“This is the worst idea Biden’s ever had,” I thought as I watched this. Why would you want Trump to speak? There’s no universe in which he delivers a thoroughly responsible, calming statement. His inability to do things like that is why we’re in this situation to begin with.
The statement he did release this afternoon was the best we could have hoped for. Yes, the election was stolen, he said. Yes, you people who just ransacked the U.S. Capitol are wonderful patriots who I love. But it’s time to go home. That counts as stunningly civic-minded by MAGA standards.
But it’s not going to work for long, for the same reason it didn’t work when he went to Georgia on Monday night and begged Republicans to elect Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. You can’t tell people the most sensational demagogic lies for months and then turn around and ask them to behave. If an election’s already been stolen, why would Georgia Republicans turn out and participate in another rigged election? Why wouldn’t they attack the Capitol?
Still, I wonder if his video this afternoon is enough to convince Pelosi and McConnell not to impeach him after all. Not because anyone’s impressed by it but because the president half-heartedly discouraging people from rioting is the *best we can hope for* from him over the next 14 days. Watch, then read on:
Biden: “The words of a president matter no matter how good or bad that president is … I call on President Trump to go on national television now to fulfill his oath and defend the Constitution and demand an end to this siege.” pic.twitter.com/MSDhGmia3C
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 6, 2021
Trump’s statement this afternoon arguably wasn’t the worst by a Republican. Coup-inciter Josh Hawley put out this nonchalant box-checker:
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who was one of the architects on the Senate side challenging the presidential election results, tweets “violence must end” https://t.co/VmaRWL8cXs pic.twitter.com/A59gTCrOY8
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 6, 2021
Ted Cruz was worse, mustering the stones to play the victim after a MAGA mob provided some muscle to his attempt to stop Biden’s certification:
Stop stoking division.
Stop spreading hatred.
Stop using malicious rhetoric (such as false & reckless charges of “sedition”).
Stop showing contempt for the half of the country that disagrees with you.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 6, 2021
Biden’s been criticized lately for being a little too quiet as Trump runs around setting rhetorical fires but I think it paid off for him this afternoon. The contrast between him calling for calm and decency here and Trump egging on his mob at this morning’s rally makes Cruz, Hawley, and the rest of the coup caucus look like even bigger morally-addled scumbags than they are.
As I say, Pelosi and McConnell may have watched Trump’s video and concluded that having him in office and trying to calm his fans down is more useful at this point than impeaching him and having him freaking out on Twitter is. He has 14 days left. There’s no reason to hand him another grievance to demagogue when he’ll be gone so soon. The catch is that there’s also no reason to think he’ll stay on-message in discouraging violence once the certification process resumes and reality begins to set in for him that today’s mob display has finished his chances of being president ever again. Even some of his aides are talking like this, which will probably jar him:
The mood inside the White House. This is how one longtime WH aide put it: never did anyone think it would turn out like this… The blame for this lies squarely with the President. And whatever support he has among members has vanished”
— Shannon Pettypiece (@spettypi) January 6, 2021
He probably put out this afternoon’s statement for the same reason he initially gave a scripted condemnation of the Charlottesville rally in 2017: His aides were telling him it was the right thing to do, that he had to do it, and that he had to do it urgently. So he did it. Then he went and stewed about it for awhile and ended up resenting the fact that he’d acceded to saying something he didn’t really believe, so he gave another statement, more off-the-cuff, about what he really believed. The odds of him sticking doggedly to the “please be peaceful” message until January 20 are slim.
But he might at least lay off encouraging violence overtly over that period — unless he’s removed from office and ends up flying into another rage. If you’re Mitch McConnell, what do you do?
By the way, foreign leaders are issuing statements this afternoon that make them sound like they’re talking about a coup attempt in some sh*thole country, which they are, basically:
Disgraceful scenes in U.S. Congress. The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) January 6, 2021
Meanwhile, here’s the latest from the Pentagon. Which key actor is missing from this statement?
Acting SECDEF Chris Miller on activation of the D.C. National Guard:
“Our people are sworn to defend the constitution and our democratic form of government and they will act accordingly.” pic.twitter.com/OR6vCBtOQC
— Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre) January 6, 2021
The vice president? The vice president’s not the commander-in-chief. How did Mike Pence end up in the chain of command here?
Did Trump decline to provide protection to Congress and so the Pentagon just sort of … bypassed him? Is that the stage we’re at, where Donald “No Violence” Trump won’t authorize military protection of the federal legislature as it moves to certify his opponent’s victory?
As I’m writing this, the Sergeant at Arms in Congress is announcing that the building is now secure. Is it? This doesn’t look too secure to me:
A flash lights up the front of the U.S. Capitol as a mob of Trump supporters control the steps of the building. pic.twitter.com/fulKu8FPzo
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 6, 2021
I’ll leave you with a quote from this NBC story, published this morning hours before Congress’s session at the Capitol began. “It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” a Trump ally said. “He’s lost re-election. So for somebody who has no sense of shame, there’s no downside to him letting all the crazy out.”
Update: He just can’t stop.
These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2021
Prediction: In the next day or two, he’s going to be completely deplatformed on major social media because the country can’t trust him to behave responsibly. Facebook has already taken a step in that direction:
This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump's video. We removed it because on balance we believe it contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.
— Guy Rosen (@guyro) January 6, 2021
Twitter has held off on banning him on the theory that, as president, his tweets are necessarily of public interest even when they’re defamatory, inciting violence, etc. That excuse no longer cuts it after the U.S. Capitol was sacked. Responsible news networks shouldn’t carry him live anymore, if at all. Let him go to Newsmax or whatever.
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