No Ambiguity

In our hearing tonight, you saw an American President faced with a stark and unmistakable choice between right and wrong. There was no ambiguity. No nuance. Donald Trump made a purposeful choice to violate his oath of office, to ignore the ongoing violence against law enforcement, to threaten our constitutional order. There is no way to excuse that behavior. It was indefensible.

– Liz Cheney, 7-21-2022

This week’s featured post is “Trump doesn’t have a side of the 1-6 story“.

This week everybody was talking about the final summer 1-6 committee hearing

Thursday’s prime-time hearing [video, transcript] focused on the three hours between when Trump told his supporters to march to the Capitol and when he asked them to go home.

In between, he sat in the Oval Office dining room watching the riot unfold on Fox News and doing nothing to stop it. He could have asked the rioters to go home sooner, and he could have mobilized federal resources to support the Capitol Police resisting the attack. Many of his staffers urged him to do one or the other, but he refused.

Instead, he tweeted more incitement to those who wanted to hang Vice President Pence, and called Republicans in Congress urging them to further delay the counting the electoral votes. It seems clear that his primary goal that day was to prevent Congress from certifying Biden’s victory, and the riot was just one of his tools for achieving that purpose. He didn’t stop the riot because he wanted it to succeed.

Some of the most striking evidence presented concerned Vice President Pence’s safety. Audio and video of Pence’s Secret Service detail trying to move him from his office in the Capitol to a more secure location showed just how tense the situation was.

In addition, an anonymous White House security official (whose voice was disguised), told about listening to the Secret Service radio chatter.

Members of the V.P. detail at this time were starting to fear for their own lives. There was a lot of yelling—a lot of very personal calls over the radio. It was very disturbing. I don’t like talking about it. There were calls to say goodbye to family members. For whatever reason on the ground, the V.P. detail thought that this was about to get very ugly.

The comic relief in the hearing was video of Josh Hawley pumping his fist to encourage the 1-6 mob, but then later running through the Capitol to get away from them. The clip got one of the few audible laughs we’ve heard in these hearings. His home-state Kansas City Star proclaimed Senator Hawley “a laughingstock” and quoted this tweet:

From now on, if political reporters ask Josh Hawley if he’s planning to run, he’s going to have to ask them to clarify.

Hawley has a book coming out next May: “Manhood: the Masculine Virtues America Needs“. When I first heard that, I thought it was a joke. It’s not, or at least not an intentional one.

The mystery of the missing Secret Service text messages from January 6 is looking worse and worse. The Service is claiming they innocently deleted the messages as part of a system upgrade, but that’s hard to credit. I upgraded computer this year, and I managed not to delete my files. The Secret Service, meanwhile, is an agency responsible for investigating cybercrimes. Basic data hygiene shouldn’t be beyond them.

The Service is also connected to another 1-6 mystery: Why was Mike Pence so reluctant to get in the car when agents wanted to take him to a safer place?

Mr Pence then reportedly outright refused to get into the vehicle, saying his security detail would ignore his demand not to leave the building and would instead “take off” against his wishes.

“I’m not getting in the car, Tim,” Mr Pence replied. “I trust you, Tim, but you’re not driving the car. If I get in that vehicle, you guys are taking off. I’m not getting in the car.”

This is speculative to the point of being a conspiracy theory, but what if the two are connected? Maybe the agents’ text messages say something about their plans for Pence.

Beaux of the Fifth Column doesn’t expect the hearings to turn Trump supporters into liberals, but he does suggest the lesson they should learn from what has been presented: Trump conned them with his whole stolen-election grift, and Trump’s people have been laughing at them this whole time. Now they need to look at their 2022 candidates, and sort out which ones were also fooled by Trump, and which ones were in on the con.

Steve Bannon was found guilty of two counts of contempt of Congress. He called no witnesses, and the jury deliberated for two-and-a-half hours.

I wonder what they talked about. “Should we hang around for lunch? Anybody know what they’re feeding us?” They needed to answer two questions: Did Bannon receive a lawful subpoena? Did he defy it? The answers were clearly yes.

He’ll be sentenced in October, possibly for as long as two years. He’s planning to appeal. His only hope is a purely partisan intervention by the Supreme Court’s Republican majority.

Peter Navarro has also been charged with contempt of Congress; his trial is due to start November 17. Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino have also been cited by Congress for contempt, but the Justice Department has not pressed charges.

The Murdoch Empire seems to have turned on Trump. This week both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post spoke out against him.

and abortion

A leading Republican candidate for governor of Michigan is clear about her position:

Asked … about a hypothetical situation in which a 14-year-old girl became pregnant as a result of sexual abuse by a family member, Dixon said, “Perfect example.” She went on, “Because I know people who are the product. A life is a life for me. That’s how it is. That is for me, that is my feeling.” 

“A life is a life” doesn’t seem to apply to the 14-year-old, whose life might be thrown considerably off-track.

The NYT has been staying on this theme: Life-of-the-mother exceptions to state abortion bans are not all they’re made out to be. Yes, they allow abortions if a pregnant woman is in danger of immediate death. But they don’t cover the situation where death is merely a probable consequence of carrying a fetus to term, or even of waiting to see how things develop.

Case in point: pregnant women with cancer.

[Rachel Brown] had always said she would never have an abortion. But the choices she faced were wrenching. If she had the chemotherapy that she needed to prevent the spread of her cancer, she could harm her baby. If she didn’t have it, the cancer could spread and kill her. She had two children, ages 2 and 11, who could lose their mother.

… Ms. Brown’s first visit was with a surgical oncologist who, she said, “made it clear that my life would be in danger if I kept my pregnancy because I wouldn’t be able to be treated until the second trimester.” He told her that if she waited for those months passed, her cancer could spread to distant organs and would become fatal.

This situation is exceptional, but not freakishly so. The article claims that about one in a thousand pregnant women gets diagnosed with cancer (often breast cancer). Given that millions of babies are born in the US each year, that means thousands of women face this decision. Or at least they did face it, before state governments began deciding for them that they must risk their lives.

Similar considerations apply to pregnant women prone to blood clots or at risk of stroke or heart attack. They may not be facing death at this particular moment, but waiting for a crisis might mean intervening too late to save them.

Some women, no doubt, want a child so badly that they would choose to accept such a risk. But that should be their decision, not the government’s.

A political science professor at Indiana University calls out IU leadership for its timidity in defending Dr. Caitlin Bernard, the woman who became a target for Indiana’s attorney general when she performed an abortion on the pregnant 10-year-old who came to her from Ohio, where the abortion was illegal. Bernard is an assistant professor at the IU School of Health.

President Whitten and Dean Hess especially ought to be ashamed of themselves for their cowardly silence. Indiana University is a public university, not an extension of the state’s Republican administration or the attorney general’s far-right, anti-abortion agenda. If it stands for anything, it is the freedom of its faculty and professional staff to do their jobs without being attacked for doing so.

and the pandemic

Numbers have definitely turned upwards in the last few weeks. For a long time deaths in the US had stayed in the 300s per day. Now they’re averaging 444.

President Biden tested positive for Covid Friday. He seems to be doing fine, which is a credit to the effect of vaccination. President Trump, if you remember, got very seriously ill in the days before vaccines.

and fascists being as outrageous as possible

Before getting angry, consider that these folks are trying very hard to make people like us angry. So if you’re in a bad mood already, I recommend skipping this section.

The quotes below are from the Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit in Tampa this weekend. Turning Point USA claims it’s mission is “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote freedom”, but it has basically become a Young Fascists organization. Recognizing the similarity (and possibly looking to recruit), local neo-Nazi groups showed up outside the conference. But TPUSA did at least find it necessary to officially denounce them. And I have to confess that the far right is so bizarre these days that it’s hard to tell whether someone is attempting to parody them. (I mean, is the guy carrying a “DeSantis Country” flag next to the guy with a swastika flag really a DeSantis supporter? He could be, but who can say for sure?)

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz won the prize for provoking the most social-media backlash with this gem:

Why is it that the women with the least likelihood of getting pregnant are the ones most worried about having abortions? … Nobody wants to impregnate you if you look like a thumb.

Because, of course, only women Gaetz finds attractive are entitled to have opinions or constitutional rights. (This quote is reminiscent of Trump defending himself against charges of sexual assault by claiming that his accusers were too ugly to assault, as if that ever stopped anybody.) Gaetz also went on an anti-Hunter-Biden rant, inspiring the crowd to chant “Lock him up!” Meanwhile, Gaetz himself is under investigation for sex trafficking and sex with a minor. Las Vegas should offer odds on whether Hunter or Matt sees the inside of a prison cell first.

Marjorie Taylor Greene labeled herself a “Christian nationalist”, because that always turns out well, particularly for Jews and Muslims, and even the occasional liberal Christian. “I think that’s what the Republican Party needs to be about,” she said.

Rick Scott used the classic Nazi technique of accusing opponents of your own sins.

In their new socialist America, everyone will obey, and no one will be allowed to complain. … The modern Left in America are the modern day version of book burners.

His state of Florida is where math books are banned from the schools for political reasons, and teachers are ordered to remove rainbow flags from their classrooms. The state’s largest school district currently has no sexual education curriculum, because the board has rejected all the texts.

Ted Cruz informed the crowd “I’m Ted Cruz, and my pronoun is Kiss My Ass.” I hope people start using that preferred pronoun to refer to Kiss My Ass. It’s the respectful thing to do.

Trump Jr. gave such an unhinged (and possibly drug-fueled) speech that liberals didn’t even bother to argue with whatever he was trying to say. Instead, Molly Jong-Fast asks “Is he OK?” I suspect the answer is no.

Donald Trump easily won the 2024 presidential straw poll with 79%, followed by Ron DeSantis with 19%. Mike Pence and other would-be contenders definitely need to worry about their lack of fascist appeal.

and you also might be interested in …

Cities across Europe have been setting heat records. Large chunks of the US have been pretty hot too.

Somebody tried to stab Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor of New York. The guy has been arrested and charged. President Biden immediately denounced the attack. “Violence has absolutely no place in our society or our politics.” I completely agree.

A note to the Republicans still making excuses for the January 6 rioters: See how easy that is? You can Just Say No to violence.

One thing the Speaker of the House can do without support in the Senate is force the other party to go on the record. This week Speaker Pelosi held votes on two of four bills that passed the House, but will probably die in the Senate:

  • The Women’s Health Protection Act, which codifies into law abortion rights that were constitutional rights before the Dobbs decision. In particular, no state can restrict abortion prior to fetal viability. This passed the House on July 15 with no Republican votes.
  • The Ensuring Access to Abortion Act, which ensures that “no person acting under state law could prevent, restrict, or otherwise retaliate against a person traveling across state lines for lawful abortion services.” This also passed on July 15, with three Republican votes and 205 votes against.
  • The Right to Contraception Act, which passed Thursday with eight Republican votes and 195 against. This codifies the right to use contraception, which is currently protected by the Supreme Court’s Griswold decision. That precedent is shaky now because it rests on the same legal base as Roe v Wade.
  • The Respect for Marriage Act, which codifies the right to same-sex and interracial marriage. These rights also are currently backed by Supreme Court precedents that the current Court might overturn. This passed Tuesday with 157 Republicans voting against it.

Expect to hear about these votes again in the fall campaign. These are all bills with substantial popular support, but they offend a small-but-influential sliver of the Republican electorate. Many Republicans would like to soft-pedal their position on such issues, but Pelosi forced them to vote Yes or No.

and let’s close with something squirrelly

Every photographer needs a theme. Geert Weggen’s theme is squirrels. I’m not sure how much he stages, how much he photoshops, and how much he captures in the wild, but the images are both amusing and amazing.
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  • Thomas Paine  On July 25, 2022 at 11:19 pm

    Of course the deleted Secret Service text messages concern their Pretorian Guard role in the coup plot, which was to deposit Mike Pence in some remote location like north of the Artic Circle, where all communications would have been mysteriously down for as long as it took the Congressional conspirators to hijack the certification process and assert it was up to the House, one vote per state and holding a known GQP majority, to decide the outcome.

    It’s imperative that the SS be thoroughly investigated and its ranks thoroughly cleaned of any agent remotely associated with the insurrection. All coups need inside players, and only the most naive would fail to recognize SS agents were in on it.

  • Abby  On July 26, 2022 at 1:00 am

    “I’m Ted Cruz, and my pronoun is Kiss My Ass.”

    I’ll just shorten that to a$$.


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