Shame: Trump's apologists owe America an apology
The neo-fascist mob that bashed in Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick's skull with a fire extinguisher, wielded lead pipes, ransacked Congress and terrorized members of Congress have a plausible claim that they were only following orders -- those of the president of the United States. Donald Trump had told them it was their duty to come to Washington, D.C., on the day Congress would count the electoral votes that would make Joe Biden the next president, promising them a "wild" time if they did.
He personally addressed them, exhorting them to go to the Capitol and express their hatred with all their might. "We are going to have to fight much harder," he told them. "You will never take back the country with weakness."
Namesake and certified nitwit Donald Trump Jr. urged the crowd to make it painfully clear to legislators that they had better swallow the fraudulent fiction that his father had won the election. Or else, "We are coming for you," he said. Donald Trump lawyer and frantic pardon-seeker Rudy Giuliani was blunter yet, telling the thousands of storm trooper-wannabes that they should engage in "trial by combat."
The mob did as it was told, savaging the Capitol and inflicting on the country one of the gravest acts of domestic terrorism in our history. But it was backed by innumerable enablers and fawners and acolytes, politicians and right-wing commentators and ordinary Americans alike, who have gushed and giggled as Trump has trashed decency and democratic values -- not merely since Nov. 3 but daily over the last four years. These individuals bear a share of responsibility for our national shame.
Some of them who have coddled Trump and defended him day after day for years now pronounce themselves shocked -- shocked! -- at last week's attack on America.
It's a nice try. But they own it. And they owe their country an apology.
The president assured the insurrectionists he assembled that he would accompany them to the Capitol, which doubtless reinforced their confidence that they were doing their Fuhrer's will. Evidently, however, he was stricken with a bout of Sudden Onset Bone Spurs (SOBS) and instead slipped back to the White House to watch on television while his people (to whom he said: "We love you. You're very special.") laid siege to the Capitol on his behalf. After 24 hours of unflattering media coverage of the attempted putsch, Trump was persuaded to tape a statement that he condemned violence, a performance so patently insincere that it made videotaped confessions by hostages held captive by Hezbollah seem voluntary by comparison.
To his credit, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., called out his fellow Republicans, who had hyped Trump's garbage claim that he won the election, stoking unhinged conspiracy theories that helped trigger Wednesday's assault and that leave our government vulnerable to further domestic extremism. These Republicans are, Toomey noted, "complicit in the big lie." But the Trump presidency has been rife with lies since its inception. The talk-show jocks, the Fox News celebrities, the Republican loyalists and the small-time right-wing commentators who thrilled to Trump's diseased machismo have done America incalculable damage.
The risible, Goebbels-like lying about a "rigged" election (it wasn't) that Trump won (he didn't) did not suffice to stir these individuals' somnolent sense of decency. But this was unsurprising. They supported Trump when he attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, even when those attacks placed them in physical danger. They supported him when he called for retaliation against journalists and political opponents, when he mocked a reporter with a physical disability, when he derided war hero John McCain because McCain was captured while serving his country. They supported him when he tried to extort a foreign leader into fabricating an "investigation" intended to defame the likely Democratic presidential nominee, and when he fired devoted public servants for telling the truth.
Donald Trump's defenders do not merely share the blame for last week's events. They have let America down. And whether America will ever fully recover is an open question.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast. To find out more about Jeff Robbins and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.