Three Years Later
The transformation of the GOP is complete.
“. . . she had without exception the most stupid, vulgar, empty mind that he had ever encountered. She had not a thought in her head that was not a slogan, and there was no imbecility, absolutely none that she was not capable of swallowing if the Party handed it out to her. ‘The human sound-track’ he nicknamed her in his own mind.” — George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four
If only Orwell could see us now. But I digress.
While the deep-thinking worthies of the anti-anti-Trump media scoff at what they see as an unseemly focus on Donald Trump, and warn against Trump Derangement Syndrome, this weekend Trump:
Claimed that magnets don’t work if they get wet. “Think of it, magnets,” Trump said. “Now all I know about magnets is this, give me a glass of water, let me drop it on the magnets, that’s the end of the magnets.” (No, it’s not.)
Called J6 rioters and seditionists “hostages” and demanded their release.
Repeated conspiracy theories claiming that left-wing activists and/or government agents were responsible for the breach of the Capitol.
“Former President Donald Trump returned to mocking the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, alluding to the former prisoner-of-war’s broken limbs. . . . “You know, without John McCain, we would have had it done,” Trump said. ‘John McCain, for some reason, couldn’t get his arm up that day. Remember?”
Blamed Abraham Lincoln for not “negotiating” the Civil War. “So many mistakes were made. See, there was something I think could have been negotiated, to be honest with you,” Trump said. “I think you could have negotiated that. All the people died. So many people died.”
Liz Cheney had some questions:
“Which part of the Civil War ‘could have been negotiated’? The slavery part? The secession part? Whether Lincoln should have preserved the Union?”
Began appropriating the word “insurrection” — suggesting that Biden administration’s handling the border was the real insurrection. “When you talk about insurrection,” he declared in Iowa, “what they’re doing, that’s the real deal.” [Next up: Donald Trump, champion of Genuine American Democracy.]
[Trump aide Dan] Scavino told [Special Counsel Jack] Smith’s investigators that as the violence began to escalate that day, Trump “was just not interested” in doing more to stop it.
Sources also said former Trump aide Nick Luna told federal investigators that when Trump was informed that then-Vice President Mike Pence had to be rushed to a secure location, Trump responded, “So what?” -- which sources said Luna saw as an unexpected willingness by Trump to let potential harm come to a longtime loyalist.
And this seems like an undercovered story. Via WBEZ: “Trump did not sign Illinois’ loyalty oath that says he won’t advocate for overthrowing the government.”
“Trump did not voluntarily sign the state’s loyalty oath as part of his package of ballot-access paperwork submitted Thursday to the Illinois State Board of Elections. That omission is a departure from his presidential candidacies of 2016 and 2020, when he affixed his signature to the oath both times…
Biden and Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis both signed the oath…
In the latter part of the oath, candidates attest that they “do not directly or indirectly teach or advocate the overthrow of the government of the United States or of this state or any unlawful change in the form of the governments thereof by force or any unlawful means.”
There are countless ways to measure Trump’s transmogrification of the Republican party: the acceptance of the Big Lie, the abandonment of Ukraine, the ideological nihilism, the polls.
But for students of history and human psychology consider this weekend’s performance by Elise Stefanik, whom George Orwell unfortunately never met.
parroted Trump’s reference to J6 defendants as “hostages”;
embraced the claim that the 2020 election was an “unconstitutional circumventing of the Constitution, not going through state legislators when it comes to changing election law”;
refused to commit to certifying the 2024 election; and
stood by Trump’s statement that immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of the nation.
“This is language that the Biden campaign, others says ‘is parroting Adolf Hitler.’ Are you comfortable with former President Trump’s comments?” [host Kristen] Welker asked.
After calling the media biased, Stefanik replied: “Our border crisis is poisoning Americans through fentanyl. It is poisoning people, including in my district, who are dying from overdoses of fentanyl. And you know why? Because of Joe Biden’s wide-open border. . . . So yes, I stand by President Trump.”
Stefanik really is desperately thirsty for that sweet, sweet Trump VP spot. But she’s not the only Republican who has remade herself into the Orange God King’s image. On Sunday Adam Kinzinger wrote:
This morning my wife informed me about a tweet from Nick Ayers, former good guy staffer of Mike Pence, making some typical alt right-pedophile-dem-and-the Republicans-were-peaceful-on-Jan-6 garbage message. Yet another one bites the dust. Nick Ayers was one of the good guys. But in the world of politics, campaign staff need money, and only the Trumpers are paying right now.
Exit take: Once upon a time (long ago now), responsible Republicans would have pushed back against — even denounced — Trump’s reckless rhetoric. Now, they are simply amplifiers of the worst of the worst.
In today’s Bulwark, A.B. Stoddard writes: ‘The Most Urgent Question of Our Time’.
Tom Nichols: Claudine Gay Had to Go
A new report finds Donald Trump grifted millions of dollars from foreign governments while president. Meanwhile, sometimes the worst people in the world get it right, even if they are acting in bad faith. Harvard was justified in protecting its academic standards and the institution itself. Tom Nichols joined me for the weekend pod.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
Three Years Later: The Day That Transformed the GOP
“They’re socialist pigs!” one particularly animated rioter shouts.
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) says through the broken glass of the door. “I’ve been in law enforcement in Texas for 30 years, and I’ve never had people act this way. I’m ashamed!”
“That’s because you’ve never seen corruption like we’ve seen in the past month!” a rioter shouts back.
Rep. (now Senator) Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) can also be seen with Nehls.
“We’re coming in one way or another,” one rioter says. “They can only kill so many of us,” says another. At one point, as the video is pointed directly at a gun-wielding officer, a rioter shouts “Fucking pedophiles! We know about your pedophilia!”
“If we’re got to hang a bunch of crooked congressmen, we’ll do that, okay?” another shouts.
But that was then. As NBC notes, “Nehls has changed his tone in the three years since Jan. 6, even calling the death of Ashli Babbitt — the rioter who was shot by a Capitol Police officer as she jumped through a door near the House floor — ‘murder.’”
Two years ago, on the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, this is what I wrote:
No, Donald Trump will not be holding a press conference on the one-year anniversary of his January 6 Insurrection. But the historical revisionism and truth-mauling will, of course, continue, as the GOP desperately tries to memory-hole what happened a year ago.
Trump’s presidency ended in disgrace and disarray. Aides and cabinet members resigned. In the 24 hours after the Insurrection, he was abandoned by one ally after another. As Mona Charen wrote “January 6th should have been the point of no return, the pivot point at which even the most blinkered sugarcoaters of Trumpism recoiled in disgust from what they had wrought.”
But it wasn’t. Instead we were subjected to a parade of mind-bending rationalizations, reversals, silence, and surrenders. The GOP and its media allies continue to dodge, deflect, and minimize the enormity of the event; and they have convinced much of their base to either look the other way, or actually applaud the assault on our seat of government.
Since then, it’s gotten exponentially worse. So, before the GOP and its right-wing media chorus retcon 1/6, here’s the historical record.
Feel free to bookmark, print out, and share.
Flashback to An Insurrection
January 6, 2021. Let’s start with the day’s worst pundit take.
On the morning of Jan. 6, HUGH HEWITT predicted on MEGYN KELLY’s podcast that DONALD TRUMP’s final weeks in office would be much ado about little, and a peaceful transfer of power would just happen. He told Kelly, who agreed, “I would just say to everybody: It will be fine. Everything’s going to be fine.”
On again, off-again Trump critic/Trump supporter Erick Erickson:
As Mona writes, Erickson’s position has . . . evolved.
“It was a bad day,” he tweeted, “but it doesn’t outweigh crime, inflation, COVID, school closures, etc. for voters.” A day later, responding to those who dug up his January 6 tweet demanding that we “shoot the protesters, waive the rules, impeach!” Erickson was at pains to emphasize that he isn’t now minimizing what happened at the Capitol, but merely responding to a “press corps obsessed with it as the worst thing ever.”
And, as we are now learning, even Trump’s über-turd-polisher Sean Hannity was horrified by the craziness emanating from the White House. On December 31, 2020, he texted Mark Meadows: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told.” The night before the riot, he texted that he was “very worried about the next 48 hours”
Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis delivered a full-throated indictment:
"His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison our respect for fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice," he added. "Our Constitution and our Republic will overcome this stain and We the People will come together again in our never-ending effort to form a more perfect Union, while Mr. Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country."
Trump’s own loyalists turned against him.
Former Attorney General William Barr says President Donald Trump’s conduct as a violent mob of his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol was a “betrayal of his office and supporters.”
Cabinet members bailed. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao resigned abruptly.
“I had planned on serving through the end of your term in office," she wrote. "But after yesterday’s events at the U.S. Capitol, I will resign as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, effective Monday, January 11, 2021 to provide a short period of transition.”
She was even more direct on Twitter, calling Jan. 6 “traumatic and entirely avoidable” saying it “deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also resigned the day after the assault on the Capitol and wrote to Trump, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me.”
Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former budget director and acting chief of staff, who on January 6th was serving as a special envoy to Northern Ireland, also resigned.
[F]ollowing the Jan. 6 riots he announced during a live interview on CNBC he was stepping down. “I called [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo last night to let him know I was resigning from that. I can’t do it. I can’t stay,” Mulvaney told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” Mulvaney said Trump was “not the same as he was eight months ago.”
Back then, even right-wing think tanks were appalled. Kay C. James, who was then the president of the Heritage Foundation put out a scathing statement:
Like many Americans, I watched in disbelief Wednesday as an angry mob stormed our U.S. Capitol. As members of Congress gathered to certify the electoral votes of the presidential election, a band of criminals decided to take matters into their own hands. As this horrible act is investigated, it will be determined exactly who they were, and they must be held accountable…
Violence should not be used as a tool to bring about change, and those who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
James’s successor at Heritage is striking a very different note. On December 13, he issued a statement accusing the House January 6th Committee of “abusing its congressional authority with its latest attack on former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. This committee is comprised of politicians who are carrying out a partisan fishing expedition intent on destroying the reputations of public servants in the Trump administration.”
Back then, one of the nation’s most prominent business organizations, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) urged Mike Pence to consider removing Trump via the Twenty-fifth Amendment. The group’s statement was remarkable:
The outgoing president incited violence in an attempt to retain power, and any elected leader defending him is violating their oath to the Constitution and rejecting democracy in favor of anarchy. Anyone indulging conspiracy theories to raise campaign dollars is complicit.
Vice President Pence, who was evacuated from the Capitol, should seriously consider working with the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve democracy.
In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.
It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly.
There was a brief moment when it seemed that even Lindsey Graham had reached his limit of sycophancy.
And then there was Mitch McConnell. Lest we forget, McConnell delivered a genuinely extraordinary speech about Trump and 1/6. Fatefully, he stopped short of voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, but what he said back then is worth re-reading, if only for the historical irony.
We have, of course, saved the best for last.
In the days after the attack, Trump’s culpability was so clear that even then-House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy saw it:
“The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters,” McCarthy said on the House floor. “He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump."
You know what happened next.