This commentary is by Walt Amses, a writer who lives in North Calais.
During the murderous insurrection last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy unequivocally learned that in the traffic pattern of his favorite deposed despot, unwavering loyalty is a one-way street.
On a call with Individual #1 as the sound of breaking glass permeated the background, McCarthy said the vengeful mob had already breached the Capitol, imploring his boss to call it off. The response? “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.” At which the congressman reportedly screamed: “Who the bleep do you think you’re talking to?”
Who the bleep indeed, Kevin. Were you expecting some modicum of respect? If you thought it would come from this guy, you might consider a side gig doing stand up: “Take my pride, please.” This interaction was stunning, not over the Golden Idol — there is no depth to which he will not sink — but the minority leader’s shock over the incident. Did he think he was too devoted to be cast off over a momentary tremor of integrity?
Even as the year’s second impeachment unspooled toward absolution without penance, evidence of the defendant’s other phone calls from Capitol Hill, alerting the White House to the magnitude of the deadly riot, outlined an immediate threat to the vice president. Entreaties to intercede drew this sociopathic response: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our Constitution, giving the states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones. … The USA demands the truth.”
In a rare moment of rationality, even Lindsey Graham was alarmed, calling First Daughter Ivanka to reason with her father, as did Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Several allies, including Chris Christie, explicitly said there needed to be a clear statement to stop the rioting. The president, according to reports in The New York Times, was watching on television, “expressing pleasure” that the voting was disrupted and that “people were fighting for him.”
These significant new revelations clarified the former president’s knowledge of exactly what was happening at the Capitol and his choice to do nothing about it, directly contradicting his defense team’s assertion that he was unaware of the ongoing danger facing his vice president. But duplicity has become so routine for congressional Republicans that all this, coupled with the damning presentation by Democratic impeachment managers, rolled off the GOP like water off a lame duck’s back.
They appeared to have escaped, at least temporarily, acquitting the defendant while deploring his behavior, seemingly opening the door to prosecution, but not by the Senate.
Mitch McConnell — whose motives are always questionable, voting for acquittal but subsequently offering a blistering takedown of his former co-conspirator — precisely defined what having it both ways means: “The rioters were fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry he’d lost an election.” Terming the former president’s actions preceding the riot as “a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty … (he is) practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day”, the Senate Minority Leader, still smarting over losing two Georgia Senate seats and control of the chamber, appeared ready to dump the rubbish, wash his hands and move on.
In contrast, Graham fluctuated between touting the disgraced as the forever face of the GOP; suggesting the first daughter-in-law — a former fitness instructor — was the “future of the party”; and wildly deflecting blame for the deadly riot on the Speaker of the House: “Here’s what I want to know — what did Nancy Pelosi know and when did she know it?” Although he may have meant the question rhetorically, Pelosi’s response — establishing an independent, 9/11-style commission investigating the deadly insurrection — was anything but hyperbolic, and may have something to say about the future of the badly damaged Republican brand as well.
That may not be Graham’s only concern going forward, as the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney investigates his phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking if he were able to “discard mail-in ballots” from some counties. Coupled with the conversation recorded between Raffensperger and the former president, badgering the secretary to “find” enough votes to overturn the election, their allegations of voter fraud may ironically prove out — just not the way they envisioned.
Meanwhile, ravings from the Florida bunker indicated that, after a long winter’s nap, including the last two and a half months of his presidency, the Dissembler in Exile would soon launch a vengeance tour, sights set firmly on McConnell and the Republicans who voted guilty or anyone else who dares tell the truth. To that end, Graham chided McConnell on Fox with perhaps the understatement of the century, breezily saying: “I know he can be a handful” but, without him, the party doesn’t “have a snowball’s chance in hell.”
Obviously, Graham remains all-in with his golf buddy, who he claimed was ready to “rebuild the Republican Party,” suggesting they would discuss the 2022 midterms and that “the MAGA movement needs to continue.” Over in the ever-smaller sanity wing of the GOP, Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, one of seven Republicans voting to convict, painted a far different picture, according to The New York Times, saying of the former president, “I think his force wanes,” and contending that more Republicans would eventually share his view, adding that the party “is more than just one person; it’s about ideas”.
What constitutes those ideas remains to be seen, but one thing appears certain. Placing political loyalty above the good of the country, the GOP has again chosen to ignore presidential malfeasance, even when it leads directly to deadly violence. Coupled with the party’s embrace of well-armed hate groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and conspiracy proponents like QAnon, they have all but guaranteed we haven’t seen the last of it.