The reference is, of course, a play on the title of a famous book and movie about the battle to get control of RJR Nabisco in the late 1980s. Wikipedia tells the story well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RJR_Nabisco The subtitle of this post is: “When They Tell/Show You What They Are, Believe Them.”
The original thought for this post began with the revelation that the Republicans, newly in the House majority, had disbanded the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, reported everywhere at the end of January. But it goes way beyond that.
I refer now to the disgraceful desecration of the Capitol by Republicans during the State of the Union address by President Biden on February 7. Picking up where one of their number yelled “you lie!” at President Obama during a 2009 address to the Congress on health care reform, the Republicans as a group and individually heckled and shouted at President Biden multiple times during his speech. It reminded me of the chaos we sometimes see in foreign legislatures where yelling and disruption are commonplace, where physical violence occurs between disputatious parties. But not here. Not here.
Obviously, no rational person expects the Republicans to agree with much of what Biden proposes. But the State of the Union address is not a place for street rabble to shout down the President. Historically, the displeasure of the party out of power has been adequately demonstrated by their silence when the rest of the Congress applauds usually while standing. It’s a strange ritual, to be sure, but it’s been going on for a long time and everyone understands what the play is.
Until now. The gang of Republican traitors and criminals who helped orchestrate the January 6 attack on the Capitol to try to overturn the 2020 election have turned the State of the Union evening into a circus-like affair. They show no respect for the office of the President, no respect for the sitting President, no respect for each other, and no respect for the American people.
To be clear, this isn’t just about bad manners. This same group is composed of QAnon believers (Marjorie Taylor Greene who shouted “liar” at the President), proponents of automatic weapons everywhere (Lauren Boebert), people whose moral compass has led them repeatedly to deny the reality of what happened on January 6, 2021, and who was responsible (see this video for the reality they continue to deny: https://nyti.ms/3HM77XH). They are the real election thieves, the book burners, the science deniers.
They are led by Donald Trump whose brazen disregard of the law and mores of American society and politics have led him to commit multiple crimes the complete listing of which would fill many pages. He and his sycophantic followers continue to deny the truth about the 2020 election. It was Trump who called the Secretary of State in Georgia to demand that he “find” just enough votes to overturn the will of the people of Georgia. Everyone has heard the tape by now. It was Trump who tried to extort the president of Ukraine to launch an investigation of his political opponent. Everyone has read the “transcript” by now.
And yet, and yet, Trump continues to walk free, to continue his false narrative, to continue stealing from his supporters, to continue as the most dishonest, corrupt political leader in modern American times and perhaps at any time in American history. The boorish display by Republicans at the State of the Union is just a symptom of a much greater and more important danger. Democracy itself is on the line.
And yet, and yet, many Republican commentators continue to raise the specter that if Trump is held accountable for his crimes, there will be civil war, or the door will be opened to retribution by the succeeding administrations intent on punishing their predecessors. If that is true, the idea of America as the Founding Fathers envisioned it is indeed already dead.
It doesn’t have to be that way. But those in charge of the many “investigations” must act and act soon and aggressively to change the course, the curse, of events. The evidence of Trump’s crimes is both overwhelming and widely known. His so-called defenses – mainly the ludicrous “lack of intent” claim – are preposterous but whether they are or not is beside the point. If it is true that “no man is above the law,” if it is true that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, then the salvation of American democracy demands that Trump be prosecuted for all his crimes in every legal regime where jurisdiction exists. He can make his defenses there where the rules of law and evidence govern.
I have no better idea what is going on, or not going on, at the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel’s office than anyone outside the inner sanctums there, but time is running out. The government must act, or it will be destroyed by the fascist proponents of winning at all costs, the believers in “alternative facts” when the truth denies their self-serving goals. Those people have made clear (just look at Kari Lake’s post-election conduct in Arizona and Ron DeSantis’ abuses of government power in Florida), they will stop at nothing to get what they want. The system that made America one of the most important countries in the world is on the line. It’s past time to call the question.