“If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon's but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition and ignorance on the other.” -- Ulysses S. Grant
Welcome to the Countdown Journal. There are five days until the Inauguration of Joe Biden.
Remember the Trump campaign narrative from last year? Every time there was a riot or disorder any kind, we were warned: This is Joe Biden’s America.
The problem, of course, was that it was actually Trump’s America. But these are not folks who are known for letting reality get in the way of a good meme.
The phrase came back to me as I looked at pictures of our nation’s Capitol transformed into an armed camp: This is Donald J. Trump’s America.
Literally and seriously.
This is where he has brought us: a nation on edge, confronting three simultaneous crises — the economy is on the brink; the pandemic is on track to kill 400,000 Americans by Inauguration Day; and our constitutional republic under attack.
This is Donald Trump’s America: “U.S. says Capitol rioters meant to 'capture and assassinate' officials.”
Four years of lies, bullying, corruption, narcissism, pusillanimity, proto-fascism, and winks at extremism have brought us here.
President Trump’s incitement of his supporters before their attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 has galvanized a nationwide extremist movement and fueled those determined to disrupt the transfer of power to President-elect Joe Biden and violently challenge the legitimacy of the election for months — and possibly years, according to U.S. officials and independent experts.
But judges and tax cuts, amrite?
The good news: there are moving trucks at the White House (or will be).
At this point, I’d like to tell you that the long national nightmare will be over next Wednesday, but that’s only partly true. Trump will be gone, but the assault on democratic norms is going to continue.
ICYMI: I posed a lot of “what ifs” about the next time around in this piece I wrote for MSNBC:
In state after state, Republicans in positions of responsibility protected the election. But those Republicans may turn out to be a dying breed.
The future may well belong not to Republicans who believe in the rule of law but to Republicans like Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas — or Reps. Mo Brooks of Alabama, Matt Gaetz of Florida or even Elise Stefanik of New York — who have embraced the big lie even after the attack on the Capitol.
Don't assume it can't happen. Because at the grassroots level, Republicans continue to be radicalized.
What if, instead of Raffensperger, someone like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon supporter, had been in charge of counting Georgia's votes? What if, instead of Kemp, it had been a Trump loyalist like former Sen. Kelly Loeffler who agreed to object to certifying her state's votes? (She later backed off.)
In Arizona, what would have happened if Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who objected to counting his own state's votes, had been sitting in the governor's chair instead of Doug Ducey?
What if, in the next election, Michigan had a Republican governor who was pressured by right-wing media and the GOP base to void the popular vote based on unproven charges and baseless conspiracy theories?
None of this is fanciful. We've seen the potency of the big lie, how it spreads and how easily Republican voters were willing to embrace it. We also saw the power of lies to influence elected Republicans to reject the results of a free and fair election.
This time, the system worked. We may not be so lucky the next time around.
The vast majority of Americans say they oppose the actions of the rioters who stormed and ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, while smaller majorities say President Trump bears responsibility for the attack and that he should be removed from office and disqualified from serving again, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Even as the findings are sharply partisan, over half of Americans — and 1 in 8 Republicans — say Trump should be criminally charged for his role in the attacks.
Murkowski sounds like a yes. Via the NYT:
Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said on Thursday that the House had acted “appropriately” in impeaching President Trump, signaling possible support for convicting him at a Senate trial in a statement that called his actions “unlawful” and said that they warranted consequences….
“On the day of the riots, President Trump’s words incited violence, which led to the injury and deaths of Americans — including a Capitol Police officer — the desecration of the Capitol, and briefly interfered with the government’s ability to ensure a peaceful transfer of power,” Ms. Murkowski said.
You absolutely have to read this story… and share with folks who still think that Trumpism = Support for Law and Order and the Police.
Rioters swarmed, battering the officers with metal pipes peeled from scaffolding and a pole with an American flag attached, police said. Both were struck with stun guns. Fanone suffered a mild heart attack and drifted in and out of consciousness.
All the while, the mob was chanting “U.S.A.” over and over and over again.
“We got one! We got one!” Fanone said he heard rioters shout. “Kill him with his own gun!”
Ted Cruz has long had a public reputation as an unctuous asshole. Even so, his staffers have tended to hold him in high regard as a kind and geeky man who treated his underlings well even while his fellow senators loathed him. Now though “most of Cruzworld is pretty disgusted” with the senator for choosing to back Donald Trump’s absurd claims of widespread election fraud, in the words of one former aide. As another former aide put it, “everyone is upset with the direction things have gone, and the longer they’ve been with the senator, the more distaste they are expressing.”
In conversations w/residents about this week's impeachment vote, some are unclear on what transpired before & during that involved President Trump.
Here are the indisputable and publicly available facts ⬇️
The president helped organize the January 6 rally. Example:
For months, he insisted the election had been stolen and consistently urged people to "fight" in order to change the results: "WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!!" (Tweet, Dec. 12)
"@ senatemajldr and Republican Senators have to get tougher, or you won't have a Republican Party anymore. We won the Presidential Election, by a lot. FIGHT FOR IT. Don't let them take it away!" (Dec. 18)
"The 'Justice' Department& the FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud, the biggest SCAM in our nation's history despite overwhelming evidence. They should be ashamed. History will remember. Never give up. See everyone in DC on January 6th"(Dec. 26)
He led Americans to believe that Mike Pence could overturn the Electoral College results, even though the VP does not have that power. On Jan. 5 he tweeted, "The Vice President has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors."
1. The Falkirk Center: Liberty University’s Slime Factory
Fantastic piece in today’s Bulwark by Calum Best about the joint venture between Jerry Falwell Jr. and Charlie Kirk.
“Welcome to another exciting edition of the Falkirk Center podcast on the campus of Liberty University, where Christ is King, church is essential, and freedom is everything.”
This is how Falkirk Center Executive Director Ryan Helfenbein opens nearly every episode of the center’s podcast. Despite his promise, the episodes aren’t actually exciting. Most episodes are a sour mix of reactionary politics, debunked lies, and unholy combinations of religion and patriotism.
2. An Administration Bookended by Lies
The essence of Donald Trump’s term as president boils down to just two press briefings that bookend his administration.
On the Trump administration’s first full day in office, Press Secretary Sean Spicer entered the White House’s Brady Briefing Room and eagerly debased himself. With accompanying photographs, Spicer told us to ignore what our eyes told us and believe that Trump had the largest inaugural crowd in history.
He said it with a straight face. He took no questions. The whole thing took less than six minutes.
I remember turning to another reporter and saying, “Well, we know where this is going.”
Since that time it has been a steady stream of lies.
3. The Last Action Hero and the First President
In the hurricane of news this month—a riot in the Capitol last week, a presidential impeachment this week, an inauguration next week, with a Senate trial expected to follow—we should not overlook a moment of sensible calm asking us to heed America’s founding ideals. In a video released over the weekend that has already had more than 37 million views, one of our nation’s most famous immigrants offered a “a few words to my fellow Americans.” Sitting at a desk and framed by the U.S. and California flags, Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “We need to look past ourselves, our parties, and disagreements, and put our democracy first.”
These words could have been spoken by George Washington. Just with a different accent.
Let us pray.
The eternal Cruz.
Charlie Sykes @SykesCharlie“Amanda Carpenter, a former Cruz aide in his Senate office, told Intelligencer: “the biggest conversation I’ve had with fellow Cruz supporters is, ‘Was he always this way or did he change?’”
I’m a few days behind on this, but make sure you read this interview with former Secy of State Rex Tillerson in Foreign Policy.
RT: His understanding of global events, his understanding of global history, his understanding of U.S. history was really limited. It’s really hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t even understand the concept for why we’re talking about this.
Trump’s “understanding of global events, his understanding of global history, his understanding of U.S. history was really limited.”
I had to constantly evaluate my last conversations with him—what seemed to resonate, what seemed to get across, what didn’t—and I would try different approaches with him. I used to go into meetings with a list of four to five things I needed to talk to him about, and I quickly learned that if I got to three, it was a home run, and I realized getting two that were meaningful was probably the best objective. So I began to adjust what I went into a meeting with and what I attempted to explain and describe, and then I started taking charts and pictures with me because I found that those seemed to hold his attention better. If I could put a photo or a picture in front of him or a map or a piece of paper that had two big bullet points on it, he would focus on that, and I could build on that. Just sitting and trying to have a conversation as you and I are having just doesn’t work.