Alas, he did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, but he might not get away with it. It didn’t have to end this way. He could have protected, even polished, his legacy. But his personality wouldn’t allow it.
That same makeup that draws the crowd and fires up the base and gives him his populist appeal also has an underbelly of selfishness and conceit. And that’s what we’ve seen exclusively for the past 2 months. “Fraud”, “Rigged”, and “Stolen” are the words most heard since November 3rd.
In tandem with his contradictory request: “But hey, come participate in the Georgia runoff!”
And all the while a pandemic raged!
Imagine a different approach: One where Trump accepted defeat on November 3rd and reminded us that he was an underdog who got more votes than any in history – other than the man who beat him. Attention spent not griping and golfing but celebrating the record pace of vaccine development. Airport hanger photo ops not with raucous crowds fueled by the misinformation of a “steal”, but with hundreds of sleeves rolled up. Trump could have been entertaining with stories of what a wild ride it’s been while ticking off accomplishments of the sort that would please his conservative base.
Three Justices on the Supreme Court. Hundreds more appointed to the federal bench. Ending the Iran Nuclear Deal. Withdrawing from the Paris Accord. The USMCA Trade Deal. Space Force. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Tax cuts. Job growth.
He could have laid a predicate to capitalize on whatever bumps are to come in the road for the new administration. And there will be bumps in Biden road. There always are. But Trump squandered all that.
First, he cost himself a winnable election. To invoke James Carville: “it was the virus, stupid.”
Then he cost Senators Loeffler and Perdue their elections and his party control of the Senate. It’s not rocket science. You cannot tell people a system is rigged while simultaneously asking them to participate in that rigged system.
And then came Wednesday.
By the way, the vulnerability of the Capitol was appalling. As I told Chris Cuomo that night: This was not 9/11 or a sneak attack against partying Hessians launched on Christmas. That protestors were coming to town was well- known. The internet chatter portended violence.
And remember: It happened on a day of supposed heightened alert because of reports that Iran would seek retribution for the killing one year ago Sunday of General Soleimani. We’re lucky it wasn’t worse. If they carried automatic weapons instead of Gadsden flags, it would have been catastrophic.
The night before, some confronted Utah Senator Mitt Romney when he flew from Salt Lake City to Washington. In-flight, for 20 seconds they chanted: “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”
On Wednesday, the president and his coterie pregamed on the ellipse. Don Jr. said: “You can either be a hero or you can be a zero.” Rudy Giuliani advocated “trial by combat.” And then the president told the crowd: “You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong”.
Think about that. What about walking and maybe carrying a sign takes strength? No, he had something more in mind. For a little CYA, he did reference doing so “peacefully” but the die was cast, the fuse was lit.
This was causation, not correlation.
And even after things at the capitol got ugly – and he released a video after being encouraged by Joe Biden to appear on national TV and condemn the violence – he began by acknowledging the “pain and hurt” of the protestors. He told them he loved them and made yet another claim about the election being stolen.
Five deaths have been tied to the subsequent events.
Close to 6 pm, the commencement of a curfew, with the crowd largely dispersed and the Capitol under control, here was Trump’s mindset via Twitter.
These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!
For four years I have resisted the knee-jerk temptation to blame everything on Trump. But this time he deserves it. The president is to blame.
But this was 30 years in the making. It was the culmination of the outsized influence of a polarized media on a small but loyal base, and its control over doctrinaire politicians. The very same alliance whipping some into a frenzy while pushing the myth of a stolen election. For them, it’s been about driving revenue through radio ears, television eyes, and computer mouse clicks.
John McCain understood what I’m referring to. Remember when after being diagnosed with brain cancer, he returned to the well of the senate and famously gave a thumbs down to the repeal of Obamacare? That day, July 25, 2017, he said with regard to a polarized media: “our incapacity is their livelihood”
The McCain mantel was assumed by Nebraska’s Sen Ben Sasse this week. First, in a Facebook essay, he exposed his colleagues when he wrote:
When we talk in private, I haven’t heard a single congressional republican allege that the election results were fraudulent – not one. Instead, I hear them talk about their worries about how they will “look” to president trump’s most ardent supporters.
Then on Wednesday night, when the Senate reconvened, Sasse summed up what brought the nation to the brink: “Don’t let the screamers who monetize hate have the final word,” he said.
Those to whom he referred are trying to have the final word. By not outright condemning the violence – suggesting double standards. Speculating baselessly about participants.
Hell, Wednesday night, Tucker Carlson concluded a monologue by saying “it’s not your fault, it’s their fault.”
Mitt Romney, who literally faced screamers the night before, rose in the senate. He said: “We gather today due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of his supporters whom he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,”
Lindsey Graham, the president’s friend and golf partner said lamented the final days of Trump, saying:
“Trump and I….We’ve had a hell of a journey. And I hate it to end this way. Oh, my god, I hate it. From my point of view, he’s been a consequential president. But today….First thing you’ll see. All I can say is: count me out enough is enough.”
Instinct suggests the American people will agree that enough is enough. Then again, a YouGov survey released yesterday found that while a majority of Americans see Wednesday’s events as a threat to democracy, while 45% of Republicans actively support the actions of those at the Capitol.
Lindsey Graham said he “hated it to end this way.”
But it did. That will be the epitaph of the Trump administration.
Using the perfect blend of analysis and humor, Michael Smerconish delivers engaging, thought-provoking, and balanced dialogue on today’s political arena and the long-term implications of the polarization in politics. In addition to his acclaimed work as nationally syndicated Sirius XM Radio talk show host, newspaper columnist, and New York Times best-selling author, Michael Smerconish hosts CNN’s Smerconish, which airs live on Saturday at 9:00 am ET.