Bad News and Possible Good News

The bad news isn’t actually news, but it’s good news that more people are finally admitting how bad it is. From Charles Pierce of Esquire:

Call me the Wet Blanket of the Gods, but I despair of ever making common cause with people who volunteer to live in Bedlam. From IPSOS:

. . . 56% of Republicans believe the election was rigged or the result of illegal voting, and 53% think [X] is the actual President, not Joe Biden.

There is no longer any reason to try to “understand” these people. Nor should there be any compunction about doing whatever we can to read them out of American politics, because they clearly have opted out on their own. They should be considered anathema, as should the entire Republican Party and the modern conservative movement that animates it.

Anything that can be done without including them should be done for the good—to say nothing of the sanity—of the country. Raw political power should be used to push through whatever of this administration’s policy priorities can be passed without any Republican help whatsoever. Majoritarianism should be invoked without mercy, and by whatever legitimate means necessary, and the window of opportunity to do that is closing fast.

It doesn’t matter if 53 percent of them say they believe the former president* is still the president* because they actually believe it, or they say it because it makes them one of The Elect. The effect on democracy is the same. They are poison in the bloodstream. And they’re proud of it.

Only 30% of Republicans feel confident that absentee or mail-in ballots were accurately counted . . . As a result, 87% of Republicans believe it is important that the government place new limits on voting to protect elections from fraud. Finally, 63% percent of Republicans think [X] should run for President again in 2024 . . . 

This is beyond the beyond. There is no compromise with this. There is no common ground. There is no deal to be struck. Millions of our fellow citizens are lost in rebellion against reality, and the only solution for the common good is to isolate them from decision-making and hope enough of them find their way back to make the country governable again. I’m not optimistic.

Unquote.

Today it was announced that the Manhattan district attorney has convened a grand jury to look at possible criminal behavior by the former president, his associates or his company. It’s unlikely the grand jury will indict anybody soon, but it’s a good development. Maybe he’ll have to run for president from jail.

And some observers think it’s becoming more likely the Senate filibuster’s stranglehold on progress will be loosened. From David Atkins of Washington Monthly:

The pressure to end the filibuster is getting strong enough you can feel all way from Arizona to West Virginia. But this time the impetus isn’t coming from outside activists or anti-gerrymandering and vote suppression reformers: it’s coming from inexorable forces within Congress itself.

A series of crucial votes looms in the near future, and it’s not clear that the internal calculus of Republican senators in the [X] era can permit a compromise with Democrats. Even less can Democrats permit an entire year and a half of legislative stalemate that not only threatens to derail democracy but would functionally disable the basic functions of government.

The immediate triggers for all this are 1) the imperiled January 6th Commission; 2) the debt ceiling fight; and 3) rising awareness that if nothing is done to curtail it, Republicans will simply rig elections in their favor and even refuse to certify their defeat even if they do lose their own rigged game. . . . 

The hostility of Senate Republicans toward accepting even the basic premises of a bipartisan commission to examine the January 6th insurrection on the Capitol has pulled a wet blanket over the hopes of optimists seeking to avoid partisan entrenchment. It is possible that Republicans are simply using hardball negotiating tactics and will eventually . . .  strike an agreement. But it’s unlikely. . . . 

Democrats, meanwhile, cannot afford not to investigate it. It was the most damaging assault on the foundations of American democracy since the Civil War, and members of Congress themselves were just minutes from potentially being murdered by the right-wing mob. Pressure will mount considerably to push the Democratic senators still defending the filibuster (most notably Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin) to change their stance if Republicans refuse to come to the table . . . 

But an even bigger battle looms ahead of the commission. As Dave Dayen notes at The American Prospect, Republicans in Congress are even likelier than they were in the Obama Administration to hold the government hostage over the debt limit–thereby threatening the full faith and credit of the United States Treasury. Democrats, for their part, are far less inclined to lend credibility to conservative crocodile tears about deficits or hamstring their own ability to help people or craft policy. . . . 

Ryan Grim is confident enough in this trajectory to predict that this is how the filibuster goes down. Grim believes that the debt ceiling will be the cue to enter Act II of Adam Jentleson’s speculative timeline for the end of the filibuster in his book Kill Switch: the flash point that will turn Manchin’s and Sinema’s Mom-and-apple-pie defenses of the filibuster into regretful reforms. There is good reason believe this analysis is correct. . . .

A President, a Poet and Poor Deluded Souls

Joe Biden gave an excellent speech at his inauguration. But as somebody said on Twitter:

Well that’s it. The ceremony is over and Amanda Gorman is now the president.

Gorman is from Los Angeles, is 22 years old and is America’s first National Youth Poet Laureate. She spoke for six minutes and made a huge impression. You can read read her poem, “The Hill We Climb”, but it’s better to see and hear her recite it:

Poet Amanda Gorman reads ‘The Hill We Climb’ – YouTube

Here’s something else that happened. The New York Times reported that QAnon believers are  “struggling with the inauguration”:

Followers of QAnon, the pro-Txxxx conspiracy theory, have spent weeks anticipating that Wednesday would be the “Great Awakening” — a day, long foretold in QAnon prophecy, when top Democrats would be arrested for running a global sex trafficking ring and President Txxxx would seize a second term in office.

But as President Biden took office and Mr. Txxxx landed in Florida, with no mass arrests in sight, some believers struggled to harmonize the falsehoods with the inauguration on their TVs.

Some QAnon believers tried to rejigger their theories to accommodate a transfer of power to Mr. Biden. Several large QAnon groups discussed on Wednesday the possibility that they had been wrong about Mr. Biden, and that the incoming president was actually part of Mr. Txxxx’s effort to take down the global cabal.

“The more I think about it, I do think it’s very possible that Biden will be the one who pulls the trigger,” one account wrote in a QAnon channel on the messaging app Telegram.

Others expressed anger with QAnon influencers who had told believers to expect a dramatic culmination on Inauguration Day.

“A lot of YouTube journalists have just lost one hell of a lot of credibility,” wrote a commenter in one QAnon chat room.

Still others attempted to shift the goal posts, and simply told their fellow “anons” to hang on and wait for future, unspecified developments.

“Don’t worry about what happens at 12 p.m.,” wrote one QAnon influencer. “Watch what happens after that.”

And some appeared to realize that they’d been duped.

“It’s over,” one QAnon chat room participant wrote, just after Mr. Biden’s swearing-in.

“Wake up,” another wrote. “We’ve been had.”

Followers hoping for guidance from “Q,” the pseudonymous message board user whose posts power the movement, were bound to be disappointed. The account has been silent for weeks, and had not posted Wednesday.

Ron Watkins, a major QAnon booster whom some have suspected of being “Q” himself, posted a note of resignation on his Telegram channel on Wednesday afternoon.

“We have a new president sworn in and it is our responsibility as citizens to respect the Constitution,” he wrote. “As we enter into the next administration please remember all the friends and happy memories we made together over the past few years.”

Unquote.

Wow. If more of the previous president’s supporters realize they’ve been had — and more of their leaders admit President Biden won a fair election — there may be blue skies ahead.

When Seeing Is Not Believing

In case we were thinking that a violent insurrection encouraged by the president to overturn the results of an election he lost might serve as a wakeup call for our Republican friends, here are the opening paragraphs of “How Republicans Are Warping Reality Around the Capitol Attack” (New York Times):

Immediately after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, all corners of the political spectrum repudiated the mob of President Txxxx’s supporters. Yet within days, prominent Republicans, party officials, conservative media voices and rank-and-file voters began making a rhetorical shift to try to downplay the group’s violent actions.

In one of the ultimate don’t-believe-your-eyes moments of the Txxxx era, these Republicans have retreated to the ranks of misinformation, claiming it was Black Lives Matter protesters and far-left groups like Antifa who stormed the Capitol — in spite of the pro-Trump flags and QAnon symbology in the crowd. Others have argued that the attack was no worse than the rioting and looting in cities during the Black Lives Matter movement, often exaggerating the unrest last summer while minimizing a mob’s attempt to overturn an election.

The shift is revealing about how conspiracy theories, deflection and political incentives play off one another in Mr. Txxxx’s G.O.P. For a brief time, Republican officials seemed perhaps open to grappling with what their party’s leader had wrought — violence in the name of their Electoral College fight. But any window of reflection now seems to be closing as Republicans try to pass blame and to compare last summer’s lawlessness, which was condemned by Democrats, to an attack on Congress, which was inspired by Mr. Txxxx.

Another Republican Draws the Line

A small number of Republicans have condemned the attack on the Capitol and the lies that led up to it, but as far as a I know, not a single Republican politician who claimed the election was stolen has apologized and admitted the election was fair. If any of them really wanted to unify the nation, that’s what they’d need to do.

Still, it’s heartening to hear that some Republicans have had enough. Politico describes one:

A top Republican congressional aide is resigning over his party’s support for President Dxxxx Txxxx’s bid to overturn the 2020 election after it fueled deadly riots at the Capitol.

In a scathing resignation letter obtained by POLITICO, Jason Schmid, a longtime senior House Armed Services Committee staffer, slammed the GOP members of the panel who objected to President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win, particularly after a mob incited by Txxxx stormed the Capitol last Wednesday and left five people dead.

“Anyone who watched those horrible hours unfold should have been galvanized to rebuke these insurrectionists in the strongest terms,” Schmid wrote in a letter addressed to the committee’s top Republican. “Instead, some members whom I believed to be leaders in the defense of the nation chose to put political theater ahead of the defense of the Constitution and the republic.”

That included 13 members of the Armed Services Committee, where Schmid has worked for four and a half years as a top policy staffer. The panel’s incoming top Republican, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, was also among that group.

Ultimately, 138 House Republicans — more than half the GOP Conference — voted against certifying Biden’s Electoral College votes from Arizona, Pennsylvania or both states based on unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that were parroted for months by Txxxx and his allies.

The full text of Schmid’s letter:

Ranking Member Rogers and Members of the House Armed Services Committee,

All who serve this nation swear an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee have led Congressional efforts to defend the nation and its Constitutional principles from foreign enemies since the establishment of the committee. Year after year, under Republican and Democratic Chairs, the committee has set aside factious contemporary events in the name of national defense. This is a legacy that I am extremely proud to have supported.

The sad, incontrovertible truth is that the people who laid siege to the Capitol were and continue to be domestic enemies of the Constitution of the United States. A poisonous lie that the election was illegitimate and should be overturned inspired so called “patriots” to share common cause with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and conspiracy theorists to attack the seat of American government. Anyone who watched those horrible hours unfold should have been galvanized to rebuke these insurrectionists in the strongest terms. Instead, some members whom I believed to be leaders in the defense of the nation chose to put political theater ahead of the defense of the Constitution and the Republic.

The decision to vote to set aside legitimate electors harmed the ability of every service member, intelligence officer, and diplomat to defend the nation and advance American interests. How are they to effectively defend American democratic ideals when the entire world saw so many members disregard those same ideals for cynical political purposes? Regardless of the motivations behind the vote, these members bear the consequences that the men and women in harm’s way will face for many years to come. I cannot imagine any series of events more damaging to the already fragile US led post-World War II order that has brought more peace and prosperity to the world than at any other time in history. These self-inflicted wounds are a gift to autocrats who seek a diminished America and are fundamentally inconsistent with the responsibility to provide for the common defense. Foreign intelligence services were likely on the scene and will certainly capitalize on the crisis it has caused – our people will pay a steep price. Congressional enablers of this mob have made future foreign conflict more likely, not less.

Going forward, the Committee must play a role in the accounting of this horrible chapter in our history. It is very disturbing that currently serving members of the armed forces participated in this. It is vitally important that the Committee hold the Department of Defense accountable for bringing any participants to justice. These extremist influences are a grave threat to our ability to defend the nation, and they must be expelled from the force immediately. I deeply regret some members may no longer have the credibility needed to accomplish this work.

All of our words and actions in the coming weeks and days will reveal those who believe in defending the Constitution, and those who stand only for self-interest and sectarianism. There can be no reconciliation and healing without accountability. While it is my hope the Committee finds a way yet again to legislate in a bipartisan way for the men and women in uniform in the 117th Congress and beyond, the failure of so many Republican members of the Committee to put the nation ahead of electoral politics compels my resignation from the staff. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the men and women in uniform, their families, and the civilians who also serve the Nation. I am proud of the things we have accomplished on their behalf, and the work we have done to strengthen national defense.

In Service, Jason Schmid

The Outgoing Capitol Police Chief Gives His Side of the Story

Tonight, The Washington Post published an interview with the former chief of the Capitol Police, combined with other reporting. This is most of it. It’s painful to read:

Two days before Congress was set to formalize President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was growing increasingly worried about the size of the pro-Txxxx crowds expected to stream into Washington in protest.

To be on the safe side, Sund asked House and Senate security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby in case he needed quick backup.

But, Sund said Sunday, they turned him down.

In his first interview since pro-Txxxx rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol last week, Sund, who has since resigned his post, said his supervisors were reluctant to take formal steps to put the Guard on call even as police intelligence suggested that the crowd President Txxxx had invited to Washington to protest his defeat probably would be much larger than earlier demonstrations.

House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving said he wasn’t comfortable with the “optics” of formally declaring an emergency ahead of the demonstration, Sund said. Meanwhile, Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger suggested that Sund should informally seek out his Guard contacts, asking them to “lean forward” and be on alert in case Capitol Police needed their help.

Irving could not be reached for comment. A cellphone number listed in his name has not accepted messages since Wednesday. Messages left at a residence he owns in Nevada were not immediately returned, and there was no answer Sunday evening at a Watergate apartment listed in his name. A neighbor said he had recently moved out.

Stenger declined Sunday to comment when a reporter visited his Virginia home. “I really don’t want to talk about it,” he said.

It was the first of six times Sund’s request for help was rejected or delayed, he said. Two days later on Wednesday afternoon, his forces already in the midst of crisis, Sund said he pleaded for help five more times as a scene far more dire than he had ever imagined unfolded on the historic Capitol grounds.

[When] an army of 8,000 pro-Txxxx demonstrators streamed down Pennsylvania Avenue . . . Sund’s outer perimeter on the Capitol’s west side was breached within 15 minutes. With 1,400 Capitol Police officers on duty, his forces were quickly overrun [Note: It’s been said elsewhere that only 500 Capitol Police were on duty].

“If we would have had the National Guard we could have held them at bay longer, until more officers from our partner agencies could arrive,” he said.

Just before 2 p.m., the pro-Txxxx mob entered the Capitol, sending lawmakers and staff scrambling for safety. D.C. police had quickly dispatched hundreds of officers to the scene. But it wasn’t enough. At 2:26 p.m., Sund said, he joined a conference call to the Pentagon to plead for additional backup.

“I am making an urgent, urgent immediate request for National Guard assistance,” Sund recalled saying. . . .

On the call were several officials from the D.C. government, as well as officials from the Pentagon, including Lt. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, director of the Army Staff. The D.C. contingent was flabbergasted to hear Piatt say that he could not recommend that his boss, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, approve the request.

“I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing a police line with the Capitol in the background,” Piatt said, according to Sund and others on the call.

Again and again, Sund said, “The situation is dire,” recalled John Falcicchio, the chief of staff for D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser. “Literally, this guy is on the phone, I mean, crying out for help. It’s burned in my memories.”

Pentagon officials have emphasized that the Capitol Police did not ask for D.C. Guard backup ahead of the event or request to put a riot contingency plan in place with guardsmen at the ready, and then made an urgent request as rioters were about to breach the building . . .

“We rely on Capitol Police and federal law enforcement to provide an assessment of the situation,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said during a news conference last week. “And based on that assessment that they had, they believed they had sufficient personnel and did not make a request.”

Despite Sund’s pleas, the first National Guard personnel didn’t arrive at the Capitol until 5:40 p.m. — after four people had died and the worst was long over.

Sund, 55, offered his resignation the next day, telling friends he felt he had let his officers down. Many lawmakers, infuriated by the breach and angry that they had been unable to reach Sund at the height of the crisis, were only too happy to accept it.

Under pressure from lawmakers, Stenger and Irving also resigned.

In a wide-ranging interview, Sund sought to defend his officers, who, he said, had fought valiantly. And with threats of violence looming ahead of Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration, he said he remains worried.

“My concern is if they don’t get their act together with physical security, it’s going to happen again,” he said. . . .

Last Monday, Sund said, he began to worry about the Jan. 6 demonstration.

“We knew it would be bigger,” Sund said. “We looked at the intelligence. We knew we would have large crowds, the potential for some violent altercations. I had nothing indicating we would have a large mob seize the Capitol.”

Sure, there were claims that alt-right instigators had discussed storming the building and targeting lawmakers. But Sund said such threats had surfaced in the past.

“You might see rhetoric on social media. We had seen that many times before,” he said. “People say a lot of things online.”

Still, he decided to call Irving and Stenger to ask for permission to request that the National Guard be put on emergency standby. Irving didn’t like the idea, Sund said; he said it would look bad because it would communicate that they presumed an emergency. He said he’d have to ask House leaders.

On the way home that evening, Sund did as Stenger suggested, calling Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, the head of the 1,000-member D.C. National Guard, to tell him that he might call on him for help.. . . Sund said, “how long do you think it would take to get us assistance?”

Walker said he thought he could send 125 personnel fairly quickly. Over the weekend, Sund had also conferred with D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, who also had offered to lend a hand if trouble arose.

On Tuesday, Sund said he briefed Irving and Stenger, who said that backup seemed sufficient.

Just before noon Wednesday, Sund was monitoring Txxxx’s speech to the crowd on the Ellipse when he was called away. There were reports of two pipe bombs near the Capitol grounds. . . . Sund said he now suspects that the pipe bombs were an intentional effort to draw officers away from the Capitol perimeter.

The first wave of protesters arrived at the Capitol about 12:40 p.m.

“As soon as they hit the fence line, the fight was on,” Sund said. “Violent confrontations from the start. They came with riot helmets, gas masks, shields, pepper spray, fireworks, climbing gear — climbing gear! — explosives, metal pipes, baseball bats. I have never seen anything like it in 30 years of events in Washington.”

Using video footage from the Capitol and radio transmissions from his incident commanders, Sund could see his officers trying to hold the line. But the rioters immediately yanked the barricade fence out of the way and threw it at his officers’ heads.

“I realized at 1 p.m., things aren’t going well,” he said. “I’m watching my people getting slammed.”

Sund immediately called [D.C. Police Chief] Contee, who sent 100 officers to the scene, with some arriving within 10 minutes. But at 1:09 p.m., Sund said he called Irving and Stenger, telling them it was time to call in the Guard. He wanted an emergency declaration. Both men said they would “run it up the chain” and get back to him, he said.

Minutes later, aides to the top congressional leaders were called to Stenger’s office for an update on the situation — and were infuriated to learn that the sergeants at arms had not yet called in the National Guard or any other reinforcements, as was their responsibility to do without seeking approval from leaders.

“What do you mean that there’s no National Guard, that there’s no reinforcements coming?” aides demanded to know. “Why haven’t you ordered them, why aren’t they already here?”

Sund said he called Irving twice more and Stenger once to check on their progress. At 1:50 p.m. — nine minutes before the Capitol was breached — Sund said he was losing patience. He called Walker to tell him to get ready to bring the Guard. Irving called back with formal approval at 2:10 p.m. By then, plainclothes Capitol Police agents were barricading the door to the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House chamber to keep the marauders from charging in.

Sund finally had approval to call the National Guard. But that would prove to be just the beginning of a bureaucratic nightmare to get soldiers on the scene.

At 2:26 p.m., Sund joined a conference call organized by D.C’s homeland security director, Chris Rodriguez. Among those on the screen were the District’s police chief, mayor and Walker.

Unlike anywhere else in the country, the D.C. Guard does not report to a governor, but to the president, so Walker patched in the office of the Secretary of the Army, noting that he would need authorization from the Pentagon to order soldiers to the Capitol.

Piatt noted the Pentagon still needed authorization from Capitol Police to step foot on Capitol grounds. Sund ticked through details on the severity of the breach, but the call got noisy with crosstalk as officials asked more questions.

Chief Contee sought to quiet the din. “Wait, wait,” he said, and then directed attention to Sund. “Steve, are you requesting National Guard assistance at the Capitol?”

Sund said he replied: “I am making urgent, urgent, immediate request for National Guard assistance.”

But Piatt, dialed in from across the river at the Pentagon, pushed back, according to Sund, saying he would prefer to have Guard soldiers take up posts around Washington, relieving D.C. police, so that they could respond to the Capitol instead of guardsmen. Sund’s account is supported by four D.C. officials on the call, including Bowser.

Bowser told The Washington Post that Sund had “made it perfectly clear that they needed extraordinary help, including the National Guard. There was some concern from the Army of what it would look like to have armed military personnel on the grounds of the Capitol.”

Falcicchio said that once Contee confirmed that Sund wanted the National Guard, D.C. officials echoed his request.

“Contee was definitely — I hate to use this term, but there’s no other term for it. He was pleading,” Falcicchio said. “He was pleading with them to fulfill the request that Capitol Police was making.”

But the entire discussion was in vain. Only McCarthy, the secretary, could order the Guard deployed — and only with the approval of the Pentagon chief. McCarthy has since said that, at the time of the call, he was busy taking the requests to activate more Guard to acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller.

At one point, according to a defense official, Contee said, “Let me be clear, are you denying this?” To which Piatt responded that he wasn’t denying the request; he simply didn’t have the authority to approve it.

“It was clear that it was a dire situation,” the defense official said. “He didn’t want to commit to anything without getting approval.”

At 3:45 p.m., Stenger told Sund that he would ask his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for help getting the National Guard authorized more quickly. Sund never learned the result. More of Contee’s officers had arrived and were helping remove rioters from the grounds. Capitol Police worked with other federal authorities, including the Secret Service, the Park Police and the FBI, to secure lawmakers, eject rioters and sweep the building so lawmakers could return to finish counting the electoral college votes that would allow them to formally recognize Biden’s victory later that night.

According to a timeline the Defense Department published Friday, Miller verbally authorized the activation of the entire D.C. Guard at 3:04 p.m. It would take two more hours for most of the citizen soldiers to leave their jobs and homes, and pick up gear from the D.C. Armory.

Sund, who was officially replaced as chief Friday, said he is left feeling that America’s bastions of democracy need far more security. He said the violent crowd that mobbed the Capitol was unlike anything he has ever seen.

“They were extremely dangerous and they were extremely prepared. . . . I’m a firm supporter of First Amendment. This was none of that,” he added. “This was criminal riotous activity.”

Sund blamed Txxxx for putting his officers at risk, saying “the crowd left that rally and had been incited by some of the words the president said.” Sund said he fears what may come next.