Milbank: “Trump left them to die. 43 Senate Republicans still licked his boots”

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post gives it to us straight:

Trump’s lawyers, in their slashing, largely fictitious defense, claimed that Trump was “horrified” by the violence, hadn’t known that Vice President Mike Pence was in danger and took “immediate steps” to counter the rioting.

But Herrera Beutler revealed such claims to be a lie. When McCarthy “finally reached the president on January 6 and asked him to publicly and forcefully call off the riot, the president initially repeated the falsehood that it was antifa that had breached the Capitol,” she wrote. McCarthy, she continued, “refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters. That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.’ ”

Her account wasn’t seriously or substantively refuted. On Saturday afternoon, senators agreed that Herrera Beutler’s statement would be entered into the trial record as evidence.

Even knowing this, most Republican senators, as long expected, voted to acquit Trump, a craven surrender to the political imperative not to cross the demagogue. But the impeachment trial was not in vain, for it revealed the ugly truth: Trump knew lawmakers’ lives were in danger from his violent supporters, and instead of helping the people’s representatives escape harm, Trump scoffed.

Read the rest here.

As the insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy asked Trump to call off the rioters. Trump responded…

CNN is reporting:

In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.”

Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.

McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump’s supporters and begged Trump to call them off.

Trump’s comment set off what Republican lawmakers familiar with the call described as a shouting match between the two men. A furious McCarthy told the President the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows, and asked Trump, “Who the f–k do you think you are talking to?” according to a Republican lawmaker familiar with the call.

The newly revealed details of the call, described to CNN by multiple Republicans briefed on it, provide critical insight into the President’s state of mind as rioters were overrunning the Capitol. The existence of the call and some of its details have been previously reported and discussed publicly by McCarthy.

Read the rest here.

Meanwhile, Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville claims that Trump called him during the insurrection. The president was fully aware of what was going on at the U.S. Capitol. According to Tuberville, Trump knew that police had evacuated Vice President Mike Pence from the Senate chamber. How did Trump know this? Tuberville told him. (We also know that Pence’s security detail was carrying the so-called “nuclear football.” as they fled the scene).

The Tuberville call began “shortly after 2pm.” At 2:24pm Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and Constitution.”

This is really getting ironic. The words of Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter who refused to cast a vote to certify the results of the Electoral College, is now a key piece of evidence in the House’s impeachment case against the former president. Today Trump’s defense attorneys challenged Tuberville’s claims about the timing of the phone call, but Tuberville stood-by his account. People in Alabama know that Tuberville has a big mouth. A local news source tells the senator to “just keep talking.”

USA TODAY just published an editorial titled, “Convict Donald Trump and banish the 45th president from American democracy.” Agreed.

Out of the Zoo: What will I teach on days like these?

Annie Thorn is senior history major from Kalamazoo, Michigan and our intern here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home.  As part of her internship she is writing a weekly column titled “Out of the Zoo.” It focuses on life as a history major at a small liberal arts college. In this dispatch, Annie reflects, as a future teacher, on January 6, 2021—JF

January 6th, 2021. I had just arrived home from a busy day of substitute teaching in a 6th grade English class. My skin was dry and flaky from layers of hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, my feet sore from standing all day in my black heeled boots (I have yet to purchase sensible teacher shoes). Breathing a sigh of relief, I sat in the warmth of my parked Chevy Avalanche for a few minutes before braving the Michigan cold that waited for me outside. I pulled out my phone and checked Instagram, scrolling through posts and double tapping the ones I liked. After swiping through a few stories at the top of the screen, a startling image greeted me. It depicted an angry mob, rushing toward the Capitol in Washington D.C. The headline above the photo indicated that the People’s House had been breached.

Confusion clouded my brain and I wondered if the article was real. Would someone really try to break into the U.S. Capitol? No, it can’t be true, I thought. I turned my phone off and made the trek inside, greeted by my family’s energetic puppy who was excited to be liberated from her crate. As I played tug-of-war with her in the living room, I almost forgot about what I saw on Instagram. For a moment, the photo’s scary scene was nothing more than a fading memory, an unpleasant dream. 

My mom arrived home a few minutes later and we turned on the news. “Did you see what’s happening in D.C.?” she asked. Sure enough, it was all real. What I saw on Instagram wasn’t a hypothetical scenario or a figment of my imagination. An angry mob of protestors had broken into the Senate Chamber, attempting to “stop the steal.” As reporters interviewed legislators, showed photos and read concerned messages from foreign leaders, I felt like I was watching a dystopian novel unfold in real life. I sat in front of the T.V. all night, trying to comprehend what was happening. Tumultuous thoughts hummed ever-louder in my brain like an angered beehive. 

While I love being at home with my family, that night I found myself wishing I was back at school. I wanted my professors and mentors to explain how and why something like this could happen. The professors at Messiah have a way of making their students feel safe and loved, even when the world around us is full of chaos. I wanted to see my history major friends so we could make sense of it all together. My friends–especially my friends who love history–help me make sense of hard questions, even the ones that don’t necessarily have answers.

Three weeks have passed since the insurrection at the Capitol. I’ve moved back to Messiah University for my final semester of classes before I complete my student teaching. I am taking a lot of education classes this spring. It’s crazy to think that less than a year from now I won’t be the student anymore. I’ll be the teacher. When another day like January 6 arrives, my students will come to me with questions–questions I may not be able to answer. 

Every generation, it seems, is defined by a series of events. By the days that we remember clearly–even weeks, months, or years after the fact. Some days we are proud to be Americans, and other days we hang our heads in shame. There will always be days filled with death, tragedy, and scandal. There will be mornings when my students will come to class with questions. What will I teach on days like these? Whatever I teach, I know I will not do it perfectly. There will be lots of trial and error. I know I won’t have all the answers, and the ones I do give I will have to craft carefully. But on days like these I will do my best to teach mourning. I will teach respect. I will teach love. And I will teach action.

A Confederate flag in the building built by slaves

Felicia Bell is a historian at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In her recent piece at The Washington Post she reminds us about the people who labored to build the U.S. Capitol. Here is a taste of her piece, “Enslaved Black craftsman helped build the U.S. Capitol that a mob fueled by racist rhetoric stormed“:

I stood in my living room motionless and stunned Jan. 6 as I watched an attempted coup happening in real time. Raging insurrectionists fueled by racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories had besieged and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol, intent on disrupting and halting a fundamental democratic process: the peaceful transfer of power. Their perceived loss of privilege and political power sparked violence that would result in the deaths of six people, including two U.S. Capitol Police officers.

I’d begun that morning with joy when I learned of the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s historic win as the first Black senator from my home state of Georgia. However, upon hearing about the events taking place at the Capitol, all I could feel was dismay. This was not only an attack on democracy, but a violation of where democracy lives.

My joy gave way to disgust when I saw the unruly mob scaling the walls of the Capitol to implement their seditious act on Congress. My thoughts turned to the historical significance of the building and those who helped build it. The walls they were climbing, upon which they would unfurl their insurrectionist banners, were originally made of sandstone built by enslaved craftsmen.

Enslaved and free Black craftsmen were a critical labor force used by the U.S. government, as authorized by President George Washington, to build the Capitol. The commissioners of the District of Columbia were assigned by the executive branch to oversee the Capitol construction project. Although their records indicate the number of enslaved craftsmen fluctuated over years, it climbed into the hundreds: “We believe more than 800 mechanics and Labourers [sic] employed on public and private account in improving the City.”

Read the rest here.

Civil War historians remind us that anti-democratic violence has “deep roots” in the United States

Historians Gregory Downs and Kate Masur edit The Journal of the Civil War Era. In a recent piece at The Washington Post, they remind us that what we saw on January 6, 2021 was, in one sense, very American.

Here is a taste of “Yes, Wednesday’s attempted insurrection is who we are“:

It is tempting to consider Wednesday’s assault on the U.S. Capitol an exception in U.S. history, but the presence of Confederate flags and Sen. Ted Cruz’s ill-founded reliance on the 1876-1877 election crisis to justify baseless challenges to the 2020 electoral results remind us that anti-democratic violence has deep roots here, especially in the period of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Public invocations of American ideals of democracy and the peaceful transition of power serve some good purposes. Yet our country also has a long history of authoritarianism, white supremacy and political violence, one that cannot be ignored without misunderstanding the depth and endurance of the problems we face as a nation and the breadth of the solutions these problems require.

The shocking scenes Wednesday at the Capitol remind us that there have always been Americans who have little regard for procedures established by the Constitution. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, political leaders in South Carolina refused to accept the result, fearing that a Lincoln presidency would lead to the weakening of Southern political power and ultimately to the elimination of slavery. Ten other Southern states eventually joined in rejecting the election’s outcome and declaring that they intended to form a nation of their own.

Read the rest here.

#capitolsiegereligion

Peter Manseau, the Lilly Endowment Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is collecting tweets documenting the use of religious rhetoric at the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Read them or share your own at #capitolsiegereligion. Here is a taste:

Free speech! Free speech! The court evangelicals process the events of the last week.

It’s been a very ugly week in America. By this time next week, Donald Trump may be the only United States president to have been impeached twice. We are getting more and more disturbing images and videos from Wednesday’s invasion of the U.S. Capitol. Here is one of the latest:

On Parler and Facebook, Eric Metaxas shared an article suggesting that the insurrectionists were not Trump supporters, but members of Antifa.

Metaxas is a fellow at Liberty University’s Falkirk Center. The center’s Twitter feed is rallying the troops:

What, does the Falkirk Center mean by the “power of the Gospel?” Is the tweet below a reference to the transforming power of the good news of Jesus Christ or the power of Trumpism? Is the Falkirk Center asking followers to plant seeds of faith or seeds of Christian nationalism?

Such “absolute standards” led evangelicals to Donald Trump:

Thousands of Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol and court evangelical journalist David Brody and David Barton crony Rick Green are playing the moral equivalency card. “But what about the Democrats!?” Sorry David Brody, the Democrats did not storm the seat of American government.

Brody, the star newsman at the Christrian Broadcasting Network, believes that Trump has “united the country.” You can’t make this stuff up:

David Barton, the GOP activist who uses the past to promote his political agenda, retweeted Kentucky representative Thomas Massie. Barton and Massie believe that Twitter’s decision to ban Trump was the most “dystopian” thing that happened this week.

Jack Hibbs believes Twitter’s decision to ban Donald Trump is a violation of the First Amendment. Last night he wrote: “If it seems like the first amendment and the Constitution has been abolished it’s probably because it has. The Church is next.” Not really. Twitter is private company. They can ban anyone they want to ban. Also, Twitter has no power to “abolish” the Church.

Hibbs was in Washington D.C. on the day of the insurrection. Why would an evangelical pastor from California be in Washington D.C. on January 6? How is showing-up at a pro-Trump rally part of Hibbs’s pastoral vocation? He believes that the insurrectionists were members of Antifa. He claims that the rioters at the Capitol on Wednesday were “of the same spirit” as the British who invaded Washington in the War of 1812. Both groups, Hibbs says, want to “destroy our Judeo-Christian nation.”

Finally, Hibbs says that “freedom is always purchased with blood…liberty and freedom is a bloody work…Jesus went to the cross and bled for our freedom from sin.” He then compares Jesus’s death to the “blood and sacrifice” of people who died to create the United States and broke rank with” a tyrannical government. Earlier in his little speech, Hibbs extolled the evangelical pastors who promoted liberty from their pulpits during the American Revolution. These pastors mixed American liberty and Christian liberty and, in the process, manipulated the teachings of the Bible to advance their political agenda. I wrote about this extensively in Was America Founded as a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction. Hibbs is doing the exact same thing here. Finally, Hibbs reminds his followers that he embraces a dispensationalist, pre-millennial, pre-tribulational eschatology.

Jim Garlow, another court evangelical who appeared on this television show with Hibbs, said that Hibbs has “brilliant insights.” Garlow compared the insurrectionists with the civil rights movement. Watch here.

Robert Jeffress says that when the insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol they were committing a “sin against God.” He calls for peace and unity, but says nothing about the fact that he provided cover for Trump during his entire presidency. Jeffress never uttered a negative word about the man. He is one of the many evangelicals responsible for what happened at the Capitol this week.

Many court evangelicals want to move beyond Trump’s assault on American democracy. They prefer to attack a private tech company:

Tony Perkins, who has built his entire career scaring evangelicals into believing that liberals are taking away their “rights,” tweets a quote from Peter Marshall:

John Hagee believes that the insurrection on Wednesday marks the “advent of the New World Order”:

Should a statue of Roger Sherman come down?

Sherman

The statue in question

Here’s one to talk about over coffee.

Richard Kreitner, a writer at The Nation, makes a case for why a monument to founding father Roger Sherman should be removed from the United States Capitol. His argument is two-fold:

  1. At the Constitutional Convention, Sherman helped to broker the compromise that allowed small states to have equal power in the Senate.
  2. At the Constitutional Convention, Sherman compromised with the slaveholding South.

Here is a taste of Kreitner’s piece at The Baffler:

As we commence a thorough and long-delayed reassessment of our national history, the compromise tradition Sherman represents—and the specific bargains attributed to him—ought also to be reconsidered. It is long past time to embrace the righteousness of those rare and visionary anti-slavery critics who, during the struggle over ratification of the Constitution, called for rejecting it because of the protections it afforded slavery. Accepting those compromises, as one put it, would make Americans “partakers of each other’s sins.” “If we cannot connect with the Southern states without giving countenance to blood and carnage, and all kinds of fraud and injustice,” another Anti-Federalist argued, “I say let them go.”

Roger Sherman, by contrast, epitomizes the kind of moral complicity with evil, as pernicious as the evil itself, on which the endurance of the Union has always been predicated. His statue should be removed from Capitol Hill as a symbol of a broader reckoning with the history and nature of the country he helped create. Mississippi legislators recently made the brave if belated decision to take the Confederate battle flag off the state’s official banner. Michigan’s congressional delegation—well, at least its Democratic members—called for the removal of Lewis Cass, the heretofore much-heralded “founding father” of the state, from the Capitol Hill collection, in acknowledgment of his advocacy for slavery’s expansion and Indian removal. Why shouldn’t Connecticut’s leaders act with similar vision and boldness by admitting their own state’s sordid contributions to the perpetuation of slavery and minority rule?

Up to now, Northerners and other Americans without personal connection to the antebellum South have largely luxuriated in the assumption that they have nothing to apologize for and no heroes in need of reconsideration. But perpetuating the Union on the basis of slavery, right up until the Civil War, was a national project that enjoyed, but for a few scattered abolitionists, national support. Similarly, much of the federal government’s current paralysis is directly the fault of the Constitution’s enshrinement of colonial-era divisions and states’-rights ideology in the structure of our governing institutions. Taking Sherman off his Capitol Hill pedestal would mark a worthy beginning, but one that is ultimately symbolic. Of far greater substance and significance would be doing away with that even more prominent monument to the founders’ fetish for compromise and corrupt bargains: the Senate of the United States.

Read the entire piece here.

Discuss. 🙂

By the way, Kreitner anticipates the “where do we draw the line?” argument:

Conservatives immediately resort to the “where does it all end?” argument. What about slave-owners George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Is Abe Lincoln next? Yet the answer is not complicated: we shouldn’t endeavor to remove every person who ever uttered an unwoke word or did any kind of dastardly deed. There ought to be a high bar for removal—some kind of equation balancing the degree of the wrong the person did with the magnitude of its consequences.

I submit that Roger Sherman meets the necessary threshold. He is memorialized by one of the statues representing the state of Connecticut. We have Sherman to thank for two of the most celebrated and most odious compromises that made it into the Constitution. One nearly destroyed the Union; the other may yet. Yanking Sherman out of the Capitol would be a gesture worthy of our growing realization of how deep the roots of white supremacy reach, how thoroughly our political system has been tainted by the protections it affords to the power and privilege of wealthy white men. This is unlikely to occur, however, for to repudiate Roger Sherman would be to effectively repudiate the Constitution of the United States, even the Union as we have always known it.

Based on Kreitner’s logic, wouldn’t everyone who signed the Constitution be “morally complicit?” But perhaps that is his real point.