LENOX — It’s tempting to fantasize that the 45th president can be shoved out of the White House through impeachment or forcible removal by invoking the 25th Amendment, requiring a declaration by Vice President Mike Pence and half of the remaining Cabinet members that he’s unfit for office.
But, with 11 days remaining in his ignominious presidency, and with both options logistically impossible, there’s a better way to condemn the arsonist-in-chief who lit the torch for the assault by his supporters on the Capitol and on our democracy.
No surprise, in an effort to salvage a shred of respectability, the chief executive now condemns the actions of his rioters, the “very special” people he professed to “love” during the midst of Wednesday’s treasonous insurrection.
Presumably at the behest of Jared and Ivanka, who probably wrote his Thursday evening tweet, he now describes the mob’s actions as “heinous,” and, without acknowledging his successor by name, much less congratulating him, acknowledges there will be a new president on Jan. 20.
While accepting no responsibility for the insurrection he incited, he now promises “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power” and adds in the video (after Twitter unlocked his account): “The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country.”
To the remaining top advisers and Cabinet members thinking of fleeing for the exit ramp, deserting the sinking ship to preserve what remains of their tattered reputations, Sen. Joe Manchin offered some sage advice.
The West Virginia Democrat urged “the good men and women honorably serving at all levels of the federal government to please stay at their post for the protection of our democracy.”
“The actions of a rogue president will not and should not reflect on you,” he said. “Instead, your patriotism and commitment to the greater good of our country will be reaffirmed.”
Surveying the wreckage, let’s pause and acknowledge the wisdom of our next president, who spoke out eloquently during several video appearances.
Worth noting: Joe Biden criticized what he described as a double standard between how police reacted to the pro-Trump mob versus how they treated supporters of Black Lives Matter last summer.
“No one can tell me that if it had been a group of Black Lives Matter protesting, they wouldn’t have been treated very, very differently from the mob of thugs that stormed the Capitol,” he said. “We all know that’s true. And it’s unacceptable. Totally unacceptable.”
Then, there was Republican elder statesman Mitt Romney on the Senate floor Wednesday night, mincing no words as he condemned “an insurrection, incited by the president of the United States. Those who choose to continue to support his dangerous gambit by objecting to the results of a legitimate, democratic election will forever be seen as being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy. They will be remembered for their role in this shameful episode in American history. That will be their legacy.”
For the all-too-many voters who still believe the fiction that the election was stolen, Romney declared: “The best way we can show respect for the voters who are upset is by telling them the truth.”
Jonah Goldberg, a leading conservative thinker and founding editor of the online opinion and news publication The Dispatch, also contributed valuable insight on NPR:
“If that crowd had been peaceful and they just went for a nice little march around the Capitol, it still would have been outrageous. Because what Donald Trump was trying to do was put pressure on Mike Pence and Senate Republicans to, in effect, steal an election, illegitimately and unconstitutionally, by putting popular pressure on that institution and on those people. And you don’t have to smash in doors for that to be outrageous.”
How to get through the next 11 days?
Jeh Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2017, offers wise counsel: “Whoever is still around in the White House who has the ability to influence the personal behavior of President Trump should be telling him to just basically leave town. Get on Air Force One, go to Mar-a-Lago and stay there for the indefinite future. Empower your chief of staff, empower the vice president, to do whatever is necessary to keep the government functioning. Going through the exercise of impeachment would itself be a very partisan act and perhaps create an environment in which president-elect Biden would have a harder time bringing the country together.”
Finally, from The Wall Street Journal editorial page, of all places, an acknowledgement that while Trump’s actions were impeachable, conviction would “pour political fuel on Wednesday’s dying embers,” amounting to “annihilationist politics.”
Instead, the media bastion of traditional conservatism recommends that “if Mr. Trump wants to avoid a second impeachment, his best path would be to take personal responsibility and resign. … We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure. He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.”
“It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away quietly,” the Journal opines.
At week’s end, Trump announced that he won’t attend the Jan. 20 inauguration. For any other outgoing president, in any other era, that would be a shocking act of disrespect. Instead, it allows us to breathe a sigh of relief, as a new day dawns for President Biden and America.