Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the Government itself go to pieces …?
On January 6, 2021, from a parking garage under the Capitol Visitor Center, then–Vice President Mike Pence ordered the military to defend the Capitol against a violent insurrection. According to a taped deposition of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pence “issued very explicit, very direct, unambiguous orders” to him and Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller: “Get the military down here. Get the Guard here. Put down this situation.”
In ordinary circumstances, Pence’s actions would be unconstitutional. Indeed, a vice president who usurped the president’s constitutional authority, and the Cabinet and military officers who followed his orders, could be committing an impeachable offense. …
Jefferson also insisted, the officer who exercises emergency power must justify his actions to “his fellow citizens generally.” For Jefferson, “the good officer” must throw “himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives.”
From his title (Mike Pence Owes the Country an Explanation) and the first paragraph, I easily figured out where George Thomas was headed and why: he wants Pence to say he perceived an emergency if only because Donald Trump was failing to put down the rump insurrection.
What I didn’t expect was that he would bring Jefferson and Lincoln into it and would persuade me of his case — and by inference to repent of my former judgment on Lincoln for his ultra vires acts.
Yup, the world is messy sometimes. This once was one of my favorite quotes, in part because it challenged my purity fetish:
Purity … is not the one thing needful; and it is better that a life should contract many a dirt-mark, than forfeit usefulness in its efforts to remain unspotted.
William James, Varieties of Religious Experience Lectures 14 and 15, via here.
Sorting out a jumble
[W]e have no ideal path forward. We’re damned if Attorney General Merrick Garland goes forward with a Trump prosecution and damned if Garland holds off. But the latter path should nonetheless be treated as a viable Plan B because it permits the Democrats to continue beating Trump in the political arena by the widest possible margin. That involves all kinds of risks as well, but it’s less risky than the legal option.
Damon Linker, summarizing the case against prosecution that he’s been trying to make.
- To use the full powers of federal law enforcement during a Democratic administration to indict, try, convict, and punish this man would drive large numbers of Republicans even further into Trump’s arms …
- The goal should be his political defeat—turning him into a loser in the court of public opinion—not using an extra-political workaround to try and exile him from political competition. If you think making Hitler and Chamberlain analogies clarifies these issues, good for you. I think it’s pretty idiotic.
- For the sake of argument, I’ve been happy to concede the point and assume Trump is guilty of … something. But is it true?  After reading a highly illuminating exchange between widely respected legal scholar Jack Goldsmith and journalist Josh Marshall, I’m honestly not sure.
- Could it be that all of the sound and fury I’ve seen online from the left about the imperative of punishing Trump’s self-evident criminality is based on nothing more than a feeling, a conviction, a moral certainty that he simply must be guilty of something? If so, that would be a further sign that loathing for the former president is a fundamentally political impulse, not a legal one.
Maybe I’ll take a position on “prosecute or nolle prosequi” when someone convincingly shows that Trump committed an actual crime, and that prosecution will be a slam-dunk. Considering the proportion of Trumpists in the land, I’m not sure you’ll ever impanel a jury without one or with one that will vote to convict.
Why colleges are failing
The present model of colleges and universities is failing, for in the first place they have forgotten or even turned against their original mission; in the second, they have picked up a whole lot of unrelated sidelines, none of which they do very well, such as universal job certification; and in the third, the public is beginning to catch on that they cost far too much, and that other institutions can usually do each of these sidelines better. Barring root and branch reform – for which we must never give up hope — it’s entirely possible that in the not-so-distant future, serious humanities teaching will have to migrate to other settings than colleges and universities.
In a nutshell
Democracy disconnected from liberalism will not protect diversity, because majorities will use their power to repress minorities.
Francis Fukuyama, Liberalism and Its Discontents
Be careful what you ask for …
History is a prankster. You order a Gray Champion, and cosmic room service sends up a casino developer and New York real estate mogul with a laughable hairdo…
James Howard Kunstler, Living in the Long Emergency
How low can we go?
Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump seemed like some kind of nadir, but the Florida panhandle is showing that we can go even lower: Matt Gaetz versus Rebekah Jones
Institutions trumping instinct
But it is in fact individualism and not sociability that developed over the course of human history. That individualism seems today like a solid core of our economic and political behavior is only because we have developed institutions that override our more naturally communal instincts.
Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order
One thing leads to another …
I was good at menial jobs like parking cars but went into radio because it was Minnesota and vacuum tubes give off heat. It was public radio where all the announcers sound like Methodist ministers except not as friendly and there is no Jesus, and I distinguished myself by telling jokes and stem-winding stories about a small town. People liked it; go figure.
American exceptionalism plus
It’s American exceptionalism but goes beyond that. It says that we are the next version of Israel from the Old Testament, that we are God’s chosen nation, and that is a special covenant — a two-way agreement with God. We can’t break it, and if we do, what happened to Israel will happen to us: We will be overrun by whatever the next Babylon is, taken into captivity, and He will remove His blessing from us.
Maybe a bit harsh
I would rather have gonorrhea than a record of passionate and convinced #MAGA tweeting.
Graeme Wood, What to Do With Trumpists – The Atlantic.
Maybe a bit harsh, but then it’s dated 1/19/21, the day before Joe Biden officially became President despite Trump’s lawless efforts to retain the Presidency.
[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.
Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge
You can read most of my more impromptu stuff here (cathartic venting) and here (the only social medium I frequent, because people there are quirky, pleasant and real). Both should work in your RSS aggregator, like Feedly or Reeder, should you want to make a habit of it.