Accountability

Alan Zendell, January 8, 2021

After what has been done to it, the United States needs a complete accounting and reckoning if it is to recover its economic and social health and its standing in the world. There are a lot of angry people still willing to do further harm. Some of them are criminals, anarchists, and right-wing agitators, but the great majority are victims of the lies and misinformation they’ve been fed by our president. It’s been five years and eight months since he rode the elevator in Trump Tower spewing lies and hate about immigrants. It’s time we looked at the fruits of all that sickness for what they are.

Now that his enablers have allowed Donald Trump to play out his end game, now that we have seen that the ever more dire predictions about his mental incapacity and incompetence, his immorality and greed, were all on point, now that our eyes are wide open, we need to dissect the Trump horror show and put it to rest. This president has been a one-man criminal enterprise from the day he took office. He must be held accountable.

We’ve had enough hypocrisy to last a lifetime since Trump entered the political scene. Going through the motions of pretending to hold powerful people accountable, as in the foolish and ill-fated attempt to impeach him a year ago represents a massive copout. Applying salves to infections with directly attacking them only allows them to fester.

I dislike empty gestures and show trials, but it’s time to act to remove Trump from office even if the clock on this administration runs out before the legal maneuvers required by invoking the 25th amendment or a second impeachment trial can be completed. Vice President Mike Pence, the Cabinet, and the Congress, all of whom have cowered in fear of Trump’s base must now accept their own roles in this catastrophe and do what is necessary. The nation and the world need to see America admit its failure if we ever expect to regain the moral authority we had both at home and internationally.

I could spend thousands of words recounting Trump’s crimes, but we only need to focus on 2020. His cynicism and blind lust for power which resulted in a pandemic death spiral that epidemiologists now predict could result in more than a million lives lost represent a level of criminal neglect and reckless endangerment, if not outright manslaughter, that we have never seen in a president before. The events of the last two months, which could only have culminated in the coup attempt at the Capitol represent treason, plain and simple.

Until recently, I believed that while viscerally pleasing to his victims, those they left behind, and those of us who have been counting the days until he departed, prosecuting and punishing Trump, was a mistake. We might feel good and righteous the way vigilante films make our hearts race with false pride, but I thought unifying the country was more important. I’d have welcomed pardons for him at every level if he went away and never returned.

But not anymore. Whether it’s Mike Pence or the Congress who acts, a clear message must be sent to every American and every foreign government that the rule of law prevails here. Removing Trump from the White House might seem like a pyrrhic victory, but at this critical time, the symbolic value of the act outweighs everything else. Only strong people and strong nations can admit they were wrong and demonstrate the will to make things right again, and that’s an all or nothing process. Half measures and logic-defying defenses of the indefensible only make things worse.

It’s not only Donald Trump who needs to be accountable. This is America’s Nuremburg moent. Far too late resignations by Cabinet officers, beginning with Attorney General Bill Barr, are acts of cowardice and self-interest. There is nothing noble in Betsy Devos and Elaine Chow pretending to fall on their swords. They’re just fleeing the burning building before it collapse on them, and ducking responsibility. If they stayed another day, they might have to stand up for the 25th Amendment.

As to people in Congress who continued to spread the lies of a rigged election even after Trump’s act of sedition, Senators like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley – a pox on them. Hawley, who thought protesting the election would cement his standing with Trump’s base in his quest to lead the post-Trump Republican Party has already seen his political fortunes crash and burn. His mentor and sponsor, John Danforth said helping Hawley win his Senate seat was the worst mistake he ever made, and Simon and Schuster canceled publication of Hawley’s book. There are calls for his recall, but that will be up to Missouri voters, as Cruz’s fate will be determined by Texans.

Rudy Giuliani, who incited Wednesday’s mob to “trial by combat,” must be indicted for treason by a federal grand jury. And Trump’s chief enablers, Kellyanne Conway, Lindsay Graham, Stephen Miller, Mark Meadows, Mitch McConnell, and dozens of others, must be held up to public scrutiny. Their craven commitment to self-interest over their oaths to protect the Constitution cannot be swept under the rug. These people were addicted to their own power and influence. If only there was a twelve-step program for corrupt politicians and government officials.

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