To the very end, a sizeable Congressional segment of the Republican Party has been willing to defend Donald Trump no matter what he says or does, and to urge on his most violent supporters. Here for example, was Republican Congressman Mo Brooks speaking to the Capitol crowd at last week’s protest gathering just before things went south:
“Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” said Mr. Brooks, Republican of Alabama. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America? Louder! Will you fight for America?”
Shortly afterwards, the armed mob (a) invaded and trashed the Capitol Building, (b) tried to lynch vice-president Mike Pence and shoot House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (c) killed a police officer and caused the deaths of four other people while (d) seeking to overturn November’s election result by force. Incredibly though…only hours after the deadly Capitol invasion, a total of 139 Republican House members and eight of the party’s senators still voted against certifying the Electoral College votes won by Joseph Biden.
In effect, they were voting to overturn November’s election result. Oh, and they did so after it was known that the mob they had inflamed had left pipe bombs at the HQs of both major parties, and that a box full of Molotov cocktails had been discovered on the Capitol grounds. Why, the Capitol invasion was so pre-planned, the rioters had even come equipped with climbing ladders.
Surely, there now have to be consequences. Surely, those colluding Republican law-makers can’t be allowed to remain sitting in a Congress whose democratic workings they have tried to overthrow, alongside colleagues they have incited others to injure and kill. Some House Democrats are reportedly pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, added after the Civil War, which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from holding public office.
Representative Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, introduced a resolution on Monday with 47 co-sponsors that would initiate investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”
At this point however, vice-President Mike Pence has reportedly refused to invoke the 25th Amendment which would declare Trump to be unfit for office. Impeachment is therefore the only remaining option.
Better this than nothing
Yesterday’s House moves to impeach Trump for a second time seem to be symbolically, substantively and tactically important. If inciting violent acts of sedition isn’t grounds for impeachment, what would be? The process may be targeted directly at the Fascist in Chief, but it is also a useful tool for flushing out Trump’s enablers. The Democrats will easily get the House majority they need, but if and when this rollcall reaches the Senate floor, the public ( and the media) will then have a fresh chance to name and shame Trump’s band of elected collaborators. This time, a few more Republicans besides Mutt Romney might even cross the floor.
The impeachment process could also (faint hope) serve as a brake on further excesses by this President during the dying days of his rule. Day by day, his administration continues to sow landmines for his successor. In the last 48 hours alone, outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been busily goading China by increasing diplomatic contact with Taiwan. Pompeo has also just handed the Saudi Crown Prince a farewell bouquet by declaring the Prince’s Houthi opponents in the Yemen civil war to be terrorists. This designation will hamper the delivery of aid by international agencies to what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. From Afghanistan to Iran, the White House has spent its time since the November election doing its best to poison the foreign policy problems that Biden will inherit..
Oh, and Pompeo has also just declared Cuba to be an exporter of global terrorism, thereby triggering fresh sanctions against Havana that President Biden will later have to undo, at some electoral cost in southern Florida. Meanwhile back on Planet Earth, Cuban doctors have been at the forefront of countering the impact of the pandemic in Africa, and elsewhere. Few of these petty and vengeful diplomatic traps are being reported widely. The fixation on the drama swirling around the White House continues to dominate media coverage, much as it has done for the past four years.
Many media mea culpas
Since the Capitol riot, the role of the media in helping Trump and his enablers to be super spreaders of hatred and bigotry has been mulled over yet again. The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) has a useful roll call of the relevant points and think pieces here, and also here. Among the many mea culpas listed by the CJR :
In 2016, Trump got so much free media airtime—more than two billion dollars, according to an accounting in the New York Times—that he could run a national presidential campaign with a fraction of the ad budget of his competitors. From the start, amplifying Trump has not merely been a Fox News problem.
And so on, to Charlottesville ( which was when Trump’s pandering to white nationalist bigots first became overt) and onwards to 2020 :
By the time the 2020 election rolled around, America’s media had centred Trump with a singular obsession. Trump’s Twitter account became a disinformation drip mainlined by newsrooms across the country; cable networks broke in with chyrons quoting even his most nonsensical claims. Outlets aired his rallies, unedited, as he spouted racist vitriol. Newspapers sent reporters to hear from Trump’s fans, who had internalized his distorted picture of the world, and repeated it back. “Fact checking” operations proved futile in addressing the greater crisis at hand: Trump’s dismantling of truth itself.
This morning, Trump has been at it again, broadcasting far and wide his false equivalences between the Capitol riot and the Black Lives Matter protests. And that’s the core problem. How can the media stop serving as such a reliable megaphone for presidential lies deliberately intended to inflame and divide the nation ? The solutions on offer don’t seem up to the task, but this could still be a useful starting point:
We need to police the currently-fine line between explaining why our leaders are doing heinous things and explaining them away as business as usual; as savvy, even.
Would the media be willing to adopt an active gatekeeper role, and would the public be willing to entrust the job to a mainstream media that many Americans now believe to be peddlers of fake news at best, and active stooges of the Deep State at worst. As Martina Hyde of the Guardian newspaper ( also quoted by the CJR) has said : “It is not so much a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted as doping the horse, whipping it into a frenzy, encouraging it to bolt…monetising every snort and whinny, [and] allowing the very existence of ‘humans’ and ‘horses’ to become just one of a bunch of competing opinions.”
Footnote One : Depending on how you look at the figures in this report, it is encouraging/discouraging that there are now a few major US corporates willing to stop making political donations to any of the Republican lower House members or to any of the Hateful Eight band of GOP senators who voted against the Electoral College certifications. Good on you, Marriott Hotel chain and Dow Chemical Inc which – if you can take them at their word – has turned over a new leaf since the days when Dow was manufacturing the toxic chemical weapon Agent Orange, for use in Vietnam, against the country’s ordinary citizens and their natural environment :
Dow is immediately suspending all corporate and employee political action committee (PAC) contributions to any member of Congress who voted to object to the certification of the presidential election. This suspension will remain in place for a period of one election cycle (two years for House members; up to six years for Senators), which specifically includes contributions to the candidate’s re-election committee and their affiliated PACs. Dow is committed to the principles of democracy and the peaceful transfer of power. Our values – integrity, respect for people, and protecting our planet – are the foundation on which we stand and our values guide our political contributions….
Better late than never….
Footnote Two: Reportedly, even Big Golf has noted the public outrage, and is turning its back on Trump. Ouch. As Stephen Colbert says, Trump loves golf even more than he’s loved any of his wives, because its even easier to cheat at golf. Even so, it is hard to imagine that in the country clubs and down at Augusta and Pebble Beach, the men in the V neck sleeveless jumpers and the Chino trousers are really denouncing Donald J. Trump. He’s so much their guy. But at least Arnold Schwarzenegger, usually a big cigars and golfing kind of guy has made the break with this stirring denunciation of Trump.
Footnote Three: Talking about balanced media coverage….over the past fortnight, the Israeli government’s widely lauded “success” in delivering Covid vaccines has received far more extensive coverage than Israel’s related failure – as an occupying force – to deliver anything like adequate vaccine access to Palestinians. Al Jazeera’s reportage on this dire situation is available here. For example:
But there is a dark side to Israel’s “vaccine success story”: While it is immunising its citizens against COVID-19 at an unrivalled rate, the Israeli government is not doing anything to vaccinate millions of Palestinians living under its military occupation. In a cruel irony, hundreds of doses on the cusp of expiration were reportedly thrown away in Israeli clinics last week, while millions of Palestinians are being denied the vaccine.Indeed, while the vaccine roll-out in Israel includes the Palestinian citizens of Israel, it does not include some five million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
Nominally, the Palestinian Authority may be the administrative body in the occupied territories, but this excuse denies the reality on the ground when it comes to the provision of healthcare and other social services:
Israel’s occupation has left the Palestinian healthcare system undersupplied and with insufficient medical facilities. For years, rather than being allowed to develop self-sufficiency, Palestinians living in the occupied territories were forced to rely on outside help to meet their most basic healthcare needs….Thus, when COVID-19 hit, the Palestinian authorities were in no shape to implement effective pandemic mitigation strategies or procure the necessary medications and vaccines to protect Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is yet to secure a sufficient quantity of vaccinations to immunise the Palestinian population against COVID-19. And due to its dire financial situation, it will need significant outside help to make any substantial purchase.
As Al Jazeera concludes, the frantic efforts by the PA to obtain vaccines would not have been necessary if Israel had met its legal, moral, humanitarian obligations to vaccinate the Palestinians living under its military occupation. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that help has finally eventuated from the international Covax programme, and from Russia.
Lovely, Lost Etc.
Talking of lost visions of American affluence and influence, here’s the title track from Lana Del Rey’s new album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club. Despite the promising title, the song isn’t as politically pointed as her “Looking For America” song from 18 months ago. The video looks like a homage to Dorothy Malone, and to her role as the troubled wild child with the heart of gold in the Douglas Sirk melodrama Written On the Wind.
For the record here’s a still photo of Dorothy Malone, from Sirk’s film.