January 17, 2021

Sunday School 1/17/21

Which classrooms are demanding my attention today?  At least three had House members I wanted to hear from: Meet the Press, This Week with George, and CNN's State of the Union. Let's see how much we can fit in.

Before we get to Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and her chat with Chuck Todd on MTP, I want to give you a quick highlight from Chuck's interview with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser. Todd wondered how long they'd be living with the increased security and what "feels like an armed camp" in DC.

Bowser didn't pull any punches in her response. 

I think the question is a bigger question, Chuck. It is how serious is our country going to take domestic white extremism? And I think what we saw here last week is that we didn't take it seriously enough. We've never believed that so-called patriots would attempt to overthrow their government and kill police officers. But that's exactly what happened. And so, I do think we have to take another posture in our city that is more domestic terrorist focused than external to our country and act accordingly...

As her answer sinks in, let's hear from Rep. Mace. She was disappointed (as was I, honestly) that impeachment was the only option they could consider; the "bicameral, bipartisan effort" to consider censure instead was not an option.

That would one, hold the president accountable for his words and his actions and two, also prohibit from holding office again in the future. Unfortunately, the speaker wouldn't let us bring it up for debate or bring it up for a vote. There were measures, there were folks in place in both chambers, in both parties, that were willing to do that and go that far. But unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity at all last week.

And while she admitted that keeping Trump from ever holding office again via censure is "complex, constitutionally" they were willing to try and figure it out. Mace said it was "enormously disappointing" that, after she "literally had to walk through a crime scene" to vote to certify the Electoral College votes, leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise, and other Rs still objected. That shows they "have reconciliation that needs to happen" within the GOP, and the country.

Mace thinks Liz Cheney will survive and keep her leadership role; not only that, but she noted the irony that "the same people that were complaining and screaming about the president being silenced on Twitter want to silence a dissenting voice within our own party," which is also "very hypocritical and very disappointing."

Part of the American experiment in this country is the ability and opportunity to debate ideas. Even when we disagree, we have the ability to agree to disagree and not attack one another. And there's so much division, not only within our party, but within our country right now. And we've got to do a better job. And I hope and I support Liz Cheney. And I hope that she stays a part of leadership. We need these voices right now more than ever.

We definitely need voices that are not beholden to any person or party, for sure. 

Over in the This Week classroom, George talked with Joaquin Castro (D-TX), one of the impeachment managers. He wasn't sure how long the trial would take, but he said they'd do whatever was needed to make the case for the American people and for members of the Senate. He correctly noted that Trump's been talking about the stolen election and being cheated "for months" and then "got these folks riled up on that day, asked them to march down to the Capitol and when all of this was going on, when there was a riot inside the US Capitol, also didn't send relief to quell it."

George noted that Trump asked people to be peaceful on January sixth, and suggested it was a First Amendment issue, but Castro disagreed. Referring to "the big lie" about the election, and all of the losing court cases, and that Trump "knew what he was doing, and watched as that mob took over the U.S. Capitol..."

He's also not concerned about the constitutionality of convicting a president who's already out of office, and that one of the points of doing it is to make sure Trump can't run for office again. And, they plan on fighting for every vote in the Senate, and making sure Trump is held accountable for "inciting this deadly insurrection..."

Next, George talked with Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI), another newbie, and one of the ten Rs who voted for to impeach. He said he hasn't seen any evidence that members of Congress or any staffers were involved, and that it's "important" that folks don't "get ahead of the process."

... If anyone was responsible or participated, they should be held to the fullest extent of the law and we can talk about those remedial processes later. But at the moment, I think it's important we don't jump to conclusions.

And, he described the last few days as "absolutely gut-wrenching," saying impeaching a president from his own party was "nothing that we ever hoped to do."

Many of us deliberated deeply. This was not as easy as just saying what is in our best political interest, but, frankly, looking at the evidence, looking at the facts of the case, reading the article and - and asking, is this true by our own experience, by our lived experience? And it was.

Meijer also said that it's a "time for reflection, but also a time for accountability," something he's "deeply committed to."

You know, I'm calling on my party to restore trust, to restore the trust of the voting public and to ensure that we never allow the actions that led up to January 6th and what happened on January 6th, we never allow that outburst of political violence to occur in our name again.

He told George he can't really say a whole lot about any other people's votes on impeachment, or about overturning the election, although he did credit many of his colleagues with "honest and forthright" decision-making, He worries when individual concerns become collective concerns, something that happened after the election, which built into "something that ended up supporting the president's, you know, false idea that he had won in a landslide... "

We need to make sure that we have leaders who are telling folks who trust them what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.

Politically, he may have cooked his own goose by voting to impeach, but stressed the importance of having "elected leaders who are not thinking solely about what's in their individual self-interest, not what is going to be politically expedient, but what we actually need for country." 

About Trump, he said that "it's time that we acknowledge that what happened on January 6th was a betrayal of what had been accomplished over the past four years... " and added

You know, the president brought some necessary energy. He brought some necessary ideas. He shook the tree. He was a change agent. The challenge was that he -- he didn't know when to stop, and he didn't draw a line.

Finally, on what incoming President Biden can do to help heal the divide?

I think it's incumbent on both parties to ensure that they are not promoting folks within their ranks who are engaged in a politics of deception, but rather having open, thoughtful, honest, engaged conversations. I hope that President Biden will do the same, that he will not give in to some of the more, you know, some of the lower impulses that -- that folks in the progressive wing may try to bring out, but rather say that this is a time for the country to focus on rebuilding; this is a time for the country to focus on rebuilding trust, rebuilding our institutions, rebuilding governance. You know, we need to get through the pandemic. We need to deal with the economic consequences and the fallout. But we also need to heal all of the divides that have been exposed over the past several years.

Wait, what? The lower impulses that the progressives may try to bring out? How can any Republican talk about the "lower impulses" of the other side, given (as I've said before) they play underground limbo on their own side of the aisle? Sorry, Rep. Meijer. I was with you for a while, but you lost me with that.

Unfortunately, we're out of room for CNN SOTU. I'll see what we can fit in to your Extra Credit. 

See you around campus.

The Update Desk: No True Supporter of Mine

One of last week's posts was about the president's well-known penchant for encouraging his supporters to be violent, and applauding them when they are.  I did the post to show that he doth protest too much when he says there's no room in MAGAville for violence, and that no true supporter of his would ever do anything like what his true supporters did on January 6th. 

The post cited a number of examples, including the one below, which were collected by folks at Vox.

December 2016: After Trump bullied then-Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly for months, Kelly said that Trump’s social media director was responsible for inciting the many death threats she was receiving. “The vast majority of Donald Trump supporters are not at all this way,” Kelly said, according to the Guardian. “It’s that far corner of the internet that really enjoys nastiness and threats and unfortunately there is a man who works for Donald Trump whose job it is to stir these people up and that man needs to stop doing that. His name is Dan Scavino.”

According to this article in the NY Times, announcing his promotion to Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications last April,

Mr. Scavino, a constant presence whether the president is in the White House or traveling, flags content from the internet for his boss and is said to be the only aide with access to Mr. Trump’s personal Twitter account. He is one of the aides Mr. Trump trusts without reservation.

Scavino was such a crucial component of the president's social media activities that he was named in the lawsuit in 2017 when Trump was sued for blocking people from Twitter.  The NY Times tried to dig into what Scavino did, and found truth in what Megyn Kelly had said. Scavino was the "secretary of offense," the guy "whose job is to help @RealDonaldTrump stay unpresidential." And he was good at it. 

Now and again, Trump would enlist Scavino... to act as a proxy, attacking the campaign’s enemies from his own account. At other times, Scavino took the initiative himself... In March 2016, Scavino retweeted a conspiracy video purporting to demonstrate that Cruz was having an affair with a former aide, Amanda Carpenter. Carpenter, who is married with children, went on the air and heatedly denied any impropriety. She also condemned Scavino by name, calling his attack a “smear job.”

“It was a campaign, and they fight dirty, and they didn’t mind if I was collateral damage in the process,” Carpenter told me. “And they won. And no consequences. What Scavino did to me and what he still does to others would get any other professional fired. In Trump’s universe, it’s a qualification. A willingness to engage in lies and smears on behalf of Donald Trump is a sign of loyalty that Trump treasures.”

Now, why the focus on Scavino, you ask? Well, Scavino was honored by the Department of Defense last week. From his own Facebook page, we see that he was awarded the DoD Medal for Distinguished Public Service. 

The Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service is the highest award that is presented by the Secretary of Defense, to a private citizen, politician, non-career federal employee, or foreign national. It is presented for exceptionally distinguished service of significance to the Department of Defense as a whole, or a DoD Component or function, where recognition at the component level would not be sufficient for the service rendered.

Now, like all of these honorary awards, lots of people get them for things that we regular folk don't recognize as being exceptional in any way - and that's true across multiple administrations, it's not just a Trump thing. 

In light of Scavino's role as Secretary of Offense for the president, and of keeping Trump's social media accounts unpresidential, and of attacking any and all comers, for any number of made-up reasons, it's kind of hard to swallow this line from Scavino's citation:

As a result of his tireless efforts, the United States is safer, stronger and freer. 

Safer? Ask any of the Capitol Police officers who were injured during the insurrection. Ask the Vice President, Mother, and their daughter if they felt safe at the Capitol. Ask any of the members of Congress who were trapped, or ask their staffers, barricaded in rooms with Trump supporters banging on the doors trying to get in.

Stronger? I guess you could say we're stronger, in that we did not break, but there are rifts that may never heal and will never be forgotten.

Freer? With state and federal elected officials under constant threat, with election volunteers under threat, with DC in complete lockdown so we can inaugurate the next leader of the free world?

I'm sorry, awarding the attack dog for making us "safer, stronger and freer" is not "creating unity," as the Rs like to say. It's not "creating accountability," as the Rs like to say. It's the opposite of that, in fact.  

Not only that, but the citation says he was Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications from January 2017 to January 2021. That, folks, is untrue. 


In Case You Missed it (v69)

Grab your cuppa, settle down, and enjoy this recap of last week's posts. 

Sunday School included comments from folks talking about the Capitol insurrection, and Trump, and how we go to this point. One of the folks making the rounds was Mick Mulvaney, who held a number of positions in the Administration, including Chief of Staff. Here's a bit from his conversation with Chuck Todd on MTP.

Mulvaney said he doesn't know about the president's current state of mind, but he said the Trump of eight months ago or so would have dealt with things differently.

I thought that we'd never be here. I thought the president would be presidential. Clearly, that system has broken down. And whether or not the president is different or the people advising him are different or both, I don't know what's going on inside the Oval Office now, and I don't know what's going on inside the president's head.

Does anyone know what's going on in there?

For your Extra Credit, I highlighted the panel discussions on Fox News Sunday and on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, including this comment from  Sarah Isgur, who once worked in the Justice Department during the Trump administration. In a conversation about the end of the Nixon administration, and the end of the current one,

Isgur noted that there's no one around this time like Howard Baker, back in the Nixon days.

There is no one who the president listens to. He is fundamentally different than Richard Nixon. In his farewell address in 1974, Richard Nixon said: I'm not a quitter, but I have to put the country first. That is not fundamentally who Donald Trump is, or else we wouldn't have had January 6. He incited an insurrection against the legislative branch. Mind you, our Declaration of Independence was to overthrow a tyrant who excited domestic insurrections amongst us, is what it said. Our entire Constitution is built to prevent tyranny from the executive branch against our seat of government. And like others have said, if this isn't an impeachable offense, I don't know what it is.

Honestly? Trump seems fundamentally different from every one of his predecessors, but maybe that's just me. 

And in that regard, here's some presidential poetry, some OrangeVerse for you, from last Tuesday when he spoke not once, not twice, but three times, spewing free verse left and right. This snippet is from the middle open mic, at Joint Base Andrews, as he flew off to Texas to autograph the border wall. No, I'm not making that part up. But Trump surely is making this part up, proud as he is of his speech at the insurrection rally.

But they’ve analyzed

my speech and words

 and my final paragraph,

 my final sentence,

and everybody,

to the T,

thought it was

 totally appropriate.

Okay, thank you. Thank you.

I was Wondering on Wednesday, for sure, about the impeachment activities that were taking place in the House, and the speeches, and the speakers, and hypocrisy and such. One thing that caught my eye was the proxy voters, the designated Representatives who were recording votes for the colleagues who were not in the Chamber. And then I learned this,

Members on both sides of the aisle voted by proxy, including Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw. That's notable, because he's been a very vocal opponent of proxy voting, saying things like this:

America is looking to its representatives to act like LEADERS with courage, not spineless sheep in hiding. We ask our grocers to work, our truckers to drive, and our nurses to risk their lives. Congress can show up to VOTE.

Sadly, Crenshaw himself was "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."  I wonder, is he referring to the "spineless sheep in hiding emergency," or something else?

Ah yes, the hypocrisy. It's everywhere, really - no surprise - but this was just rich.  

And then there was a new video from the president, stating with firm words and flimsy conviction that he condemns violence and that it has no place in his movement, or the country. That is a lie. He has been encouraging violence, and applauding it, since he was a candidate.  He knows it, I know it, and you could know it too, if you read my post proving it.  Here's an example from candidate Trump and one from president Trump. 

February 1, 2016:  At a campaign rally in Cedar Rapids, IA, Trump told the crowd that... “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. There won’t be so much of them because the courts agree with us,” he said.

No place for violence in the movement, but I'll pay your legal fees?  What the actual hell is that? 

August 5, 2019: A 39-year-old Montana man was charged with felony assault for choking, slamming, and fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old boy who didn’t take his hat off for the national anthem. The man’s attorney told the local newspaper that Trump’s “rhetoric” led to the violent act. “His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,” the lawyer said, referencing Trump’s harsh words against athletes like Colin Kaepernick who protested for social justice.

And, while many of us know his words aren't worth the teleprompter they're flashed on, people in his movement take them to heart, and act on them. Just like they did on January 6th. 

All of that, and all of the rest of the news from the week, lead me to a less-than-celebratory TGIF post.

More than anything, though - I hope we get to next Wednesday, and through it - without any of the stuff we're being warned about actually happening. Attacks on state capitals; threats on members of Congress on both sides of the aisle; and the ongoing threat of more violence in DC, including the potential for improvised explosive devices - IEDs - to be used in our nation's capital. I hear that, and I don't even know how to react, whether to rage against the abject insanity of it, or hunker down with the curtains closed, waiting for the 'all clear' signal.

I thought that would be the last post of the week, but I was inspired, again, by the hypocrisy of it all, and that led to an Irony Board entry on the absurdity of the Rs going on television and talking about how they're being silenced and are unable to communicate, and how Big Tech should be liable for civil suits from folks who have been censored. 

A North Dakota state representative has a bill to allow residents of the Peace Garden State to do just that. He went on Sunday Morning Futures on Fox to talk about it, and shared some risks of social media companies running amok.

If a website comes out and selectively publishes information or manipulates true information in order to create a certain desired narrative, this restrictive action can essentially amount to defamation.

And, there's the real irony - the selective publishing, the manipulation of the truth, the defamation he mentions. 

Kading, remember, was talking on Sunday Morning Futures, just one of the FNC shows that had to run a tasty disclaimer - excuse me, a 'fact checking story,' correcting each show's lies.

It's hard to imagine how these folks say all of this stuff with straight faces, it really is. 

See you later for Sunday School; I'm sure it's going to be an interesting time in the classrooms today.