Tag Archives: Mo Brooks

Scared of the Truth — and Democracy

[H]ere we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it. — Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. 

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

No one ever accused House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of being the sharpest knife in the drawer, but his botched handling of the run up to the vote Wednesday in the House to create an independent commission to investigate the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill rose (plummeted?) to a new level of stupidity. McCarthy committed political malpractice by revealing that today’s Republicans have absolutely no interest in pursuing truth for fear of “wherever it may lead.” Nor, as the California Republican made crystal clear, do Republicans care one whit about preserving democracy.

McCarthy, no doubt, thought he was being clever when he made demands of the Democrats that he evidently expected them to turn down. But, as former president Donald Trump can attest, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a seasoned and cagey politician, and her team is equally adept. When Democrats agreed to McCarthy’s demands, his subsequent objections to the commission revealed that his only goal was to cover for Trump — whose role in fomenting the insurrection is obvious — and himself. The last thing, after all, that McCarthy wants is to be hauled up before the commission to testify about what he saw on January 6 and what he said to Trump on the day of the insurrection.

Mr. Minority Leader, be careful what you ask for. Also, know your adversary.

Pelosi hit the nail on the head when she said after the vote, “You’ll have to ask [the Republicans] what they are afraid of. But it sounds like they are afraid of the truth, and that is most unfortunate.” An irate Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat, was blunter: “We have people scaling the Capitol, hitting the Capitol Police with lead pipes across the head, and we can’t get bipartisanship. What else has to happen in this country?” Apparently, when a party is in the thrall of a would-be autocrat, there is no limit to the outrages it is willing to commit and tolerate. 

The bipartisan commission probably will not happen. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who has mastered the art of talking out of both sides of his mouth — has come out against it. But, Republicans may be making a huge mistake. They would have had equal representation on the commission, and both sides would have had equal subpoena power (both part of McCarthy’s demands to which Democrats agreed), giving Republicans the ability to influence the final report. Now, however, existing committees in the House and Senate — all under the control of Democrats — are free to launch their own investigations. A number of Republican legislators ought to be very frightened of what those investigations might uncover. Representatives Mo Brooks of Alabama and Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs, both of Arizona, have been accused of helping to plan the attack. 

Thomas Jefferson — quoted in the headnote above — knew that a commitment to the truth was necessary in a democratic society. The author of the Declaration of Independence, no doubt, would have recognized that the modern Republican Party is committed to neither a truthful nor a free society. Evidence of this comes in the absurd machinations in the ongoing sham recount of the November presidential election returns in Maricopa County, Arizona; the numerous voter suppression laws being passed in Republican-controlled states; and the demands around the country for recounts in both presidential and down-ballot races.

Rank-and-file Republicans across the country apparently are ready to ditch this whole two-century plus experiment with democracy. In a recent poll, two-thirds of Republicans who responded said it was important to be loyal to Trump, a frightening sign of how Trump turned the party into a cult of personality (“Hail, Caesar!” “Heil Hitler!”). Two-thirds of Republicans believe Trump won the election, despite the appalling lack of evidence to support such a claim (another indication that truth no longer matters). And, scariest of all, nearly half of all Republicans said that pushing for changes in state voting rules is more important than appealing to voters with policies and ideas. In other words, half of all Republicans are fine with cheating to win; as for ideas, who cares? Winning is everything. As is power. 

Of course, none of this is surprising. Last summer, Republican party leaders let the cat out of the bag when they decided not to adopt a platform in the presidential election. Instead, the Republican National Committee released a groveling resolution pledging to “continue to enthusiastically support” Trump. The no-ideas GOP made personal loyalty to “Il Duce” the only criterion for voting Republican. 

The Republican lack of commitment to policies has been evident throughout the Trump years. Or, more accurately, the Republican Party’s only policy is fealty to Leader Trump. Republicans do not need a platform, and they certainly do not want an independent commission to reveal the leader’s complicity in a treasonous assault on the nation’s Capitol in an effort to derail the democratic process. Republicans are thinking only in the short run, believing they have a good chance to reclaim control of Congress in 2022 and perhaps the White House two years later. Republican control of key state legislatures insures redistricting following the 2020 census will benefit the GOP. Gerrymandering and voter restriction laws increase the party’s future chances of controlling all the levers of government in Washington. Why rock the boat with all this talk about truth and democracy?

Besides, what the character played by Jack Nicholson emphatically says to Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men applies to Republicans, “You can’t handle the truth!” 

Posted May 21, 2021

The Republican Party is a Terrorist Organization

The Republican Party is a terrorist organization, unwilling, apparently, to convict a known terrorist for inciting insurrection, unwilling, evidently, to purge terrorists within its ranks, and, unwilling, ostensibly, to condemn the lies that aid and abet terrorism. It pains me to conclude that one of our nation’s two major political parties is a terrorist organization, but facts are facts. 

The Senate vote Tuesday on the constitutionality of proceeding with the trial of former president Donald Trump signals that the proceedings likely will end with Trump’s acquittal on the charge of inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol. The evidence against Trump is overwhelming, and more emerges almost daily. His constant lies about electoral fraud and his tweets urging his followers to come to Washington to contest the certification of electors along with his speech just prior to the mob storming the Capitol prove his culpability. But, 45 of the 50 Republican Senators agreed with Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, that there is no constitutional basis for trying a former president.

Most constitutional scholars disagree, and precedents exist for the impeachment and trial of officials who no longer hold office. Democrats believe a trial is justified, arguing that Trump must be held accountable for his role in the riot. Conviction also can be followed by a vote to bar Trump from ever holding office again. 

By raising a bogus constitutional issue, Republicans have given themselves a public relations out for voting to acquit. They can get credit among hard-core Trumpistas for not voting against their cult hero, while saying to more moderate Republicans that they merely acted on constitutional grounds without assessing Trump’s guilt. As a political dodge, the argument on constitutionality may work; from a moral perspective, any vote to acquit puts the Republican Party on the side of terrorists. Historical accountability will be severe for the GOP.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has played his usual duplicitous role in the run up to the Senate trial. After the January 6 riot, McConnell announced that Trump had “provoked” the mob, suggesting he favored impeachment. But, in the week after the House impeached Trump on January 13, while he was still majority leader, McConnell refused to reconvene the Senate, guaranteeing that the trial would occur after Trump left office and paving the way for Paul’s cynical constitutional gambit.

I suppose it is conceivable for a senator to vote against the constitutionality of a trial and then turn around and vote to convict Trump. A public official may have constitutional qualms about an issue, but once the question of constitutionality is resolved by the appropriate authority, that official must do his duty according to the law. Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman, who is not running for reelection in 2022, but still voted with the majority of Republicans against going to trial, says, “But I’ve not made me mind up, I’m a juror.” But, it is going to be a heavy lift for Democrats to persuade at least 17 Republicans to vote for convicting Trump.

Republicans condoning terrorism goes beyond the Senate vote. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said Trump “bears responsibility” for the attack on the Capitol, traveled to Florida Thursday to grovel before Trump in an attempt to mend relations. It may be one thing for Republicans in the Senate to vote to acquit on the spurious argument that a trial of a former president is divisive, but it is quite another to actually cozy up to Trump-the-terrorist. Apparently, congressional Republicans believe placating Trump is the key to winning elections. “We cannot take the House and the Senate back without his help. That’s just a fact,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. Of course, with Trump in the White House, Republicans lost the House in 2018, and with Trump at the head of the ticket, Republicans lost the presidency and the Senate in 2020. That is a whole lot of help, Senator!

McCarthy seems amenable to rewarding terrorists. He placed Representative Majorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who identifies with the QAnon cult and refers to deadly school shootings as “false-flag” operations by gun-control advocates, on the House Education and Labor Committee. Greene should be condemned, not rewarded, by the House GOP leadership for liking a comment on her Facebook page saying “a bullet to the head would be quicker” in removing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Greene also liked comments about executing FBI agents, who she believes are part of the “deep state” working against Trump. Urging the assassination of the speaker and the execution of agents of the federal government are terrorist acts. Greene should be removed from all House posts, and Republicans should purge her from the party. Action should be taken against other terrorists within Republican ranks, such as Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, who said, at the rally before the storming of the Capitol, that January 6 was the day “American patriots start… kicking ass.” Similarly, some form of punishment is warranted for those members of Congress who encouraged and may have aided the mob.

Republicans have been complicit spreading lies that fuel terrorist acts. House and Senate Republicans did Trump’s bidding by lying about electoral fraud. Eight Republican senators and two-thirds of the Republican House caucus voted to overturn the election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania after the riot that endangered them. All but 10 Republicans voted against impeaching Trump, despite evidence that his actions put their lives at risk on January 6. 

Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney harshly condemned his colleagues for failing to disown the lies about electoral fraud. “I say, first of all, have you gone out publicly and said that there was not widespread voter fraud that Joe Biden is the legitimate president of the United States?” the former presidential candidate asked. “If you said that, then I’m happy to listen to you talk about other things that might inflame anger and divisiveness.” But, Romney asserts, do not claim a trial or condemnation of terrorists within the Republican Party is divisive, while continuing to spread lies.

Republicans must hold Trump accountable for his role in the terrorist attack on the our nation’s Capitol, condemn the terrorists in their ranks, and repudiate their own lies about the election. Failure to do so brands the Republican Party as a terrorist organization.

Posted January 29, 2021

Do the Right Thing

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday deserve credit for political courage.

The 197 who voted in the negative deserve continued scorn for their willingness to abet Trump in his heinous behavior.

It is that simple.

Trump is a recidivist who will say whatever he is told is necessary to avoid criminal and political liability, but once he believes he is in the clear — or his worst impulses get the better of him — he will revert to norm, which, in this case, means encouraging his supporters, once again, to attempt to overthrow the government of the United States. We have seen this movie before, most notably after White supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. So, yes, Trump released a clearly scripted video Wednesday evening urging his supporters to avoid violence, but he strikingly avoided accepting blame for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. The day before Wednesday’s impeachment vote, he called remarks to his supporters before the riot — urging them to march on the Capitol and show “strength” — “totally appropriate.” Who knows what he will say tomorrow?

Trump’s propensity to cause mayhem is one reason — in addition to sending a signal to other would-be dictators and supporting the rule of law — why the Senate must convict him of the House’s charge even after he leaves office next week. The constitutional penalties for conviction include removal from office and “disqualification” from ever holding federal office again. While Trump cannot be removed from office after January 20, he still could run for the presidency again. The Senate must insure that never happens. As noted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe points out in The Washington Post, there are precedents in American history for convicting impeached officials — judges — after they left office. 

Trump is not the only Republican who needs to take responsibility for abetting insurrection. Complicit also are the nearly two-thirds of the Republican House caucus who voted on January 6 to overturn a free and fair election and the 197 Republicans who voted on January 13 not to impeach. A trial in the Senate, incidentally, will force Republican senators to go on record as supporting or opposing the Constitution and the rule of law. The public needs to know who among its leaders is patriotic and who would overthrow the government.

There are indications and rumors that some members of Congress actively aided the insurrectionists. Democratic representatives have accused unnamed Republicans of giving tours of the Capitol to insurrectionists the day before the siege. Representative Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, said some of her GOP colleagues “incited this violent crowd.” Democrats are furious at gun-toting new Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado who tweeted the morning of the insurrection “Today is 1776” and, then, in the midst of the attack, revealed that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had left the floor of the House chamber. The House should expel these members, as well as Alabama’s Mo Brooks who told told the MAGA-clad thugs on the National Mall — before the riot — “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”

The defense of the president offered by the 197 Republicans who voted against impeaching him ranged from the absurd to the pathetic to technicalities. There was the usual “whataboutism” offered by Ohio’s Jim Jordan — “they spied on his campaign” — and Florida’s Matt Gaetz — “Speaker Pelosi stood at the rostrum and tore through the president’s State of the Union speech” (oh my!). Jodey Arrington of Texas said the president showed “poor judgment” in his speech to the rally — as if Trump had told an off-color joke at a state dinner.  Most were oblivious to the cynicism of claiming impeachment would only further divide the nation, as if their repeated lies about a fraudulent election were not divisive. None praised the president, and Michael McCaul of Texas worried that he might regret his decision, saying future revelations might “put me on the wrong side of this debate.” Note to the representative: You already are on the wrong side!

Contrast the pusillanimity of the Republican majority with the brave 10 who voted to impeach. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House and no flaming liberal, said, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution…. The president of the United States summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.” Washington’s Dan Newhouse announced he was voting yes because “there is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”  Another Washingtonian, Jaime Herrera Beutler, perhaps said it best. “I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail,” she told her colleagues.

Because of the actions of the president — who incited a violent insurrection against the government he leads — troops are bivouacking in the Capitol for the first time since Confederate armies threatened to cross the Potomac during the Civil War. This is all because a vain, narcissistic, ignorant man refused to recognize the results of a legitimate and free election, lying that he won but his victory was stolen. It is also because Republicans in a position to do something about Trump and his malignant actions refused to act for four years.

Republicans were furious in early 2020 when Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California, speaking at the Senate trial after Trump’s first impeachment, quoted an anonymous threat warning Republican senators that if they voted to acquit they would wind up with their “head on a pike.” It was meant metaphorically, of course, but Republicans in Congress were always afraid of Trump’s wrath and its influence on their constituents, which is why they repeatedly overlooked the president’s offenses and why it took courage for Beutler to say she was “not afraid of losing my job.” All the others, sadly, were afraid. Some Republicans, according to Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, were afraid for more than their jobs, fearing for their lives and the safety of their families if they voted to impeach the president. Representative Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican, says some of those who voted to impeach are “altering our routines, working to get body armor… [because] our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”

Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second ranking House Democrat, told Republicans, “It is never too late to do the right thing.” Only 10 in the House listened. Let us hope enough Republican senators heed Hoyer’s advice and do the right thing at the trial of Donald Trump.

Posted January 15, 2021