Friday, June 10, 2022

Party of Weasels


Boys, proud or otherwise; photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images via Salon.

Talking point no. 1 from Republicans seems to be that Trump couldn't have been plotting a coup, since he asked the National Guard to send troops to Washington for the January 6 "Will Be Wild" event, specifically to protect the Capitol from the mob he encouraged (that's not disputed) to march on it—if not for Speaker Pelosi's obdurate refusal of this sensible request, there would have been no assault on the building.

Except the Speaker has no authority to make such a decision, and wouldn't have been asked; it was for the Capitol Police to do that, and nobody in fact asked them, or the Speaker either for that matter, or at least no evidence has ever surfaced suggesting that anybody did, or even talked publicly about such an idea until Trump spontaneously brought it up himself, 28 February 2021, in a Fox interview; asked whether there had been anything he wished he had done differently that day, he said yes, but slipped Trump-style into explaining that the mistake he has in mind was actually Pelosi's and not his at all:

"We said to the Department of Defense, the top person, days before we had the rally … I requested … I definitely gave the number of 10,000 National Guardsmen, I think you should have 10,000 of the National Guard ready. They took that number. From what I understand, they gave it to the people at the Capitol, which is controlled by Pelosi. And I heard they rejected it because they didn’t think it would look good. So, you know, that was a big mistake."

The germ of truth being that he apparently really did speak to the "top person" at Defense, that is acting secretary Christopher Miller (after his firing of secretary Mark Esper, over Esper's correct insistence that it would be illegal to impose martial law with active-duty troops deployed against protesters during the George Floyd demonstrations of summer 2020), but Miller's recollections don't describe a president asking for the National Guard so much as asking about it: trying to find out what plans, if any, Miller had, not "days" but hours before the insurrection, the previous night, at a meeting on some other subject:

The president, Miller recalled, asked how many troops the Pentagon planned to turn out the following day. "We’re like, ‘We’re going to provide any National Guard support that the District requests,’" Miller responded. "And (Trump) goes, ‘You’re going to need 10,000 people.’ No, I’m not talking bullshit. He said that. And we’re like, ‘Maybe. But you know, someone’s going to have to ask for it.’" At that point Miller remembered the president telling him, "‘You do what you need to do. You do what you need to do.’ He said, ‘You’re going to need 10,000.’ That’s what he said. Swear to God."

He's really trying to get a sense of just how spectacular tomorrow's spectacle is going to be. Having ascertained that Miller has no plans to deploy anybody unless and until he gets a request and no chance they could show up in time to stop the planned assault on the Capitol, he's satisfied it will be very spectacular indeed. As to his later pseudo-memory of having sent down a "request" through appropriate channels, it's completely false; he made sure he knew nothing about it until it was too late for him to affect the outcome. 

Talking point no. 2, and the only other Republican talking point I'm hearing so far, is the complaint that the Select Committee is biased, even though technically bipartisan, because all the members are opposed to Trump. You might want to regard that one as sort of true, but only with an asterisk and explanation that it was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who set it up that way; agreeing with Speaker Pelosi on the original idea for a 9/11-style committee and then submitting a list of five Republican representatives including the names of Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, not only known for turning committee hearings into circuses of clowning and irrelevance but, more to the point, involved up to the hilt in the central element of the coup attempt, the Trumpy project of getting the 2020 election uncertified:

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.” 

Upon which McCarthy pulled all his members and abandoned the whole idea, and the House got the committee we saw last night, which is pretty impressive, while Jordan, and McCarthy himself, are scurrying away from its subpoenas to avoid testifying about their own phone interactions with Trump on the day of the insurrection—I'm pretty sure Jordan must be one of the guys we heard about last night who were agitating for Trump pardons in the weeks after that.

I'm starting to get an idea of what it is the Republicans might be afraid of. On its surface, this investigation is all about Trump, front and center, and his mostly extragovernmental mafia-like gang, and in that respect as we've been saying it's not going to change anybody's mind; but it's putting all the Republican party under the microscope, and their ambivalences and evasions, especially the 2022 House and Senate candidates, for however they behaved between 3 November and 6 January, whether they were calling the election result into question or not, whether or not they condemned Trump in the immediate aftermath, as McCarthy did, and then for the way nearly all of them responded after that, sliding into a deeper and deeper Trumpiness, just getting stupider and stupider out of fear of looking out of line, because they haven't got any story that makes any sense:

They've got no way of explaining themselves that won't offend somebody, they've only got these two helplessly lame routes of attack against the committee—the irrelevant bullshit about the National Guard and the complaint that the committee isn't telling the whole story when they're obviously not capable of telling any story themselves—

or just whatabouting the violent incidents at the margins of the 2020 protests, as if setting fire to the Wendy's where cops murdered Rayshard Brooks (a reprehensible act of property damage on the part of three people) was equivalent to setting private paramilitary forces to invade a joint session of Congress

or finally emulating the Mitch McConnells of the Senate in saying this isn't what the American people want to hear about and risk exposing yourself the way Marco did:

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