Opinion Michael Goodwin, January 6, 2022
What do you call people who have a good case to make but then stretch the truth until it breaks?
Democrats, very desperate Democrats.
Joe Biden is a drowning man who proved Thursday that he will grab hold of anything that remotely resembles a life raft. His attempt to use last Jan. 6th as a savior for his misbegotten presidency reveals more about his party’s predicament than it does about the unsettling events a year ago.
After making several valid points about former President Donald Trump’s continuing refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, Biden promptly undercut his own argument by going too far. Sounding like a late-night TV pitchman selling cheap garden hoses with the promise of two for the price of one, he began promoting his party’s bid to override state laws to federalize elections as the only logical response.
Rahm Emanuel famously urged Dems never to let a crisis go to waste, but they apparently never heard the warning by Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry that “a man has to know his limitations.”
When it comes to weaponizing Jan. 6th for partisan purposes, Dems don’t know any limitations. Indeed, sometimes it was hard to tell on Thursday if they were commemorating a tragedy or celebrating an opportunity.
The most glaring example of overreach came when the White House equated the storming of the Capitol with 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, a mistake that should live in political infamy. By that token, any and all who entered the Capitol, even those who acted like awed tourists, are as wicked as Osama bin Laden and Japanese militarists of 80 years ago.
That the job of making the ludicrous comparison was given to Kamala Harris, the hapless vice president, only added to the absurdity. She probably had to stifle a cackle when handed the script.
The essence of the problem is that Biden and party leaders, facing massive voter discontent with his failed leadership on the economy, the pandemic and other areas, have seized on the Capitol riot to portray it as an actual “insurrection” that threatened America. Insisting residual forces are hiding behind every tree and could strike any moment, they have gone so far as to equate opponents and critics of their far-left agenda as enemies of the state, making their reaction a far greater danger to democracy than anything that happened on that fateful day.
Nancy Pelosi’s House has devoted itself to an investigation that is little more than Trump Impeachment 3.0. Just as they hoped their two failed impeachments would bar him permanently from holding public office, some Dems are now advocating the use of a clause in the 14th Amendment that prevents any official who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from ever holding office again.
It sounds ludicrous, but they are deadly serious. Enough so that after growing criticism from activists and some officials that the Justice Department wasn’t doing enough to hold Trump and others “accountable” for the Capitol riot despite arresting more than 700 people, Attorney General Merrick Garland felt compelled to give a disgraceful speech Wednesday in which he promised to keep hunting for more scalps.
“The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last,” Garland said. “The Justice Department remains committed to holding all Jan. 6th perpetrators, at any level, accountable under law — whether they were present that day or were otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.”
Wink, wink, nod, nod, get my drift?
The facts are clear
Even in an age of nonstop outrage and social-media hyperbole, the attempt to criminalize political opposition should be beneath a president, the AG and leaders of Congress. Should be but isn’t.
If decency doesn’t restrain them, practicality should. Thanks to television and handheld cameras, tens of millions of Americans were eyewitnesses to the events a year ago, and no amount of spin and media propaganda can turn the commonly understood facts into something they aren’t.
Moreover, the day was bad enough that it doesn’t need to be made into something more nefarious to be important. By trying to do so, and by endless exaggeration, fabrication and withholding contrary evidence, such as what role secret FBI agents playing in inciting some participants, the White House and its allies are calling attention to their own dirty history.
Consider an e-mail from a reader named James Dalton. Writing on Jan. 5th, he says: “Five years ago today, a historic and despicable meeting was held in the Oval Office. President Obama presided. Present were VP Biden, James Comey, John Brennan, James Clapper and other denizens of the swamp.
“The purpose of this meeting was to upend/derail the incoming Administration via promulgating a discredited dossier and earnest talk of a nonexistent collusion with Russia.”
Dalton is accurately referring to the gathering that took place a day before Comey, the J. Edgar Hoover of our times, was scheduled to brief President-elect Trump on the Steele dossier that was commissioned by Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It was decided at the Jan. 5th meeting that Comey wouldn’t tell Trump about all the outlandish allegations Steele taped together, instead limiting the briefing to the salacious “pee tape” fiction.
After doing so, Comey raced to his car and memorialized Trump’s reactions, evidence that even the briefing was designed to further the Obama team’s spying on the incoming president.
Clapper, as he eventually admitted, leaked the briefing to CNN, which gave it license to publish a story saying Trump had been told about the dossier. That led BuzzFeed to publish the entire document, which was exactly the sort of response the Obama White House hoped for in its bid to destroy its successor.
The Rice memo
Susan Rice, in a memo that would be hilarious in any other circumstance, wrote a note to the file on the day of Trump’s inauguration about the Jan. 5th meeting, which is why we know how important it was. In her memo, Rice wrote that Obama reminded Comey that the FBI should do everything “by the book.”
Why such a memo aimed at protecting Obama would be necessary to write in her last moments in the White House remains a mystery only to those dead-enders who can’t accept the fact that Trump legitimately won the 2016 election despite the unprecedented spying by the incumbent president, his party and the top law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Rice, of course, then a top aide to Obama, is now a top aide to Biden. Accountability for thee, but not for me.
Within months, it fell to Robert Mueller to finish the job of dethroning Trump, but after two years of squeezing the president’s associates and numerous instances of prosecutorial abuse, Mueller had to concede he couldn’t prove collusion with Russia. Many Democrats, in and out of the media, who had applauded his appointment suddenly decided they didn’t trust his findings.
Lately, there has been an effort at The New York Times and others who swallowed and spread the Russia fable to argue that the case against Trump was strong. To this day, Pelosi still says that with Trump, “all roads lead to Putin.”
None of this history is meant to excuse Trump’s conduct in the waning days of his term, including the enormous pressure he put on Vice President Mike Pence to reject unfavorable results from several states. My brief conversations with Trump in that period left me convinced he genuinely believed the election was stolen.
Yet that belief did not justify his pressuring Pence and Justice Department officials, nor did it justify the too-hot speech he gave to the crowd on Jan. 6, or his late, reluctant video urging those storming the Capitol to retreat and go home.
Even now, Trump continues to make claims the 2020 election was stolen. As Biden emphasized Thursday, no court, including the Supreme Court, found enough evidence of fraud to conclude the results are not legitimate.
Although I don’t share the concern that Trump’s claims about 2020 are a threat to the nation — after all, Dems and their media mouthpieces made similar claims about 2016, and many still do — I believe Trump is further damaging his legacy. Perhaps more important, he is squandering a chance to unite all those who see Biden’s presidency as a disaster for America and the entire free world.
By seeming to make his allegations about 2020 a litmus test, the former president is limiting his prospective candidacy to like-minded voters. Similarly, many Republicans up and down the ballot are being held to the same litmus test to get his endorsement, which could tie their fates to a charge that can never be proven and that most voters in key states do not accept.
One of the oddities of our angry, scorched-earth era is that both parties have helped elect their opponents by going to extremes.
Trump defeated Clinton because of the excesses of the Obama administration, which she promised to double down on. And Biden beat Trump despite the incumbent’s policy success because enough voters tired of the president’s personality.
If that pattern holds, both this year’s midterms and the 2024 election will go to the party that plays to the middle instead of just its hard-core base. So far, neither side looks like it wants to win.