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The Jan. 6 Hearings May Not Be Enough to Save Democracy

Steve Chapman on

In a world beset by worrisome events, it can be hard to filter out the noise to isolate the truly important ones. But failure to do so can be catastrophic, and we are at risk of just such a failure.

George W. Bush might attest how easy it is to overlook portents of danger. On Aug. 6, 2001, his daily intelligence bulletin carried the headline "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." Too late, on 9/11, Bush found out the warning was well-founded.

Americans are in a comparable position today, but not with regard to foreign terrorism. The threat is a domestic offensive against the Constitution and our democracy by Donald Trump and his followers, culminating in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. But the flow of news about Trump's post-election schemes tends to make us numb to discoveries that ought to shock.

One came last month, when The New York Times reported that as rioters swarmed into the capitol chanting, "Hang Mike Pence!", White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told staffers that Trump was unhappy to learn that Pence was being hustled to a safe location. Meadows "then told the colleagues that Mr. Trump had said something to the effect of, maybe Mr. Pence should be hanged."

Maybe Pence SHOULD be hanged.

Trump had browbeaten his vice president to overturn the election outcome -- though Pence had no such power and though Trump had failed to prove in court that the election was illegitimate.

 

Trump wanted a second term, and he didn't care what it took to get it. He rallied diehard supporters to flood into Washington to intimidate Congress from carrying out its constitutional duty. Among them were members of the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, some of whom have been indicted for seditious conspiracy -- striving to overthrow the government.

Trump had reason to expect his vice president to cooperate. Pence had stuck with him after the release of the infamous "grab 'em by the pussy" recording. Pence had gazed worshipfully at him during public events. Even Trump's lethal blizzard of lies about the COVID-19 pandemic didn't faze him.

But the demand to overturn a free and fair presidential election was too much for the vice president. On Jan. 6, the worm turned. And his years of loyalty counted for nothing with Trump.

As the rioters rampaged, Trump declined to intervene. Instead, as The Washington Post reported, he "watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said." That the lives of Pence and others were at serious risk gave him no evident concern.

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