Friday, August 26, 2022

Profiles of Cowardice

It turns out I share something with the likes of Mitch McConnell, Ron DeSantis, Kevin McCarthy, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz and a whole slew of other Republican blowhards. What we all share is our mutual disdain of Donald Trump. 

For the past forty years or so, there have been precious few times that I have agreed with the exPOTUS about anything. But he hit the nail on the head when sometime in the middle of the congressional hearings focused on the events of January 6, 2021, he blasted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for not having any Republicans, except the much-despised Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, present on the committee to defend him in the proceedings.

On that matter he is absolutely correct. Without Trump-supporting Republican congressmen on the panel asking witnesses pointed questions aimed at challenging their credibility or using their time to distract from the proceedings by pontificating on matters ranging from the legitimacy of the hearings to their own belly button lint, these hearings have taken on a focus and sense of urgency almost unheard of in Congressional proceedings these days. Needless to say, that is not good news for Donald Trump. 

On the eve of the hearings, McCarthy selected five Republicans to sit on the committee. Three of them, Jim Banks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Troy Nehils of Texas, had publicly accepted the lie that a fraudulent election deprived the exPOTUS of a second term. So, on the evening of January 6th, 2021, shortly after the insurrection, the three voted, along with several other members of their party, against certifying the 2020 presidential election and to overturn the election results in Arizona, and Pennsylvania, two states won narrowly by Joe Biden. 

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi who has the final word on the January 6th hearings, understandably rejected two of McCarthy's picks, Nehils, and Jordan, the latter of whom proved to be an effective fly-in-the-ointment during Trump's unprecedented two impeachment trials, turning them into three-ring circuses. In response to Pelosi, McCarthy took his toys and went home. He withdrew the names of the other three, declared that he was shocked, shocked, that Pelosi was "playing politics" with the hearings, and insisted that Republicans (in good standing with him), boycott these obviously "biased" hearings.

It was one of the most cynical acts by a politician in a very long time, and that's saying a lot. By keeping his people out of the fray, McCarthy is covering all the bases. 

If any serious damage comes to Trump as a result of the hearings, and that still remains to be determined, McCarthy and the Republicans will claim that without their presence, the hearings were a sham due to the lack of diversity on the panel (which of course was their own doing). Furthermore, they can wash their hands, Pontius Pilate style, of any damage that may befall Trump as they didn't participate in what they will no doubt label, mimicking the words of the exPOTUS, a "witch hunt." 

As a bonus, by staying out of the hearings, House Republicans didn't have to put themselves through the humiliating process of being on record defending the indefensible, as witness after witness, most of whom card carrying Republicans once members of the president's inner sanctum, testified about the obvious fact that Trump was behind and cheered along the insurrection. If you couldn't see that on the day of the insurrection, you were either not paying attention or watching FOX News.

In the scenario of Trump getting his well-earned comeuppance, which would be the best of all possible worlds for most Republican legislators, they will have ridded themselves for good of Donald Trump who has served his purpose for them and is now becoming an ever more serious liability to the Party. If that happens, Republicans in public will be ranting and raving, huffing and puffing about the unfairness of it all, citing the "Democrat (sic) regime's banana republic style persecution of a political opponent". But in private they'll be dancing the Horah and re-enacting this famous scene from the Wizard of Oz. 

If however, in what has become an all too familiar occurrence, Trump comes away unscathed from the hearings, the Republicans who kept quiet will have remained for the time being anyway, in the exPOTUS's good graces and will have avoided their biggest fear in the world, having Trump say something bad about them, which could cost them votes and maybe their jobs.   

No, you won't find any profiles in courage among that group.

McCarthy knew from the outset that at least some of his picks, especially Jordan who from all indications, was closely tied to the insurrection himself, would be flat out rejected by Pelosi. And he knew that his party, and especially HE would be better served by not having to participate in the proceedings. So he used Pelosi's move as a pretext to bolt. 

It was and still is a win/win for McCarthy and his followers.

I have no doubt that all of the individuals I mentioned in the first sentence above, would love to see Trump's neck at the business end of a rope, with the rest of him dangling slowly in the wind, metaphorically at least if not literally. They just don't want to be seen as the ones doing it.

McCarthy knows full well that the exPOTUS was behind the insurrection and deserves a special place in hell for it. During that event he made several frustrating calls to the White House, trying in vain to get the then president to call off the rioters. The president of course was much too busy to talk to him. He was sitting in front of the television cheering on the rioters down Pennsylvania Avenue as if they were his favorite team playing in the Super Bowl. The job to talk to McCarthy and others in Trump's inner circle trying to convince their leader that supporting a violent overthrow of the country may not have been in his best interest, fell to the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who tried to convey the concerns of McCarthy, several FOX News on air personalities, and even Donald Trump Jr. to the insurrectionist-in-chief, all to no avail. Of McCarthy that day, Trump Sr. was quoted as saying that the rioters at the Capitol Building cared more about the results of the election than he did.

Nevertheless, McCarthy and many of the others who pleaded with the president to call off the rioters that day, have spent the subsequent year and a half, downplaying the incident claiming, despite the presence of a gallows intended for Vice President Pence and dead and seriously wounded members of the Capitol Police, that it was merely an exercise of political discourse and free speech.

Despite their desperate pleas to the president, telling him that he was ruining his legacy, FOX reporters Sean Hannity and Laura Ingram went on TV that night suggesting to their viewers that the rioters at the Capitol that day were actually members of ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter., not MAGA.

And Texas senator Ted "Cancun" Cruz, groveled at the feet of Tucker Carlson after the Fox troll chastised the senator for his referring to the January 6 attack on the Capitol as a "terrorist act."

Clearly there is no sense of shame in this group.

The latest episode to date in the saga of the exPOTUS's misdeeds is the FBI search of his Florida home for highly classified, top-secret documents that are the property of the United States Government. The operation of the Department of Justice proved to be a golden opportunity for Republican leaders to get their mugs on TV to dial up the rhetoric and huff and puff even more about the unfairness of it all. 

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, chief proponent of HB 1577, better known as the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and other reprehensible pieces of legislation in his state, was perhaps the most vocal of the cabal of Republican hypocrites when he tweeted this: 

The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves. Now the Regime is getting another 87k IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.

That statement is packed with invectives pointing at two new conspiracy theories (as well as an old one), in the Republican playbook designed to piss off and scare the bejeesus out of their followers. The IRS line is referring to the Biden administration's recent announcement that there will be a new initiative to target wealthy Americans who don't pay their fair share of taxes. Not so say the Republicans, "they are coming after YOU, the hardworking middle-class American, and armed with AR-15s no less." And the Republicans have been using the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago as a pretext to claim that if the FBI can "raid the private home of a former president, imagine what they can do to you."

What they fail to mention is that the Justice Department in conducting this search, went through all the legal channels and then some before arriving at Trump's door a couple weeks ago. Searches like this happen all the time to private Americans when there is cause to believe a crime has been committed, as in this case.

It's funny but I don't remember Republicans expressing outrage like this over the death of Breonna Taylor, an American citizen who was shot and killed in her apartment by Louisville police who were executing a search warrant but broke into the wrong residence.

DeSantis has reason to be upset by the goings on at Trump's palatial estate, but not because of the any so-called injustice to the exPOTUS. DeSantis himself has aspirations for Trump's old job. Trump of course, is still toying with the possibility of running for president again and it is said the "raid" on Mar-a-Lago has boosted Trump's standing significantly in the polls over DeSantis.

Even though DeSantis has no personal use for Trump as he once did, he has to tread lightly as any perceived slight of the exPOTUS could damage his wet dream of becoming president one day.

Speaking of wet dreams, McCarthy has one of his own which could become a real possibility in November, becoming the next Speaker of the House. 

Here's a statement he posted on Facebook after the Mar-a-Lago search:
If you are an elected Republican, and you are staying quiet while Democrats in Washington are abusing their power — you are the very reason they think they can get away with it. NOW is the time to speak up and be LOUD!

McCarthy fails to mention that the FBI director, Christopher Wray, who had to sign off on the search, is a Trump appointee. He is implying without a shred of evidence, that the current Justice Department is not acting as an independent body as it is meant to be, but rather as it did under the Trump administration, as the president's own police force. Worst of all, McCarthy as most Americans, is not privy to what exactly the FBI took from Trump's residence, therefore has no clue as to the seriousness of the potential charges against the exPOTUS and is interfering, "playing politics" if you will, with a legitimate criminal investigation.

Without a hint of evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the Justice Department, McCarthy has openly threatened Attorney General Merrick Garland, via tweet:

Attorney General Garland: Preserve your documents and clear your calendar, When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department, follow the facts, and leave no stone unturned.

All this nonsense is directed at an audience of one, making it crystal clear that Donald Trump is still the undisputed leader of the Republican Party. Until members of that party can turn their backs on him, they will continue to be under his influence and by extension, be complicit in his crimes.

Ironic isn't it that the Republicans claim to be the party of law and order, except where it applies to themselves. 

The Republicans, save for a tiny handful, won't turn their backs on Trump because they are focused on holding on to their own power and cushy jobs, rather than preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution, democracy, and the rule of law in the United States.

Simply put, they are scared to death of the exPOTUS and what his nasty words can do to them. Sadly, those words from one delusional individual terrify these people more than the destruction of our democracy.

Unless Republicans can break free of Trump's spell, like their dear leader, there will be a special place in hell reserved for these profiles of cowardice. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Profiles In Courage

In the fifties, then Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy published a book chronicling the lives and actions of eight United States senators from John Quincy Adams to Robert A. Taft, who took unpopular stands. How much of the book Profiles in Courage was the work of Kennedy, and how much was the work of the man who would become the 35th president's head speech writer, Theodore Sorenson is still up for debate. Nevertheless, in 1990, in honor of the slain president, the Kennedy family created the Profile in Courage Award, given annually to public figures, the majority of them politicians, who risked their careers and sometimes much more by pursuing objectives based upon their merit rather than pressure from public opinion or political expedience.

The Profile in Courage Award is bi-partisan, Republicans as well as Democrats have been recipients of the award, as well as a handful of international figures. 

If you have been following the current events at the time of this writing, you can probably see where this is going. There are two current members of Congress who if there is any justice in the world, are surefire future recipients of this prestigious honor. 

Republican U.S. Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois are both on the right ideologically, espousing what one might call traditional Republican values. For her part, in Congress, Cheney famously voted on bills supported by former president Donald Trump, 93 percent of the time. In Trump's first two years of office, Kinzinger voted along with the then president 99 percent of the time. After the brutal murder of Washington Post reporter Jamal Khashoggi by agents of the government of Saudi Arabia, Kinzinger twice voted against barring sales of arms to that country. Sounding very much like the exPOTUS, Kinzinger said: 

... to completely realign our interests in the Middle East as a result of this, (Khashoggi's murder) when for instance, the Russians kill journalists... Turkey imprisons journalists?... It’s not a sinless world out there.

Given this, I am all but diametrically opposed to Cheney and Kinzinger ideologically and would probably not vote for either in a general election. Yet the three of us have at least a few things in common: a love of this country, its constitution, and a profound respect for and belief in our Democratic-Republican form of government. 

Because of that, both Cheney and Kinzinger rejected Donald Trump's lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him. Both Cheney and Kinzinger, along with eight other House Republicans, voted to impeach the soon-to-be exPOTUS for his part in inciting the insurrection on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 in an attempt to overturn a free and fair election. 

Both Cheney and Kinzinger are currently members of the congressional committee investigating the acts of January 6 and the involvement of the exPOTUS, the only Republicans to serve on that panel. 

Unfortunately, these actions supporting the rule of law, the U.S. Constitution and our very democracy over a man who would destroy all of that in order to remain in power, have made Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger both persona-non-grata in their party.

Apparently, there is no room in the Republican Party for diverse opinions, especially not for people who tell inconvenient truths. By rejecting Donald Trump and his lies, by putting their country before their party and its dear leader, neither Cheney nor Kinzinger will remain in Congress after the upcoming November election. Months ago, Kinzinger announced his intention not to run for re-election and Cheney, who in previous elections in the same Wyoming congressional district won by landslides, was trounced by a Trump endorsed candidate in the primary election last week. 

Far beyond that, both Cheney and Kinzinger have received death threats by members of the Trump base, resulting from a constant barrage of vitriol leveled at them by the exPOTUS and his sycophants. Kinsinger has even reported that his infant son has been the target of death threats. 

Yet both Cheney and Kinsinger endeavor to fight in order to save our democracy, despite paying a dear price for it.

Are Cheney and Kinzinger true examples profiles in courage? In my book, they are the very personification of courage, there may have never been more deserving recipients of that honor since the inception of the award. It is truly an easy choice.

On the other hand, if there were an inverse award, a Profiles of Cowardice Award, I'm afraid narrowing the field down to two candidates would be quite difficult, due to the relentless hypocrisy of the GOP. 

More on that in the next post, stay tuned.