The Moral Blanks at the Center of Our Government
Perhaps the most permanent image to come out of Tuesday's hearing into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was of the cleanshaven Chief of Staff Mark Meadows bustling about to help Donald Trump overthrow the United States government.
What do you want, sir? Do you want me to call the limo or would you rather I facilitate the end of American democracy? I'm here to serve ... you, that is.
What we saw are high-placed political figures standing aside as Trump sent armed mobs into the Capitol. One after another presented themselves as moral blanks-for-hire.
There was that video of the deposed Gen. Michael Flynn looking shrunken and scared as he pleaded the Fifth over and over. He didn't have the intestinal goop to even say whether he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America.
Or perhaps Flynn didn't really know how he felt about it, especially since Trump was not there to tell him what to think.
Asked whether the violence on Jan. 6 was justified, Flynn needed time with his lawyer. He finally squeaked out a request for elaboration. Was this a moral question or a legal question? Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said, "Both." And so Flynn took the Fifth on both.
Could this pathetic figure possibly be the same military officer who in 2016 led Trump's mobs in aggressive chants to lock up Hillary Clinton? It seems he was tough only as long as Trump rented him a piece of his shadow. As the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it, "The coward only threatens when he's safe."
What about those strange hybrids who bucked Trump's wishes without quite grasping the enormity of the crimes he wanted them to commit? You have the Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers who, under enormous pressure to undermine the results of the 2020 election, refused to invalidate his state's vote count favoring Joe Biden. For this brave act, Bowers rightly received a Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation.
But then he said he'd vote for Trump again "simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country."
This was an "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" sort of comment. Or to use a more recent example, it was praising Italy's Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, for allegedly making the trains run on time.