Two Monsters In Governor’s Clothing

The state of Florida currently has more hospitalizations due to COVID than any other state in the nation.  Cases in Texas are also surging, sending hospitals scrambling to find ICU beds for all the patients.  Both of these states have Republican governors who are doing everything in their power to reduce the population in their states.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (left) and Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Both Governor DeSantis of Florida and Governor Abbott of Texas have banned mask mandates in their state, meaning that localities cannot legally put a mask mandate into effect in order to protect the people.  Bad enough under any circumstances, but now, with parents preparing to send their children back to school in a week or two, it is critical.

Columnist Greg Sargent has the latest on the battle between the governors, localities, and school boards …


The rebellion against pro-Trump, anti-mask GOP governors is gaining steam

Opinion by

Greg Sargent

Columnist

Yesterday at 11:04 a.m. EDT

Let’s state this up front: GOP governors are not required by some higher Trumpian law to use official powers to actively thwart efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Some are choosing not to do that: In South Dakota, the governor left decisions about mask mandates to local officials, and in Arkansas the governor admitted that an earlier ban on them was an “error.”

But the Republican governors of Texas and Florida — Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis — are in a class by themselves. Their states are seeing some of the worst surges of covid in the nation, yet they are continuing to hamstring local officials from acting to protect their constituents.

Which is why these governors are facing a rebellion of sorts. In both states, ABC News reports, officials are defying limits on mask mandates, setting up direct conflicts with those governors.

This will flush out into the open the truly twisted nature of what DeSantis and Abbott are doing. They piously claim to be defending their constituents’ freedom from government mandates. But they are using their power to prevent local officials from implementing basic public health measures in a highly selective way that is plainly molded around the obsessions of former president Donald Trump and his movement, not anchored in any genuine public interest rationale.

Local officials are rebelling

The derangement of this position is particularly clear in Texas. On Monday, Abbott announced that he is seeking the help of outside medical professionals to deal with the state’s covid surge. He is also asking hospitals to postpone all elective medical procedures as hospitals fill up.

Amid all this, the Dallas schools superintendent has reasonably announced that students, visitors and staff will have to wear masks in schools. He noted that the decision is an “urgent” matter of “protecting” children, teachers and workers.

Yet this directive required him to defy Abbott’s executive order barring mask mandates by government entities. To be clear, Abbott’s own actions amount to a stark admission that the state is in serious trouble — yet he continues to ban localities from taking measures to protect public health.

The absurd result, as the New York Times reports, is that local officials are scouring legal codes to find ways to get around Abbott’s blockade on implementing public health measures. This isn’t how officials should have to spend time and resources during a public health emergency.

In Austin, where cases are surging, local officials have recommended masking, but cannot require it, which has led the mayor of Austin to declare the situation “dire.” The Austin school district just announced a mask requirement, defying Abbott.

Meanwhile, in Florida, the superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools is moving ahead with mandatory masking. This is in defiance of DeSantis’s recent executive order empowering the state to withhold funds to punish school boards who implement mask mandates.

Incredibly, it appears DeSantis may make good on this threat. The superintendent, Carlee Simon, told “Morning Joe” on Tuesday that she’s received a letter from the state demanding justification for her move and essentially indicating that funding is at risk if she continues.

A handful of Florida parents are now suing DeSantis. One mom told CNN that she “never envisioned” that the governor “would actively be trying to harm my child,” and lamented correctly that limits on mask mandates are interfering with her son’s ability to get educated safely.

Anyone who has taken a young child to a camp or gathering this summer has witnessed how children playing together continue to drift inevitably into very close contact. It’s particularly ludicrous and venal to bar local officials from acting to defend these children from spread.

Abbott and DeSantis love to proclaim that they are defending the liberty of their states’ residents to proceed free of public health mandates, and that they should merely exercise “personal responsibility” in dealing with covid. But it’s hard to discern any genuine ideological vision here, since they have no apparent objection to all manner of other public health mandates.

“We have plenty of mandates,” Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “We require elementary school students to get various vaccinations. We require drivers to wear seat belts. We require adults to wear clothes.”

“There are any number of ways in which the laws of every state, including Florida and Texas, impose mandates that are designed to protect individuals,” Vladeck continued.

‘Covid exceptionalism’

All of which suggests that the real working ideology here is something you might call “covid exceptionalism.”

Obviously it would theoretically be possible for DeSantis and Abbott to believe, in good faith, that mandates against covid represent unacceptable incursions on liberty while other mandates do not.

But everyone knows the real reason DeSantis and Abbott are suddenly concerned with protecting people from public health mandates on covid in particular is that government officials eager to battle covid this way have become associated with assorted enemies of Trump and his following.

Because Trump and his movement have required this adherence to covid exceptionalism, local officials are being hamstrung from carrying out their own official responsibilities to act in defense of public health. It’s hard to find the right language to describe the seething contempt for public service and the public good that’s truly on display here.

Was 2020 Just A Dress Rehearsal?

If you thought the chaos and violence that surrounded last year’s presidential election was bad, many speculate that what will happen in 2024 will make 2020 look like a walk in the park.  Take a look at what Washington Post editor Fred Hiatt has to say … a view that is shared by many political analysts today.


Voter suppression is bad. But this tactic is even worse.

Opinion by 

Fred Hiatt

Editorial page editor

President Donald Trump’s effort to steal the 2020 presidential election fell short. Now Republicans across the country are promoting changes to laws and personnel that could allow him — or someone like him — to succeed in 2024.

I’m not referring to the hundreds of GOP proposals in statehouses across the country that will make it harder for many people, in particular Black Democrats, to vote. Those measures are egregious and offensive. They are the strategy of a party that has given up on winning by putting forward more appealing policies and candidates and so hopes to win by keeping as many of its opponents away from the ballot box as possible.

What I’m talking about is in some ways even more insidious: an insurance policy to potentially steal the election if the vote-suppression strategy fails.

Recall Trump’s post-election campaign last fall. Having lost decisively, he thought he could pressure local and state officials to nullify the results.

He implored the Republican majority in the Pennsylvania legislature to defy their people’s will and appoint a slate of electors who would vote for him in Washington.

He urged the Georgia secretary of state to claim that Joe Biden’s victory there was fraudulent.

He pressured the Michigan Board of State Canvassers not to certify Biden’s clear victory in their state.

He failed because enough local officials had more integrity and courage than a majority of the Republican caucus in the U.S. House has mustered. The leaders of the Pennsylvania legislature said they didn’t have the authority to do what Trump was demanding. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger simply refused to go along. One of two Republicans on the Michigan board caved to the pressure, but the other, Aaron Van Langevelde, listened to his conscience, and his vote alongside the board’s two Democrats was enough to turn aside Trump’s attempted theft.

All of this was inspiring to many of us. To the anti-democracy forces ascendant in the Republican Party, it provided a challenge and a road map.

Michigan Republicans chose not to nominate Van Langevelde to another term. Raffensperger will face a primary challenge from an amplifier of Trump’s lies about election fraud, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who already has Trump’s endorsement.

“At the end of the day, there were good people on both sides of the aisle who were determined to protect people’s right to vote,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, said in a meeting with Post reporters and editors this month. “If those people change in 2022, then you have a scenario in 2024 where the good people who protected their states in 2020 aren’t there any more.”

Nor are the anti-democracy forces focused only on top officials. Another Democratic secretary of state, Arizona’s Katie Hobbs, told us that “people around the state are very worried that they’re going to come infiltrate poll workers in the next election.” The law requires a balance of Republicans and Democrats as poll workers — but, Hobbs noted, “it’s very easy to change your affiliation from R to D.”

As they target the people and positions that stood in their way last time, they also are attempting to change the rules, so a pro-Trump legislature could more easily override the will of the people — and the objections of any honest secretary of state who stood in the way.

“In 2021, state legislatures across the country — through at least 148 bills filed in 36 states — are moving to muscle their way into election administration, as they attempt to dislodge or unsettle the executive branch and/or local election officials who, traditionally, have run our voting systems.”

That is the conclusion of a recent report, “A Democracy Crisis in the Making,” by two nonpartisan organizations, States United Democracy Center and Protect Democracy, and a nonprofit law firm in Wisconsin, Law Forward.

“Had these bills been in place in 2020,” the report found, “they would have significantly added to the turmoil that surrounded the election, and they would have raised the alarming prospect that the outcome of the presidential election could have been decided contrary to how the people voted.”

One such measure was included in Georgia’s recent electoral “reform.” While many of us paid attention to the mean-spirited ban on giving water to people waiting in line — and understandably so — the intrusion of the legislature into the counting process could have far more nefarious consequences.

This is why it matters so much that Trump continues to lie about 2020, and that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and most of his party have abjectly surrendered to the lie. It’s not just about history. The lie is being used to give cover for actions that in 2024 could turn the big lie into the big steal.

What Are Our Options?

At some point today, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will call a vote to end debate on the creation of a bipartisan commission to study the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6. It will — barring some massive change — fail, doomed by the unwillingness of 10 (or more) Senate Republicans to vote for it.  Mitch McConnell has given Republicans their marching orders:  vote against it, or else.  Mitch and every other Republican are clearly eager to make the events of January 6th disappear.  I believe that if they could, they would remove January 6th from the calendar altogether.

The primary reason Republicans are so damned determined to erase January 6th from our memories is the 2022 mid-term election.  If, when the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, Margie Greene and others come up for re-election, January 6th is still clearly in our minds, and if by then some of this crew have been shown to have played a role in the events of the day, their chances for returning to Congress in 2023 are slim-to-none.  Which is as it should be, but … Republicans don’t play by the rulebook, they play for power and are perfectly willing to break every rule in the book, even as it hurts the very people they claim to represent.

So, the idea of a commission to investigate is going to be dead on arrival by the close of today.  What next?  We simply cannot let it drop, cannot ever forget this any more than we can forget 9/11, for it was a threat to our country, our lives.  Washington Post journalist Greg Sargent recently interviewed political scientist Norman Ornstein about the options open to us.  I found it a thoughtful and thought-provoking dialog …


Republicans are likely to kill the Jan. 6 commission. But we have other options.

Opinion by

Greg Sargent

Columnist

May 19, 2021 at 4:56 p.m. EDT

Now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has come out against the commission to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection, it’s looking increasingly like Republicans will kill it. This is especially likely given that Donald Trump has commanded them to end this entire discussion “immediately.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is set to hold a vote Wednesday on the bipartisan deal reached in the lower chamber to create a commission. That compromise was very fair and made concessions to both Republicans and Democrats.

But with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed as well, it’s unlikely to get the stampede of support from House Republicans that might forestall a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

Now what?

Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein is well positioned to explain this moment and where we go from here. That’s because he was an early and very prescient observer of the GOP’s radicalization against democracy who also happens to be an expert on congressional procedure.

I spoke to Ornstein about what happens now. An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.

Greg Sargent: What are the chances that 10 Republican senators vote for this commission?

Norman Ornstein: Once McConnell flatly opposed any commission, it created an uphill battle for getting 10 Republicans. If you got 50 Republicans in the House, then maybe it could happen. But it’s not likely.

Sargent: Let’s walk through the alternatives. One would be that Nancy Pelosi could set up a select committee tomorrow if she wanted to, right?

Ornstein: Pelosi could craft a plan for a special committee. We’ve had them many times in the House. You’d undoubtedly have the votes to do it.

Sargent: What would a select committee look like and what might be the problems with it?

Ornstein: Most select committees have an even number of members from both parties, because the whole idea is to take them away from being partisan. But there’s nothing that mandates that a select committee have equal Democrats and Republicans.

You could set it up with a slender majority of Democrats or with a larger majority. But the big challenge is the political one. You’d have to let the Speaker and the Minority Leader, or their representatives, choose the members.

Kevin McCarthy is going to do whatever he can, first, to block a committee, and second, to stack it with members designed to turn it into a farce.

Sargent: How can we have a bipartisan select committee investigate an attack that Trump incited against democracy, when one party was heavily complicit in inspiring that attack, doesn’t want to admit its own culpability for that, and is in the process of abandoning democracy?

Ornstein: It’s why I do not believe a select committee can possibly work. Republicans don’t want information to emerge about what happened on Jan. 6. They don’t want to focus on the role of the president — or their own party members.

Sargent: Could you theoretically construct a select committee to give the chair unilateral control over subpoenas?

Ornstein: Yes, you could give the chair unilateral subpoena power. But remember, congressional subpoena power is theoretically extraordinarily powerful. Practically it can be subverted fairly easily. We’ve seen instance after instance of people defying subpoenas, taking it to court, and stretching it out for years.

Sargent: A select committee would have to consist of current members, correct?

Ornstein: Yes.

Sargent: So what is our alternative?

Ornstein: There are two. One I would not like is to have the president create a group by executive order, a commission.

Sargent: You’re talking about something like the Kerner Commission created by LBJ to investigate the causes of urban rioting?

Ornstein: Yes. You could do a Kerner-type commission. And the president could pick some remarkably distinguished Republicans and Democrats to do that kind of inquiry.

For things like the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy, there was national consensus that this was a hugely significant thing that we need to get to the bottom of.

We don’t have a party on the Republican side willing to create that national consensus. [So] it’s better if the president is not directly linked to any of this.

The whole assault was based on the “big lie” that Joe Biden didn’t win the election. If Joe Biden creates the group looking into this, it’s going to provide fodder for Trump and his acolytes to turn it against him.

Sargent: There isn’t going to be a serious inquiry into what happened that’s bipartisan.

Ornstein: The only way to make this work otherwise is if we can find a way to have the attorney general pick a group that uses the power of the Justice Department — not like a special prosecutor that can itself bring actions against people, but that could make recommendations where action by prosecutors was warranted or not. Justice Department subpoena power is a completely different matter.

Sargent: What would be the legal authority or mechanism for creating something like this?

Ornstein: The Justice Department has the responsibility to look at potential criminal violations, especially those that involve sedition. So doing it in an innovative fashion makes sense.

Whether the attorney general can do this on his own, I’m not entirely sure. If you had to have some kind of executive order, I’d rather have it done in a fashion that empowers the attorney general to do this [with] a commitment from the attorney general that he’d be hands off once this group were created.

But it seems to me you could be innovative here. The attorney general under the regulations of the Justice Department has some ability to create groups like this.

Sargent: In essence, it would be an investigation to determine whether there was criminality, and then it would produce a report on what happened, no matter what it recommended in terms of criminal charges?

Ornstein: That’s the idea. You could have a public report.

Sargent: There isn’t going to be a bipartisan effort at accountability as long as one party is committed to covering up what happened.

Ornstein: That’s the tragic and infuriating bottom line here. It’s hard to imagine something like this that doesn’t have full buy in from everybody who has a drop of patriotic blood running through his or her veins.

That you have one party which has as a singular goal evading responsibility and covering up what happened is almost beyond description.

Burn It Down

I first came across an opinion piece by one of my favourite columnists, Eugene Robinson, two weeks ago.  At that time, I considered posting it here, but decided against it, thinking it was a bit … much.  Today, however, in light of the destruction that was wrought yesterday by 43 men and women who shredded both their oaths of office and the U.S. Constitution, Robinson’s piece seems apropos of the moment.

This nation’s government can only function as it was intended if we have two distinct and separate political parties, but what we cannot have is one of those parties lacking a conscience, lacking honesty, lacking integrity.  The Republican party now has none of those attributes and can no longer be considered a legitimate party, can no longer be taken seriously by any who care about the fate of this nation and the 330 million people living here.


If the GOP is to rise from the ashes, it has to burn first

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

Feb. 1, 2021 at 4:26 p.m. EST

Before a sane, responsible political party can rise like a phoenix from the ashes of today’s dangerously unhinged GOP, there must be ashes to rise from. The nation is going to have to destroy the Republican Party to save it.

Parties reform and rebuild themselves after suffering massive, scorched-earth defeats. Since Republicans decided to follow Donald Trump and Fox News into the dystopian hellscape of white supremacy, paranoid conspiracy theory and know-nothing rejection of science, they have lost control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. Yet it has become obvious that those defeats are not nearly enough.

You might think the violent and deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol — an unprecedented attack on our democracy, incited by Trump’s election-fraud Big Lie — would snap the GOP back into reality. Unbelievably, though, you would be wrong. 

If anything, the party is heading deeper into the wilderness. Look at how the two most powerful Republicans left in Washington behaved last week. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to bend the knee to Trump. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) voted to question whether Trump’s coming impeachment trial is even constitutional. 

What had looked like a flicker of sanity earlier, when McCarthy said Trump, among others, had some “responsibility” for the Capitol riot and McConnell said Trump “provoked” it, was nothing but a mirage. And anyone who expects there to be 17 Republican votes in the Senate to convict Trump, no matter how damning the evidence may be, will almost surely be disappointed. 

No one should have any doubt: The GOP bears no resemblance to the party of Abraham Lincoln. It is now the party of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who believes in the hallucinatory QAnon conspiracy theorywho has suggested that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is a child murderer and who thinks 2018’s California wildfires may have been ignited by a giant space-based laser somehow controlled by Jews. Also, high-speed rail is involved somehow.

Do mainstream Republicans such as McCarthy and McConnell believe such nonsense? No, but down by only 10 votes in the House and with a tied Senate, they do believe they are within striking range of regaining control of both the House and the Senate in next year’s midterm election, and they are choosing power — or its prospect — over principle.

For the sake of their party and the nation, those hopes must be utterly dashed. 

The 2022 midterms have to be more like 2002, during President George W. Bush’s first term, when his party gained seats in both the Senate and the House. That uncommon result was generally attributed to a groundswell of solidarity following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But the nation, right now, should be equally traumatized. In January, the United States lost more than 95,000 people to covid-19 — the equivalent of a 9/11’s worth of death every single day. Just weeks ago, we saw the Capitol sacked for the first time since 1814. And a majority of the Republican rank-and-file clings to the lie that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. 

GOP House members who had the integrity to vote for impeachment, such as Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Tom Rice of South Carolina, are under withering attack from their fellow Republicans. The warning to Republican senators is explicit: Vote to convict Trump — and, effectively, purge him from the party — at your own peril. 

The GOP won’t or can’t reform itself. So we must help the party by crushing it.

The fact that dozens of major corporations such as Walmart, Google and AT&T have announced they will not give campaign donations to Republicans who voted to decertify the elections results is a start. But we consumers need to demand that corporate America go further by insisting that trade associations follow suit — and that companies at least ask their executives to refrain from giving to GOP Super PACs, the dark-money realm where donations are not statutorily bound by tight limits. 

We saw how Georgia voters recoiled from Trumpism by ousting two Republican senators and electing two Democrats, one Black and one Jewish, in their place — and that was before the Capitol riot. The necessary ruin of the GOP is far from an impossible quest.

It was GOP voters in Georgia who gave us Greene, most accurately identified as (R-QAnon), and she should be made the face of the GOP. The choice is binary and stark: If you don’t believe in Jewish space lasers, you can’t vote for Republicans. And if you loved the old Republican Party, you can’t have it back until you smash today’s GOP to smithereens.

What A Welcome Change!

One of the areas in which Donald Trump was inexperienced, uneducated, inept and incompetent was foreign policy.  President Biden, on the other hand, has vast experience in international relations and has dealt extensively with foreign policy both in his role as a Senator, and later as Vice President under President Obama.  During Trump’s four years in office, the United States became first a laughingstock around the globe, and then an object of horror as our allies came to realize that we were no longer a trusted friend, but a nation under erratic leadership that was both unpredictable and unstable.  It will take time to rebuild the trust and respect we once had, but if anybody is up to that challenge, I believe it is President Biden.

An OpEd by Max Boot in Thursday’s Washington Post summarizes my own feeling of our new leadership in terms of our relations with other nations.  I hope you’ll find a few minutes to watch President Biden’s speech* … for the first time in four years, we have heard a President speak on matters that concern us all … no yelling, no facial contortions, no chants of “Lock her up” … just sensible, intelligent speech.  And I thrilled to hear him say …

“We believe free press isn’t an adversary, rather it’s essential, free press is essential to the health of a democracy.”

Such a welcome change from his predecessor who never missed a chance to denigrate the press, calling them the “enemy of the people.”


With his foreign policy speech, Biden begins to repair the damage that Trump did

Max-BootOpinion by 

Max Boot

Columnist

Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:40 p.m. EST

Joe Biden has given countless foreign policy speeches as a senator, vice president and presidential candidate. On Thursday, he went to the State Department to deliver his first foreign policy speech as president. His remarks were hardly radical, but they were important nonetheless, because they signal a new tone and a new attitude in U.S. foreign policy after four years of “America First.”

Biden made clear he understands that the damage done by former president Donald Trump, who was never mentioned by name, will not be repaired overnight. “We’ve moved quickly to begin restoring American engagement internationally,” Biden said, because it is imperative “to earn back our leadership position” and to reclaim “our credibility and moral authority.”

Although Biden proclaimed, “America is back. Diplomacy is back,” he showed keen awareness that other nations around the world will be distrustful of U.S. leadership after the disasters of the past four years. Why should anyone trust again a country that couldn’t handle a pandemic — and that just saw a violent insurrection in its Capitol?

No doubt Biden noticed what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said to Axios a few days ago: “We are used to believing that the United States has the ideal democratic institutions, where power is transferred calmly. … In Ukraine, we lived through two revolutions. … We understood such things can happen in the world. But that it could happen in the United States? No one expected that. … I was very worried. … I did not want you to have a coup. After something like this, I believe it would be very difficult for the world to see the United States as a symbol of democracy.”

Biden tried to allay such concerns by suggesting that Trump’s attempts to overthrow democracy could actually make us more determined champions of freedom. “The American people will emerge from this stronger, more determined and better equipped to unite the world in fighting to defend democracy — because we have fought for it ourselves,” he said.

It’s a neat argument — trying to turn our weakness into strength — and I hope it’s true. But if the Senate votes to acquit Trump — as seems almost certain, given that all but five Republican senators voted to dismiss the charge — it will unfortunately send a message of impunity for misconduct that will undermine Biden’s efforts to rebuild confidence in America as the leader of the free world.

There is nothing Biden can do to force Republicans to do their duty. But he certainly is doing all that is in his power to reinvigorate American diplomacy and standing in the world. Much of what he had to say on Thursday would have sounded like tired banalities coming at any other point in our history — but given what we have just experienced, the familiar phrases that rolled off Biden’s lips sounded fresh and important.

He called for “defending freedom,” “upholding universal rights,” “respecting the rule of law” and “treating every person with dignity,” and he said those principles constitute “our inexhaustible source of strength” and “America’s abiding advantage.” On one level: No kidding. So what else is new? But on another level: Thank goodness he’s saying it! I felt like cheering while Biden was talking. Those are all concepts we once took for granted yet are now badly in need of articulation after Trump trashed them.

So, too, there was something deeply comforting in Biden, first, admitting that we must address “global challenges” ranging from “the pandemic to the climate crisis” and, second, asserting that these challenges will only “be solved by nations working together and in common.” This is not exactly a blinding insight, but we can no longer take anything for granted. Trump, too often, treated climate change as a hoax and the pandemic as a plot to depress his popularity ratings.

Biden also struck an “old is new” chord by calling out Russian dictator Vladimir Putin: “I made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions — interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens — are over.” He didn’t have a lot of specifics to offer — he did not unveil any new sanctions on Putin and his gang — but simply the fact that he spoke the truth about Russian attacks and demanded that Putin release jailed dissident Alexei Navalny marks a sharp and welcome break from the recent past.

Biden made clear that Russia isn’t the only dictatorship that is no longer going to receive a blank check from Washington: He announced that the United States will no longer support Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen, which have produced a humanitarian catastrophe.

In a sense, Biden did not break much new ground: He merely said the kinds of things that any president before Trump would have said. But to hear them now, after four years of unhinged rhetoric and actions, is novel and newsworthy.

*Link to transcript of President Biden’s foreign policy speech

A Peek Into Trump’s Future

Given that I have a serious case of mind bounce today, I have not been able to focus on any one thing for more than 20 seconds, so instead I will share with you Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin’s view of what Trump’s life may be like after he leaves the White House next week.  I take some satisfaction in knowing that it won’t be any bed of roses for him, and knowing that he brought it on himself with no help from anybody else.


Trump’s future looks rotten

Jennifer-RubinOpinion by 

Jennifer Rubin

Columnist

Jan. 14, 2021 at 9:45 a.m. EST

President Trump faces a horrid future. He is the first U.S. president in history to be impeached twice; he lost the popular vote twice; he lost both the House and Senate for his party; and more than 383,000 Americans have died from covid-19 on his watch. He has clearly sewn up the title of “worst president ever.” If found guilty by a soon-to-be Democratic-controlled Senate, he will be unable to run for office again and may lose his post-presidential benefits (e.g., salary, travel allowance). But that is far from his biggest worry.

Trump may be sued civilly or charged criminally for tax avoidance or other financial crimes that state prosecutors in New York are investigating. Depending on the charges, he could face significant fines or even imprisonment. (Trump has maintained that he has done nothing improper.)

Speaking of finances, Trump reportedly has more than $400 million in loans coming due. However, his banks are cutting ties. Deutsche Bank, which holds about $340 million of the debt, and Signature Bank do not want to do business with him. It is far from clear what lender is going to take him on as a client. He might need help from his overseas authoritarian friends.

Trump may also face a federal criminal investigation for seeking to change election results in Georgia during two phone calls with state election officials — one of which was recorded. In addition to potential federal crimes for election offenses, prosecutors will need to look at whether his vague threat of criminal liability in his call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger qualified as extortion.

That was all before we got to his Jan. 6 activities. Federal investigators and the U.S. attorney for Washington, D.C., as well as senior Justice Department officials will need to determine whether there is a basis to charge Trump with incitement to riot or conspiracy to commit sedition. They will look not simply at Trump’s remarks that day, but also his tweet calling for “wild” protests in the capital, his rhetoric after the election and his conduct during the siege, when he failed to issue a clear, unequivocal directive for his people to stand down. (That the president managed to issue a statement on the day of his second impeachment proactively calling for “NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind” makes his hours-long silence on Jan. 6 look even worse.)

Beyond criminal liability, Trump could surely be sued by the relatives of those killed or injured in the siege, or to cover the costs incurred to repair damage. He cannot be sued for “official conduct,” but leading a riot to overturn an election will be difficult to slot into the category of “official duties,” to put it mildly. It was a continuation of his campaign intended to give him a second term, not to effectuate any policy or interest during his existing term.

Even on the slim chance that Trump is never charged with any crime and manages to escape all civil liability, he will be deeply in debt (his original debt plus any costs to defend himself in court). He will also be a social and business pariah, banned from social media and unwelcome in most democratic countries. It is not clear how many people are going to pay to belong to a seditionist’s Mar-a-Lago Club or stay at any of his properties.

One can surely understand why the prospect of losing was so terrifying for him — aside from the humiliation. Quite simply, he faces a miserable post-presidency.

Alternative Facts — 1984 or 2021?

The events of the past four years have often brought to mind George Orwell’s 1984, starting in the first week with Kellyanne Conway’s assertion that there can be ‘alternative facts’.  But even more so are recent events, such as Trump’s uncanny ability to convince some 70% of republicans that he actually won the election, contrary to what the numbers say.  Charles Lane is on the editorial board of The Washington Post, and today has written a very thought-provoking editorial that I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read and to ponder, comparing Orwell’s dystopian novel to our dystopian reality in the U.S. today.


Trump is playing an Orwellian numbers game

Opinion by

Charles-LaneCharles Lane

Editorial writer and columnist

Jan. 4, 2021 at 5:58 p.m. EST

“Mathematics,” Galileo said, “is the language in which God has written the universe.” Though an atheist, George Orwell very much agreed with the Italian astronomer that quantification is an essential attribute of objective reality.

Orwell understood, however, that politics is not a scientific endeavor, but rather “a sort of sub-atomic or non-Euclidean world” where perception could prevail over substance, sometimes dangerously, and sometimes lastingly. He hoped for a decent politics that would enable people to discern objective truth, and to act on it — consistent with their principles.

And so, in his greatest novel, he framed an individual’s protest against tyranny as an insistence on arithmetic. “Freedom,” the protagonist of “1984,” Winston Smith, confided to his diary, “is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.”

In the Ministry of Love’s dungeons, a different credo prevails: “Whatever the party holds to be truth is truth.” The party’s interrogator knew it had broken Smith’s resistance when, under horrific torture, Smith first lost the ability to count four fingers held in front of him, then came sincerely to believe that the four might be five.

President Trump did not torture Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, on Saturday — life does not imitate art to that degree. Yet his attempt to pressure this astonished official and his lawyer into “recalculating” the state’s certified presidential vote totals otherwise deserved the admittedly overused adjective “Orwellian.”

As Orwell illustrated in “1984,” the power to make another person believe something that literally cannot be true — not just to mouth the false words but to believe them — is the ultimate form of domination.

In a sense this is what Trump is doing with Republicans now: He is making acceptance of his phony numbers — figures that are not just false, but impossible — into a test of personal and party loyalty.

In reality, the result of Georgia’s election was: Joe Biden got 2,473,633 votes and Donald Trump got 2,461,854; the former figure is 11,779 votes greater than the latter. These figures have been checked, rechecked and verified repeatedly. They denote real votes cast by actual citizens.

In Trump’s reality, however, such things never happened, but all sorts of fraud — “they went to the table with the black robe and the black shield, and they pulled out the votes” — did occur, and he really “won that state by hundreds of thousands of votes,” as he told Raffensperger.

Raffensperger replied, sounding almost like Orwell’s beleaguered Smith: “We don’t agree that you have won.” He was so incredulous at the president’s words, perhaps, or so desperate to placate him without capitulating, that he used a verb — “agree” — implicitly making Trump’s contentions worthy of debate.

This counts as a courageous performance, however, especially given the threat of legal action Trump made against Raffensperger (albeit probably empty), and the hostility the president is whipping up against both the secretary of state and Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp (R), on social media.

Meanwhile, no beatings or electric shocks have proved necessary to bring others in the GOP into line, starting with the 77 percent of Trump voters who believe he was cheated out of victory, according to a Fox News poll.

The president’s own irresponsible statements were enough to convince them that he had been the victim of massive fraud, just as his concession to Biden would have convinced them of the opposite, had he chosen to behave like almost every other losing candidate in the history of U.S. presidential politics.

For numerous elected officials in the GOP’s upper echelons, however, the threat of a pro-Trump primary challenge, or fear of being rendered nonviable in a 2024 Republican presidential primary, induces obedience, or what they hope will be a sufficiently sincere-seeming display of it.

On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers, including 13 senators, plan to confront electoral votes for Biden with a challenge, the premise of which, essentially, is that two plus two might make five.

Leading the charge in the Senate is Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), joined by fellow 2024 hopeful Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). When he was running against Trump in the May 2016 Indiana primary and feeling offended by Trump’s insinuation that Cruz’s father might have been involved in the JFK assassination, Cruz said: “This man is a pathological liar, he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. . . . Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it.” Now, though, Ted Cruz loves Big Brother.

Fortunately, this maneuver will fail, rejected by the rest of the Senate. When you add the Democrats in that chamber to reality-based Republicans — such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Mitt Romney (Utah), John Thune (S.D.) and Ben Sasse (Neb.) — the number of votes to accept Biden’s electors could reach 86.

And 86 is, still, a majority of 100.

Republican Hatred Is The New Party Line

Even some republicans, conservatives, have questioned what values, if any, the Republican Party retains today.  Ever since 2008 when Barack Obama was elected to the highest office in the land and the racists came out in droves to object to one of “those people” being elected, I have questioned what the GOP actually stands for today. From where I sit, it appears they stand largely for hate, for bigotry, for cruelty.  And money.  Let us not forget that profit is their ultimate goal, at the expense of all else, even our lives.  An article I came across yesterday seems to confirm much of what I’ve thought.  Paul Waldman is an op-ed columnist and senior writer for The American Prospect, as well as a contributor to The Week and a blogger for The Washington Post‘s Plum Line blog.  Take a look at his view of today’s GOP …


Hatred of liberals is all that’s left of conservatism

Paul-WaldemanOpinion by

Paul Waldman

Columnist

Dec. 11, 2020 at 12:45 p.m. EST

If you were dropped in from another country without knowing anything about the United States and surveyed our current political moment, what would you conclude about the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement it represents? As 2020 comes to an end, what is conservatism about?

After nearly four years of Donald Trump’s presidency in which no misdeed was too vulgar or corrupt for conservatives to defend, now culminating in an outright war against democracy itself, you might be tempted to answer, “Nothing.” Though that’s not quite true, the real answer is not much more encouraging.

Some years ago, I wrote a book arguing that Democrats should learn from the things Republicans did well. One of these was that the GOP had a simple foundation of shared beliefs that could be easily communicated to voters. Ask a Republican running for any office from dogcatcher all the way up to president what it meant to be a conservative, and they’d tick off some version of the same four pillars: small government, low taxes, a strong military and traditional social values.

Conservatives still believe in those things. But no one could seriously argue that they are any longer the animating purpose of the Republican Party. Instead, the one thing that unites the right and drives the GOP is hatred of liberals. That hatred has consumed every policy goal, every ideological principle and even every ounce of commitment to country.

haters

“But Democrats hate conservatives, too!” you might say. Indeed they do. Negative partisanship — being more motivated by your dislike of the other party than by affection for your own — is a key feature of contemporary politics. But when 18 Republican state attorneys general, more than half of House Republicans and multiple conservative organizations all demand that the results of a presidential election where no fraud was found be simply tossed aside so that Trump can be declared winner, something more profound has been revealed.

The Republican Party has proved that its hatred of liberals is so foundational that it will abandon any pretense of commitment to democracy, if democracy allows for the possibility that liberals might win an election. They have come to regard Democratic voters as essentially undeserving of having their will translated into power, no matter how large their numbers.

They might have believed it before, but now they’re willing to proclaim it even after they just lost a presidential election by 7 million votes and a 306-232 electoral college margin. Forget all that inspiring talk about the genius of the Framers and their vision for democracy; if having an election means that the people we hate might win, then the election must simply be nullified.

You might say that the Republican officials signing on to this deeply anti-American crusade are doing so out of fear as much as conviction, but the two are not mutually exclusive. All elected officials worry about contradicting their base, but in today’s Republican Party, that worry is almost completely divorced from policy. Yes, you’d get flak if you voted to raise taxes, but the greatest danger comes from failing to fight the left with sufficient vigor.

That danger, furthermore, is not only electoral but physical; the Republican leader in the Pennsylvania state Senate said this week that if she refused to sign a letter demanding that Congress toss out her state’s votes in the presidential race, “I’d get my house bombed tonight.” It might not actually happen, but the point is that Republican officeholders understand well what their party values above all else and what kinds of transgressions will not be tolerated.

Trump has often cited the extraordinary loyalty he has received from his party’s voters; it’s one of the few things he says that’s true. But it isn’t because Trump signed a corporate tax cut and slashed environmental regulations.

When you ask the typical Trump supporter what they love about him, they don’t mention some substantive policy position; what they say is that he is a fighter. The petty squabbles, the insulting tweets, the deranged conspiracy theories — the things that the Never Trumpers and most other Americans find off-putting are exactly what endears him to the Republican base.

Trump fights and fights, angrily, bitterly, endlessly driven forward by his hatred of the people his supporters hate. That’s what the base loves, and every other Republican knows it.

Everything about the election that just ended reinforced for conservatives that nothing is more important than hating liberals. The rhetoric of the 2020 campaign, starting with Trump but going all the way down the ballot, was that if Democrats were elected, then it would not be suboptimal or bad or even terrible, but the end of everything you care about. Towns and cities would burn, religion would be outlawed, America as we know it would cease to exist. These horrors were not presented as metaphors, but as the literal truth.

In the face of that potential apocalypse, who could possibly care about mundane policy goals? So no Republican argued that if we didn’t cut the capital gains tax then it would be the end of life as we know it. They want to cut the capital gains tax, sure — but its importance pales next to the urgency of stopping the cataclysm that would engulf us all if Democrats were to hold power.

To be clear, there are still thoughtful conservatives out there trying to advance a coherent ideological project. But seldom have they mattered less to their movement and their party. They may produce white papers on free-market health-care solutions or innovative tax plans, but no one really cares.

If it doesn’t Own the Libs, it doesn’t matter on the right. That’s what the Republican Party and the conservative movement are about today, and it might take a long time for them to change.

Republicans Have Lost Their Way

Michael Gerson is a ‘neo-conservative’ Republican.  He served as the White House Director of Speechwriting and a senior policy advisor for nearly six years under President George W. Bush and is now a columnist for The Washington Post.  Like other Republicans and former Republicans, Gerson is no fan of Donald Trump and he makes no bones about it.  In his latest column, he takes on the Republican Party of which he is a member, and his assessment is spot-on.


The GOP’s agenda under Trump: Voter suppression, pandemic denial and a personality cult

Opinion by 

michael-gersonMichael Gerson

Columnist

Oct. 19, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. EDT

One of the most symbolic moments of campaign 2020 was when the apparatus of the Republican Party strained and groaned to produce a platform reading, “RESOLVED, That the Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”

It was, in its own content-free, witless way, an assertion of power. The party that had produced a platform every four years since 1856 had become, well, anything President Trump wished at the moment. It was a declaration and recognition of personal rule.

After nearly four years, it is fair to ask: With the GOP as putty in Trump’s hand, what form has it taken? What are the large, organizing commitments of the GOP during the Trump captivity?

One would have to be voter suppression. What began, for some, as an effort to ensure ballot security has become a campaign to control the content of the electorate by limiting its size.

Not long ago, I would have regarded this as conspiracy thinking. At some point, however, a pattern becomes a plot. There have been Republican efforts to make voting more difficult in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma. These have included: complicated absentee ballot processes, strict voter ID rules, obstacles for voters returning from prison, objections to the broad distribution of ballots and logistical obstacles to early voting. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, set the example of shamelessness by limiting vast counties to a single ballot drop box. The president has attempted to destroy trust in the whole electoral enterprise in preparation for legal challenges to mail-in votes.

Again and again, Republicans have used, or attempted to use, the power they gained from voters to undermine democracy. This has a political intention but (for some) it also has an ideological explanation. It is the logical electoral implication of nativism. If too much diversity is the cause of our national problems, it can be fought by restricting immigration or by restricting the democratic participation of minorities. In either case, these are actions motivated by Republican fears of being swamped by people they can’t relate to and voted into obsolescence. So the GOP seems to expend more energy and creativity on discouraging minority voting than it does on doing minority outreach.

The second characteristic of the new GOP is denial of a pandemic in the midst of a surging pandemic. Trump and many other Republicans think they can win only if American voters forget about more than 219,000 deaths* from covid-19 and the utterly incompetent federal response to the crisis. It is hard to recall any American presidential campaign that depended so directly on the outbreak of mass amnesia.

Trump’s recent campaign visit to Wisconsin was remarkable for its brazenness. On a day Wisconsin saw its highest level of new infections during the pandemic, Trump told a crowd that had to be screened for coughs and fevers that the country was “rounding the corner” on covid-19 and that their state was insufficiently open. This is denial pressed to the point of lunacy. It is the elephant urging people to ignore the elephant in the room.

The third organizing commitment of the GOP under Trump is loyalty to his person. At the beginning of his term, there was a Republican attempt to understand the populism that elected Trump and draw its policy implications. That ended quickly. The president made clear that the only thing that really mattered about populism was its end product: himself.

Populist causes — such as discrediting the media and “owning the libs” — are instruments to protect Trump from attack and project his own power. His whole term has been the chaotic and brutish attempt to find the people who would take his whims as law. And elected Republicans (except the admirable Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah) have been ruled by the fear of Trump’s tweeted tantrums. As Trump seems headed toward electoral failure, a few Republicans are recovering their own voices. But it won’t be easy to escape this taint. Years of complicity with Trump’s assault on American institutions is less like a bad haircut than an infected tattoo.

Some would add a conservative judiciary to this list of GOP commitments, and there is a case to be made. But this is no longer advocated in the context of moral conservatism, as it was in the Reagan era. The goal now is to secure conservative judges from a morally anarchic administration. A cause has been reduced to a transaction.

What should we make of this GOP agenda: voter suppression, disease denial and a personality cult dedicated to a con man? It is the weakest appeal to the public of any modern presidential candidate. The Republican Party may win or lose. But it deserves to lose.

*Note that as of this writing, the death toll in the U.S. from coronavirus is at least 225,570.

To Hold Trump Accountable — Or Not?

I apologize in advance for the lengthiness of this post, but I thought it was one worth consideration.  I have mixed feelings on this issue of whether Trump should be held to account for his actions such as obstruction of justice, bribery, conspiracy to defraud, and campaign finance violations once he leaves office.  On the one hand, I do want to see him treated just as any of the rest of us would be for harming the people of this nation, but on the other hand … can we truly begin to heal the Great Divide in this nation if Trump remains headline news for the next two years or longer?  I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read Sam Tanenhaus’ OpEd from The Washington Post last Friday


The reckoning

The country can’t recover from Trump’s presidency unless he’s held accountable

tannenhaus-samBy Sam Tanenhaus

October 16, 2020

Some Americans entertain a fantasy that goes like this: President Trump is voted out of office, finally faces justice for his serial misconduct and shuffles off to prison. A wearier, probably larger population looks forward to scrubbing the nation’s memory of these past four years and returning to pre-Trump life. A third sizable group shows unwavering loyalty to Trump.

One lesson of American history is that the country’s worst injuries are those we’ve caused ourselves. This history is not uplifting, but it is edifying, and it haunts. Failing to perform the necessary diagnostic surgery after a time of collective wrongdoing has costs. The steepest is this: Subsequent generations inherit a weakened democracy. Today it is imperative to confront the facts of the Trump era. We elected as president a homegrown insurrectionist. He rose to the highest position in our democracy and damaged it. Even now, he continues to assault our laws and institutions, our independent judiciary, our national security, our health, and our constitutional system of checks and balances. It’s unimaginable, ludicrous even, to contemplate doing nothing about Donald Trump.

No single course for a post-Trump reckoning will satisfy, let alone reconcile, the country’s divergent constituencies. And some damage can’t easily be undone — harm to America’s standing in the world, for example, and the fatally negligent response to the coronavirus pandemic. But in the search for accountability there are middle-path options that fall between prosecuting this singular president and prosecuting his broader legacy. One is to begin with a problem that Americans across the ideological spectrum agree needs fixing: our elections.

Elections are the place to start because so much of Trump’s misconduct relates to them. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election resulted in three dozen indictments or guilty pleas and five prison sentences, all related to Trump campaign actions during that election and afterward, when the president and others tried to cover up what they had done. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, have both done time. The Senate Intelligence Committee — led by Republicans — produced a nearly 1,000-page report detailing the Trump team’s misdeeds, most pertaining to the 2016 election. Prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, are digging further into Trump’s payment of hush money to a porn star ahead of the vote. And of course, in his impeachment, Trump was charged with misusing his office to try to get help from Ukraine in his reelection campaign — in violation of election law and of the framers’ fear that a president might, in James Madison’s words, “betray his trust to foreign powers.”

In at least one thing Trump has been proved right. Joe Biden is a strong opponent. If he is elected (increasingly likely), and if Democrats hold on to their majority in the House (it seems probable) and achieve one in the Senate (distinctly possible), they will be in a position to mount the kind of full-scale investigation they have been kept from doing while Trump is president.

But will the next administration hold the Trump crew truly accountable for past crimes, such as those uncovered by Mueller, the House impeachment committees and the Senate, to say nothing of the Trump family’s financial dealings? Should it? Yes, some will say, because of Trump’s long trail of malfeasance and mis-governance, which also involves top administration figures such as Attorney General William Barr. But the price of such an inquiry would be considerable. It could rebound against Democrats and undermine public confidence in their fairness and sense of proportion.

We are a fiercely divided country. As the historian Garry Wills remarked to me recently, the true crisis of our moment consists “of Trump showing us not about Trump but about us.” Republicans continue to support Trump as faithfully as any president in modern memory. It is true that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but he won 30 states. No matter the result in November, the tribal feelings that now define American politics will not change. They might intensify.

This is partly an outgrowth of Trump’s approach to the presidency — his unapologetic conception of the office as explicitly serving him and those on his side, even as he wages war against those who oppose or even question him. The formula, as Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine, is blunt and direct: “If Trump’s opponents are doing something, it’s a crime; if Trump and his allies are doing it, it isn’t.”

The president’s supporters have a grievance of their own. They can say that Trump’s enemies tried to delegitimize him from the moment he took office. His detractors spoke early and excitedly about impeachment, as though the removal of a president was sport. This was why cooler heads, like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urged caution after Democrats regained a majority in the House.

With Ukraine, everything changed. The facts were clear. Trump’s plea to the Ukrainian president that he “do us a favor” by announcing that he would investigate Biden was a textbook case of abuse of power. It hardly mattered. Republicans mounted a counteroffensive, echoing Trump’s cry of “witch hunt.” The rest was an elaborate performance in which the only verdict that seemed to matter was public opinion. Yet the most significant poll showed that two-thirds of Americans, regardless of the outcome, would not change their minds.

Attacks on Trump, no matter how justified, have dependably aroused his base. There is no reason to think his post-presidency will be different. What’s to stop Citizen Trump from continuing to operate at the margins of the law, but without the cover of the White House and in the knowledge that there would be a reluctance to prosecute a former president? A fresh investigation, broadcast over the “lying” media, could play right into Trump’s program of self-glorification.

And yet, America is not just a political carnival with gladiators in the arena and spectators in the stands. It is also a democratic republic — a nation of laws, procedures, history and tradition. A good, or rather ghastly, example of history failing to hold its chief actors accountable is the first president to be impeached, Andrew Johnson, in 1868. For many years schoolchildren were taught, with the aid of the book “Profiles in Courage” by John F. Kennedy, that Johnson’s escape from removal was an act of high statesmanship. Supposedly Sen. Edmund Ross of Kansas, a Republican who went against his party and voted to acquit, “may well have preserved for ourselves and posterity constitutional government in the United States.” The real villains, in Kennedy’s view (shared by many at the time), were the “Radical Republicans,” who arrogantly treated the defeated Confederate states as “conquered provinces” and wanted to “crush their despised foe” and voted to convict.

Today the episode is judged very differently. Johnson, most agree, was one of the worst presidents in history and a danger to the republic. Taking office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he flagrantly violated the principles of post-Civil War Reconstruction. He sided with “all-white Southern state governments full of ex-Confederates, stood by when they enacted ‘black codes’ that oppressed ex-slaves, and took no action when racist mobs began to murder black Southerners,” according to a history in The Washington Post. Johnson’s removal would have sent a powerful message about the nation’s new, post-slavery course; his acquittal instead reinforced pro-Confederate sympathies, which have lingered for generations.

So, too, with the case of the next president to face impeachment, Richard Nixon. He resigned in 1974 when it became clear that he faced removal for his Watergate crimes. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardoned him. For years, the thinking was that Ford’s action was statesmanlike, and the nation gratefully heard his soothing assurances that “our long national nightmare is over.” But the pardon helped plant the seeds of a counter-history of Watergate, promulgated by Nixon and his defenders, that Nixon was not the perpetrator but the victim, hounded by the liberal media, and that the investigations and impeachment were an  example of “the criminalization of politics.”

What happened afterward may suggest a sensible approach to holding Trump accountable. In 1975, after the New York Times published a sensational report by Seymour Hersh under the headline “Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years,” the Senate organized a committee to examine the long history of Cold War intelligence. The chairman was Sen. Frank Church of Idaho. Respected legislators from both parties, giants of the period, also were on the panel. Their inquest looked hard at the Nixon administration but also pressed further and turned up patterns of wrongdoing by three predecessors, Presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Not everyone was happy with the result. The intelligence community felt under siege. But no one could accuse the committee of being partisan.

Here is a possible road map, then, for a public accounting of the Trump years. Instead of mounting an investigation of all his excesses and corruptions, the Biden administration could reach out to Trump’s supporters with a statement acknowledging their concerns, and Trump’s, that our elections are “rigged.” Why not take him at his word? To some extent, many are — in both parties. Each has assembled teams of lawyers and operatives for state-by-state legal battles, in the expectation that if Trump loses, he will challenge the results.

At that point, rightly or wrongly, a substantial portion of the country will question the validity of our elections. This has happened before, in 2000. Biden, as president, might address these concerns, respectfully announcing that he will set up an Election Commission, a formal investigation on the scale of the Warren Commission, which tried to uncover the facts of the Kennedy assassination, or the commission formed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

A more immediate example is the panel convened after the 2000 election. Chaired by former presidents Ford and Jimmy Carter, it presented recommendations. One was that there be a ceiling of 2 percent on the share of votes thrown out because of errors. Another was to have a federal agency create national standards for voting machines. A third was to restore voting rights in all 50 states to felons who had served their sentences. President George W. Bush supported the “key principles” stated by the panel and urged Congress to act on them. But the operative word was “recommendations.” The report did not say the government should require these changes. And so almost 20 years later, the defects remain.

But the circumstances are different now; the crisis has grown. Trump has sown doubts about our elections for the whole of his presidency. As soon as he took office, he declared that the 2016 election was “rigged” because the popular vote had gone against him. He organized a “commission” of his own on voter fraud, with Vice President Pence in charge. It quietly disbanded eight months later, having met a total of two times and without filing a report. The material it did produce was “glaringly empty,” in the words of one member. A commission set up by Biden could take up the work of Trump’s panel, only push much further.

And this is where the Church Committee could be a good model. Just as it pursued the trail of intelligence wrongdoing back to the early years of the Cold War, so Biden’s blue-ribbon panel would start with the 2000 election and the recommendations made afterward, this time pointing out what was lost because those recommendations were not adopted. From this premise, the commission could range widely and hear testimony on many important matters — for instance, efforts to suppress African American and Hispanic votes in battleground states. Every Republican who has affirmed or suggested that the 2020 elections are rigged, beginning with Trump himself, would be given a chance to testify with immunity and in a closed session, their words recorded. The findings would be released with ample transcripts.

Such a proceeding will be vulnerable to accusations of bias. But the facts would be on the record, and perhaps we would learn more about how democracy works, and doesn’t work, and what we can do to repair it.