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Goodbye and Good Riddance
"Have a good life"
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. This is it. Trump’s presidency ends at noon today and he leaves defeated, disgraced, and twice impeached. Let the pariah ex-presidency begin.
I woke today with a question. As we watch the ex-president jet off to sulking exile, I started to think: what scrap of poetry, song, or literature will mark his deplorable reign? What words of inspiration will future generations associate with this strange man who was, for a season, our president?
Walt Whitman immortalized Abraham Lincoln with “O Captain, My Captain.” FDR will forever be associated with “Happy Days Are Here Again.” At crucial moments in our national history, both Lincoln and Roosevelt cited Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
John Tyler (another genuinely deplorable president), is remembered for “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” (although Tippecanoe died just 31 days into his term).
Bill Clinton was ushered into office by Maya Angelou:
But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
At JFK’s inauguration, Robert Frost read:
Something we were withholding made us weak
Until we found out that it was ourselves
It’s probably the only poem he knows by heart.
Take me in, oh tender woman
Take me in, for heaven's sake
Take me in oh tender woman", sighed the snake Now she clutched him to her bosom, “You're so beautiful,” she cried
“But if I hadn't brought you in by now you might have died”
Now she stroked his pretty skin and then she kissed and held him tight
But instead of saying thanks, that snake gave her a vicious bite
… “I saved you,” cried that woman
“And you've bit me even, why?
You know your bite is poisonous and now I'm going to die”
“Oh shut up, silly woman,” said the reptile with a grin
“You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in …”
And, of course, he leaves in the swampiest way possible.
And, despite his Celebration of Self at Andrews, Trump’s choreographed departure managed to make this small man seem even smaller.
Join us tonight!
Trump’s legacy? ICYMI, JVL summed it up yesterday:
So how will Donald Trump’s presidency be remembered by history? We already know the answer.
He oversaw a disastrous response to a global pandemic, because of which more than 400,000 Americans died on his watch.
That’s it. That’s his legacy. And if he gets a second line in the history books it will be this:
He incited an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol which led to a second impeachment.
A few days ago, The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran an editorial calling for Senator Ron Johnson to resign or be expelled from the Senate, but gave Ronjon a chance to respond.
He did, and they published it. But…. they included extensive footnotes, “so that readers have a fuller understanding of the senator's actions.”
So, for example when Johnson writes:
The Journal Sentinel is wrong to imply these citizens would shut up and forget their concerns if only elected Republicans tell them to. 15 This is not a problem that can be swept aside with the hope it will somehow solve itself. I recognized this early and held a hearing in December (full video here), but was only able to scratch the surface of the issues involved. Witnesses testified under oath, subject to the penalties of perjury, but the Journal Sentinel calls it “bogus.” My opening statement in no way can be viewed as an incitement. Unless election irregularities are fully investigated and explanations provided, I fear this problem will fester and could lead to even greater rancor and division. 16
… the paper adds these footnotes:
15. How about telling the truth? Instead of spreading the lie that the election wasn’t valid, Johnson should have done as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, suggested in a speech the night the Capitol was sacked. “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth. … The truth is that President-elect Biden won this election. President Trump lost.”
16. By encouraging the lie about election “irregularities” and by acting as if Congress could overturn the results and negate the certified ballots of millions of Americans, it is Johnson who has done more than most to foment “rancor and division.” As U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher of Green Bay put it in a commentary for USA TODAY: "The objectors were giving millions of people false hope that somehow Congress or Vice President Mike Pence could change the outcome of the election. This was, of course, a lie." That lie helped lead to the insurrection at the Capitol as election results were formally accepted by Congress.
1. No, Trump’s Presidency Wasn’t Worth It
Points for effort but the books don’t balance. The price tag of the Trump presidency exceeds its value exponentially. The tax cuts, deregulation, judicial appointments, executive orders, and cultural counter-offensives (“he fights”) are trinkets compared to the way he has undermined the values and norms required to sustain the rule of law and the constitutional order. These shiny objects were used to distract, mollify, and provide justification for America’s closest brush with authoritarian government since 1789.
2. Inauguration Day Is What’s Best About America
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take their oaths of office today. But they aren’t alone. While the wording differs from office to office, millions of Americans—members of Congress, executive branch officials, civil servants, officers and enlisted members of the military (as the Joint Chiefs recently reminded us), and many other citizens in varying ways—have sworn oaths or taken pledges to “defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Whether or not you’ve taken a similar oath, today’s Inauguration Day offers a chance for all of us to renew our belief in America’s founding principles. Such a revival is not dependent solely on the ascent of a lone individual, but on the chance for a shared national commitment to the example of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson in the hopes of centuries more of peaceful transitions.
3. Never Forget: Mitch McConnell Underwrote Trump’s Big Lie
Because the dirty open secret is that the entire GOP establishment—including Trump skeptics such as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan—was eager to support Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue as they campaigned on those very same lies about the presidential election.
Why? Because of power. Republicans hoped that they could ride those lies to retain control of the U.S. Senate.
Never forget that the insurrection of January 6 did not start on January 6. Yes, Donald Trump stood before the mob on the morning of January 6 and urged them to march on the Capitol. But the mob gathering was planned in advance. And even before that, the ground was seeded for weeks on end by elected Republicans attesting to the lie that Donald Trump was the legitimate winner of the presidential election and calling for the results to be overturned, by hook or by crook.
Praise for Bannon.
After Trump: A Time for Choosing
Eric Genrich — the mayor of Green Bay, Wisconsin — in the Bulwark: Trumpism won’t go away on its own. It will have to be actively repudiated.
Now is the time to complete that project, to rebuild a country in an image much closer to our ideals. Now is the time to sideline the zealots and philistines, the ideologues and apparatchiks, and elevate the champions of love, decency, and democracy. To do otherwise, to vote to acquit or absolve Donald Trump or to support anyone who does, is to forgive the unforgivable, to appease an open enemy of legitimate self-government. But another path is possible, which leads to a truly multiracial democracy that recognizes the civil rights and the dignity of all Americans. Let’s walk it together.