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Hangman’s Bluff: Trump on the Run

Am I the only American who didn’t see yesterday’s Capitol invasion as a threat to the republic? (I know what you’re thinking, “What republic?”) But was it as horrific as is being played up by this morning’s editorials? By the way, where was that new member of Congress authorized to carry her burner into the House?

Granted, four people died in the Battle of Rotunda Hall, one of whom was shot while trying to enter the Capitol through a broken window (the Darwin Awards people might want to take note of that), and some Proud Boys took a few spins in Nancy Pelosi’s speaker chair, not the mention the mountain men who rappelled to the floor of the House. But can’t the democracy put up with a little disorder?

Should I be as shocked as were those MSNBC sideline reporters who covered the barricade breach from the safety of the parking lot? Who gushed about “never having seen anything like this” in their lifetime? Who want politics to have the order of a debutante ball?

Democracy didn’t end when Black Lives Matter filled numerous city streets, and it won’t end when the MAGA crowd carries a few flags around Congress.

Yes, I might prefer politics as a variation on de Tocqueville’s notebooks or James Madison’s diary from the constitutional convention, but the medium (Jesus flags and second-storey men chanting “U-S-A…U-S-A”) is a message, however raw.

History’s March on Washington

My reading of American history—at least in part—is that it’s been one long march on Washington, at least since the Whiskey Rebellion took aim at President George Washington’s tax policies (1791-94).

Since then, the British have burned the White House and the Capitol (1814), and in 1829 supporters of Andrew Jackson (who had some Trumpish qualities) trashed the White House in a drunken rave while celebrating his election.

Then in 1861 the Confederate states marched on Washington, and during the four years of the Civil War came close to capturing it on several occasions.

Let’s not forget that James Garfield was shot (he died a few months later) in the shadow of the Capitol at the B&O Railway Station.

Coxey’s Army—it’s formal name was the Army of the Commonwealth in Christ—headed for Washington in 1894, protesting the lack of food and jobs in the wake of the 1893 Panic, and Coxey himself was arrested for walking on the lawns of the Capitol.

In my lifetime I can remember machine guns set up around the Capitol during the Washington riots in spring 1968, after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and protests against the Vietnam War.

My point is that more often than not, Americans have carried their grievances in the direction of the Capitol, and very often violence has been a by-product of those confrontations.

The Congressional Panic Room

Not having a television (on many days I channel my inner Luddite), I watched the invasion of the Capitol snatchers on various YouTube live feeds, all of which featured breathless (but masked) reporters shocked to discover that democracy is a contact sport.

A constant refrain was that the Capitol police seemed largely indifferent to the oncoming rabble (maybe they’ve been defunded?). I got the feeling that many reporters might have cheered had there been a Haymarket or Homestead moment, with the police, if not a few Pinkertons, gunning down anarchists.

When the crowd-sourced coverage grew tedious (how many waving Confederate flags does one need to see in an hour?), the live feed would switch to some member of Congress in a panic room recounting how the representatives had fled for their lives when they came across aggrieved citizens.

I heard an interview with Republican representative Kevin McCarthy, who until the House invasion was all for talking up the Great Voter Hoax Fraud of the Century and was egging on the likes of Senator Ted Cruz (R-Pervy Beard) to overturn the results of the 2020 election. But patched into a network while hiding under his desk, McCarthy had a come-to-Jesus moment, now that it was clear that Trump wanted a piece of him, too.

It does say something that when the citizenry shows up in Congress, all the members assume that they are coming with deadly intent.

And what’s with those air-sickness bags under every congressional seat, so that the doughboys of the republic can withstand a gas attack on the House or Senate? They looked like shower caps given out at public pools. Is that what our trillion dollars buys in the aisles of that great discount box store, Homeland Security? (“For all your counter-terrorism needs…”)

Mitch McConnell, “Dear Leader”

Is it too late to hand out Profile in Courage awards to “Leader” Mitch McConnell (linguistically, have we become North Korea?) and First Toady Lindsey Graham for pissing on Trump’s shoes only after it was clear that the party had lost those two Senate seats in Georgia? (File under: “What have you done for me lately?”)

And poor Vice-President Pence. I guess his weekly White House luncheon with the boss (“Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Mike?”) is over.

During the campaign I saw Pence in person with Trump on a handful of occasions at MAGA rallies, and never did he fail to impress me with his drooling sycophancy for the boss.

Pence would adopt the phallic thumbs-up gesture whenever he posed for a picture, and in his warm-up band remarks he reminded me of that Washington Post article that reported how, during one cabinet meeting, Pence praised Trump on average every thirteen seconds. How did that work out for ya?

Pence’s only calculation of late has been whether upholding the Constitution over electoral votes counted in Congress would hurt him in 2024 with Trump’s supporters in the Republican primaries.

Pence tried to slip a camel through the eye of a needle by voicing support for the Cruz out-of-control cabal while, at the same time, saying he needed, well, you know, to follow the law during the official electoral vote count.

Now, at least in Trump’s mind, Pence is the reason that Biden will be installed in office, and Trump will go to endless extremes to blame Pence for his defeat—and to humiliate him at every opportunity. (Nor did Trump appreciate it that Pence was the one who called out the neighboring states’ National Guards to rescue the besieged Congress.)

Pence better hope that “Leader” Mitch can become his new daddy, as their fates are now joined.

Take the Money and Run

Out of favor as Pence might be with the Trump gang (which I guess is down to Rudy, Jared, and Ivanka, with Steve Miller going out for sandwiches), I still have a hard time imaging him gathering up the courage to persuade a two-thirds majority of Trump’s cabinet to invoke the 25th amendment and declare the president unfit to carry out the duties of the office.

I am sure Pence might like to be president, if only for a day or two. As bank robber Virgil Starkwell (Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run) liked to say: “And you know, it’s a great job, the hours are good, and you’re your own boss. And you travel a lot, and you get to meet interesting people…” But I doubt Pence has the mettle to take on Trump directly.

Lyndon Johnson said of his own vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, when it was rumored he might challenge the top dog over the Vietnam War: “You tell Hubie to watch it. I have his balls here in my pocket.”

None Dare Call It Trumpism

Is there anything more than parlor chatter to the rumor that the House of Representatives will get its act together in the next twelve days and once again impeach Donald Trump? Or that the new Democratic majority in the Senate would vote to convict him? (The trial could take place after Trump leaves office.) Anyway, “Leader” Schumer has called for his impeachment, after spending the last four years in monastic silence.

It would be nice if Congress would impeach him, if only to prevent Trump from running again in 2024, but this is still the same Congress that was too terrified to impeach Trump in 2019 for anything more than his thuggish, we-know-where-you-live phones calls to the president of Ukraine.

For the past four years Trump has been given a House pass on his emoluments, bank frauds, rapes, tax obfuscations, obstructions of justice, witness tampering, blackmail, campaign finance violations, money laundering, abuses of power, and subornation of perjury, so that Congress could focus its attention on Hunter Biden’s consultancy gig in Ukraine.

Now Congress could add to any indictment Trump’s voter-tampering phone call in Georgia and possible treason charges (“ the assembly of armed people to overthrow the government or to resist its laws…”) over sending a lynch mob to Capitol Hill. But since his co-conspirators and getaway-car drivers would include the likes of “Leader” Mitch and Rep. McCarthy, I have a hard time seeing Congress throwing the book at themselves.

Channeling Major André

Convicting Trump of treason would bring up the always interesting historical question of whether he should be hanged or shot.

In general, those convicted of treason are hanged, as happened to the British Major John André during the American Revolutionary War when he was caught conspiring with the American turncoat general Benedict Arnold.

André complained bitterly that, as an officer and a gentleman, he deserved to be shot, but George Washington had him hanged (after the British decided not to exchange him for Arnold, who had defected to the English side). At the time hanging was considered the just punishment for common criminals.

Picnic at Trump’s Hanging Rock

If it is not treason to incite a mob to attack the Capitol while Congress in joint session counting the votes of a presidential election, I am not sure what treason is.

In this case Trump bears more responsibility for the high crime than do his MAGA followers, who at the prompting of the president decided to mill around the Capitol with their Trump, Jesus, and Confederate flags or their coonskin hats.

We know Trump personally is a big fan of capital punishment (perhaps not in personal circumstances), although in the recent spate of feel-good executions the federal government went with lethal injections. But none of those executed in the last month was guilty of treason, which sets a higher bar.

Perhaps the best way to adjudicate this delicate question would be to auction the rights to Trump’s execution to major television networks or social media, which could then decide between a noose and firing squad based on viewer preferences, sponsorships (“Bud Lightthe official beer of the Trump hanging…”), or maybe his Q-Rating.

Isn’t justice best served when it is delivered by juries of one’s peers? So who better to judge Trump’s fate than a “live” studio audience—why am I am thinking of Let’s Make a Deal—in which there could be a scaffold behind Door Number Three. After all, he’s reduced democracy to daytime television.