The storming of the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday afternoon – a raw and mindless attempt to express allegiance to a president who has repeatedly driven Americans apart with his self-centered and shameless behavior – was a step too far.
For days, in every setting, the president had encouraged his followers to mass in Washington on the day that Congress would take up the electoral count that would affirm his failed re-election attempt.
At noon – just before they stormed the Capitol, breaking doors and windows, vandalizing its interior and invading offices, disrespecting democracy’s workplace – the president was issuing words of encouragement. “Overturn the fraudulent election or the country will be in tatters” had been at the core of his exhortations since the election.
The un-American behavior of protesters and the scene of the damage to the country’s two-and-a-half-centuries-long reputation as a place where peaceful democracy thrives can be laid at the president’s feet. His behavior over four years led up to it, and on that afternoon, he made no effort to arrest it.
Those with him that day say that, while the destruction was occurring, the president mostly focused his wrath on Vice President Mike Pence (who was chairing the Senate side of the state elector count) for not doing his beckoning to overturn state election results. Those results were deemed accurate by almost 50 courts and affirmed by a handful of senior administration officials. The effort was folly, and look at what it caused.
Donald J. Trump, even with only 10 days left in office, deserves the full effect of the 25th Amendment. Not only has he been “unfit to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” as specified in the amendment, but he has turned the country on its head, culminating in tragic fashion with the assault on the Capitol and the soul of the nation’s governance it represents.
Autocratic leaders around the world cannot believe their good luck; already they are using Wednesday’s events to mock the U.S. and bolster the value of their own anti-democratic behavior.
This is the time for the vice president, as detailed in the 25th Amendment, to marshal a majority of the Cabinet and a two-thirds supermajority of Congress to show Trump the door. Trump suggests he will seek a second term in 2024; he should be denied a full first.
Let Pence fill out his term. Trump deserves that asterisk in history.
The two houses of Congress completed the counting of the electoral votes a few hours before morning. The MAGA mob only interrupted their constitutional duty by a few hours.
But how much better it would have been for House and Senate members, once the Capitol was cleared of threats, to have joined in bringing the debate about the validity of Arizona’s electors to an immediate close and firmly, without challenge, reported the results of all the states? As it was, they were to spend time arguing about Pennsylvania’s results, too. Contesting electors was not Congress’ place, nor did it have any merit.
Trump has created a whirlwind of uncertainty and fear for his final days. All living defense secretaries have cautioned against any involvement of the military, and the leaders of the some of the most well-known corporations – including Trump’s former supporters – have joined to condemn the post-election chaos.
Pence, pull the Cabinet members together to spare the country Trump’s final days and facilitate the presidential transition we deserve.
The images of the assault on the Capitol are searing.