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, still reiterated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommending masking for all schools. When liberal governors have stopped waiting for the White House to accommodate political reality, it’s evident that the administration can’t break free from a sclerotic public-health bureaucracy that has lost the trust of the public
Ron Johnson, Snowflake
Make sure you read Michelle Cottle’s piece, “When Did Republicans Turn Into a Bunch of Snowflakes?” Via the NYT:
Ms. Lipstadt’s nomination [as special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism] has been held up because she once tweeted something mean about Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee. As a result, he is opposing her nomination and has urged colleagues to do the same.
No one seriously questions Ms. Lipstadt’s qualifications. In a career spanning four decades, she has written at least a half dozen books on antisemitism and the Holocaust and lectured globally on the topic. Her successful legal fight against a British Holocaust revisionist was turned into a movie, “Denial,” with Ms. Lipstadt played by Rachel Weisz. Her nomination in July drew applause from Jewish groups across the ideological spectrum….
So how did Ms. Lipstadt hurt Mr. Johnson’s wee feelings? After the horrors of Jan. 6, the senator was among the apologists scrambling to absolve Donald Trump and his followers for the mayhem. Among his strategies: pooh-poohing the episode as much ado about nothing. “I knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law, so I wasn’t concerned,” Mr. Johnson said in a radio interview last March. If the rioters had been “Black Lives Matter and antifa” folks, he clarified, “I might have been a little concerned.”
RonJon caught blowback for his musings — including from Ms. Lipstadt, who tweeted a link to an article about the controversy and asserted, “This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.”…
Then there was Mr. Johnson, who just could not let go. Making everything about him and his bruised petals, he whined that Ms. Lipstadt had attacked him personally, without knowing anything about what a good guy he is and how, back in Milwaukee, he worked with the minister of a Black church to help struggling congregants turn their lives around. He demanded to know if she “feels bad” about having said mean things. “You don’t know what’s in my heart,” he bleated. Ultimately, he accepted her apology, but then declared her unqualified and said he wouldn’t support her anyway.
It was a bravura display from a guy who has not exactly been a beacon of truth, justice or decency.
1. Two Cheers for America’s COVID-19 Response
Brent Orrell thinks it was actually better than it looked.
Relative successes like PPP and expanded UI (as well as stunning, world-historic achievements like the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed) are signs of a society and political order that, whatever its many faults and frictions, was still able to rally in a crisis to do essential work. The downstream consequences of PPP (moral hazard in future crises, enriching the already rich, “zombie” businesses that probably should have been allowed to fail) and the federal UI expansion (fraud, waste, post-crisis labor shortages, and wage inflation) have yet to reveal themselves fully, much less resolve. But those problems are much preferable (to me, anyway) than what otherwise might have happened: even higher levels of illness and death, an imploded health system, and economic ruin. Right now, we should be counting our blessings that America’s COVID response may in fact have been better than it looked in dealing with the biggest global crisis since the Second World War.
2. Breaking Down the 2022 Oscar Nominations
Sonny Bunch, in today’s Bulwark:
Gun-to-my-head prediction today? Belfast ends up winning Best Picture because people love Kenneth Branagh and it’s a crowd-pleaser and even Oscar voters like to be pleased. But please take that gun away from my head; I’m really not that committed to this movie.
Trump’s former press secretary is now, apparently, a Bulwark fan:
I continue to be amazed that anyone thinks Trump cares about thie Republican party or movement he and Bannon created. He only cares about money, hurting his "enemies", and staying out of prison. If someone offers him a billion $ to go away, he'd go away (although now with criminal charges having over his head, I don't think that's enough). I can't understand why people don't realize the title of Rick Wilson's book, Everything Trump Touches Dies, is completely true. This is who he always has been and will be.
I don’t know who said it or where I heard it, but Republicans would do well to remember that “No assault on democracy will ever be limited to its targets.”