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For a brief moment, Mitch McConnell told the truth. It was February 13. He had just voted to acquit Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection. Yet he acknowledged the twice-impeached Trump’s civil and criminal culpability. Recognizing the source, his words were unexpected.
January 6 was a disgrace. American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of domestic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president.
They did this because they'd been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth, because he was angry he'd lost an election. Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty…There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it.
The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.
There is not a single word of this with which I disagree. This was a moment—after the years of attacks on our democracy—when I almost felt a turning point.
But these words were uttered by Mitch McConnell, the former Senate Majority Leader, the self-described Grim Reaper, the man whose over-riding mission was to make Barack Obama a one-term president, the man who refused for nearly a year to give Judge Merrick Garland a hearing for the open Supreme Court seat, the man who voted against sanctions on a Russian aluminum company then reveled in that same company’s announcement that it would spend $200 million to build a plant in Kentucky, the man who in his greedy hunger for power assisted Donald Trump’s desecration of the Oval Office and degradation of our democratic system.
These words could not endure, not when the shamelessly cynical McConnell saw his fellow Republicans kowtowing to the Palm Beach club owner and clinging to the Big Lie as if there were no other way to feed their empty bellies and sustain their hold on a deranged cult desperate for dirty lies and reckless conspiracies.
No, after acknowledging Trump’s role in inciting the deadly insurrection, McConnell was back to his old games—one day he’s considering supporting the bipartisan commission to investigate the events of January 6, the next day he’s calling it partisan and redundant. Forget the Republicans’ 33 Benghazi hearings, which provided an egregious illustration of partisanship and redundancy.
“It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could actually lay on top of existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress,” said McConnell, He was not about to throw his fate with elected officials who think an attack on the Capitol (their own workplace) deserves special attention. The man who for a brief moment had decided to speak honestly was back to avoiding conflict with the evicted White House occupant.
He was not alone, of course. Note the words of Sen. John Thune, McConnell’s number 2, and the aggressive effort to move on—and to squeeze out some political benefit, justice and truth be damned. “Anything that gets us rehashing the 2020 elections, I think, is a day lost on being able to draw a contrast between us and the Democrats’ very radical left-wing agenda.”
While 35 Republican House members joined with the Democrats to vote for the commission, 175 voted against it, underscoring the continuing refusal of Republicans to face facts and fulfill their duty as Americans to confront that insurrectionist act of domestic terrorism.
Yes, McConnell’s blunt rejection all but kills the plan in the Senate. But we must never be surprised: It’s business as usual from Mitch McConnell, whose tragic lust for power takes American democracy another step closer toward its demise.
The battle continues.
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