This is my last weekly commentary on the Trump presidency. (I will do one more piece for the book down the road: an epilogue tying up some Trumpian loose ends.) I can hear the cheers coming back at me through my keyboard as I type, including from all of MAGA Nation (at least the seven followers who ever read my stuff over the past four years) and friends who are simply sick of all-things Trump.
The former president has been mostly quiet this past week, making no public appearances except his poorly attended end-of-presidency send-off Wednesday morning at which he sang his predictably mendacious Trumpian Greatest Hits. Aides have kept him from interacting with reporters before his final exit, fearing his extreme “volatility.” The primary White House news of the week falls under the media-dubbed “pardon watch.” And late on the eve of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Mr. Trump did not disappoint:
“President Trump on Tuesday granted clemency to 143 people, using a final act of presidential power to extend mercy to former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, well-connected celebrities, and nonviolent drug offenders — but he did not preemptively pardon himself or his family.
“Among those who were pardoned or who had their sentences commuted on Trump’s final full day in office were the rapper Lil Wayne and former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who has been serving a 28-year prison sentence on corruption charges. Trump also pardoned two former Republican members of Congress, Rick Renzi of Arizona and Randall “Duke” Cunningham of California. Both had completed prison terms that stemmed from corruption convictions. A third, Robert “Robin” Hayes of North Carolina, was also pardoned after finishing a probation sentence for making a false statement during a federal investigation.”
(Helderman, Rosalind S. & Dawsey, Josh & Reinhard, Beth; “Trump Grants Clemency to 143 People in Late-Night Pardon Blast”; The Washington Post; 1/20/2021.)
[FUN FACT:] Steve Bannon had not been convicted yet but was under indictment for fraudulently collecting and stealing contributions to a “Build-the-(southern border)-Wall” fund.
Note that Trump’s long (multi-hundreds of entries) clemency list of overwhelmingly Caucasian corrupt politicians and businessmen — “scores of crooks and cronies,” per columnist Dana Milbank — reflects the very crimes of which Donald is guilty as sin, the same indictments and convictions he’ll be fighting off for the rest of his life. The cherry? Many of those crooks and cronies paid Trump allies high fees for those pardons. How is this not illegal!?!
Then he tops it off by letting one of his tippy-top swamp creatures off the hook: Bannon, the guy that fleeced Trump’s own working-class supporters by conning them out of money they thought was going to “Build That Wall.”
Other than that, I thought I’d lay out a few notable Trump administration-defining recent occurrences and a few era-defining firsts.
Trump Presidency Firsts
— 147 Republican members of Congress feigned belief that the election was stolen from their president, and backed up their fake belief by voting to overturn the Electoral College Vote — even just hours after the Insurrection of Jan. 6.
— Donald Trump is the first president in 152 years to boycott his successor’s inauguration.
— The Trump administration handoff of the presidency is the first non-peaceful transfer of power since the Civil War.
Biden Presidency Firsts
— Joe Biden is the oldest president ever to be inaugurated (78).
— Joe Biden is the first son (or daughter) of Delaware ever to be inaugurated.
— Kamala Harris is the first women to be inaugurated vice president (or president).
— Kamala Harris is the first African American to be inaugurated vice president.
— Kamala Harris is the first person of South Asian descent to be inaugurated vice president.
— The U.S. COVID-19 death count surpassed 400,000 Jan. 19, 2021.
— President-elect Biden oversaw a national memorial service on the eve of his swearing in to collectively mourn pandemic victims. This is the first memorial, or even offering of condolences to families, from the White House since President Trump began playing down the first American coronavirus death Feb. 6, 2020.
The End of Trumpism
President Joe Biden took the oath of office, administered by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts, 12 minutes before the constitutionally designated time of power transfer (noon) in a seemingly symbolic show of national anxiousness to move on from Trumpism.
President Biden gave a soaring 22-minute speech. Fox News’ last-remaining respectable journalist, Chris Wallace, called it the greatest presidential inauguration speech of his lifetime. Later that night, other Fox hosts couldn’t wait to begin building their wall of mendacity and ad hominems, from belittling the way Joe walks to asserting that “Biden’s not mentally well and everyone in Washington knows it but they won’t report it.”
What’s that? “The slime – oozin’ out – from your TV – set”? (— thanks to Frank Zappa).
Can we make an agreement to boycott the Laura Ingrahams and Tucker Carlsons of the world? Because here’s the thing about people like them:
Critically thoughtful discussion is possible between people who fundamentally disagree on issues. But it’s not possible when people like them dishonestly refuse to accept baseline facts that reasonable people on both sides of the argument do. It’s not possible when they engage in chronic projection and wholesale logical fallacy to disguise their critical weakness on the facts. It’s not possible when they support their arguments by relying on Trump World propaganda.
When you deny things you know and wish not to be true, you are a waste of time. If you’re a Fox News talk show host with high ratings, you’re dangerous. When you deny the veracity of legitimate information sources, you’re dangerous. When you ask for proof that the sun rises in the east, you’re not an honest debater. By your standards of un-critical thinking, all truth is deniable, and there is no reality except that which your leader deems so. Once this intellectual insincerity has been exposed about a person — you — any further attempt at critically thoughtful debate is a colossal waste of time.
And if you’re a Fox News talk show host with high ratings, you are dangerous.
A New President
Newly inaugurated President Joseph R. Biden Jr. means business. Just a few hours after his swearing in, he signed 17 presidential executive orders and directives prepared by his legal team in the preceding weeks to reverse Trumpian policies that have caused our country the “greatest damage.” The following actions were taken:
— Initiated many pandemic-related steps to begin — yes, “aggressively” begin — confronting the devastation from COVID-19, such as giving authority and credibility back to scientists, establishing prevention guidelines with teeth, activating the Defense Production Act, and organizing and expediting the vaccination response with experts instead of political lackeys
— Rejoined World Health Organization aka WHO
— Reinstated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals aka DACA
— Called for path to citizenship for immigrants
— Softened aggressive deportation efforts
— Ordered prompt reunion of remaining separated migrant children with their parents
— Rescinded order to exclude noncitizens from census count
— Rescinded Muslim travel ban
— Stopped (southern border) “Build That Wall” construction
— Rejoined Paris climate accords
— Revoked Keystone XL pipeline permit
— Reinstated effective vehicle emission standards
— Established moratorium on oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
— Established top level task force to root out systemic racism
— Killed (historical) 1776 Commission, which altered, softened role of slavery in American history
— Reinstituted permission for diversity and inclusion training at government-related entities
— Reinforced Civil Rights Act of 1964, with focus on sexual orientation and gender identity
— Moved to extend moratorium on evictions and foreclosures
— Moved to extend moratorium on student loan payments and interest
— Established government ethics rules and pledges
— Froze all other last-minute “midnight regulations” Trump signed until after careful review
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Parting Words
“Woke-ism, multiculturalism, all the -isms — they’re not who America is. They distort our glorious founding and what this country is all about. Our enemies stoke these divisions because they know they make us weaker. … Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction — authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness.”
(Pompeo, Mike, R-Kansas, U.S. secretary of state; Twitter post; 1/19/2021.)
No, it’s Mike Pompeo’s and Donald Trump’s authoritarianism that is cloaked as these -isms: Republicanism, conservatism, anti-PC-ism, and (phony) patriotism.
“Multiculturalism [is] not who America is.” The now-former secretary of state Pompeo thinks the American melting pot of cultures (the very definition of multiculturalism) is a fondue warmer scientists use for creating vaccines to insert chips in all of us and cause autism. It’s like this guy never had an elementary school history class.
And let’s put this term woke to bed. It’s been around since WWII and has resurfaced. I don’t like the term (for some reason I can’t put my finger on), but it simply refers to raised consciousness — which is a good thing.
Raised consciousness brought us the Founding Fathers who created American representative democracy (imperfect though it remains). Raised consciousness is the force behind constant striving to create “a more perfect union,” as long and uneven as that road has been. Raised consciousness brought the fight for anti-child-labor laws, abolition, Reconstruction, women’s suffrage and women’s rights, the Black vote and anti-Jim Crow laws, LGBTQ rights, and so many more cultural justice issues.
And it solidified the fight against Trumpism.
The road to raised consciousness has many hills and dips, but it never ends. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday week: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
So Mr. Former Secretary, take your slams against multiculturalism and wokeness and place them in your white supremacist-sympathizing anal cavity. As for the condemning of political correctness, we know this is simply an anti-PC skirt behind which your crowd hides while continuing racist and sexist language, behavior, and policies.
“More than 30,000 falsehoods and lies. Nearly 400,000 coronavirus deaths. Rising white nationalism. Financial self-dealing. A social media ban. Two impeachments. A deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“President Trump’s four years in office come to a close Wednesday after a reign defined by constant chaos, corruption, and scandal, a tenure that numerous scholars predict is destined to rank him among America’s worst presidents. …
“To Leah Wright-Rigueur, associate professor of American history at Brandeis University, Trump’s presidency has been a case study in the ‘naked, unadulterated pursuit of power and self-interest, at the cost of 400,000 lives and at the cost of the American union.’”
(Nakamura, David; “As Trump’s Presidency Recedes Into History, Scholars Seek to Understand His Reign — and What It Says About American Democracy”; The Washington Post; 1/18/2021)
Trump’s Inner Thoughts
“In the [May 2020] video, [Otero County, N.M., Commissioner Couy] Griffin said, ‘The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.’ He qualified in the video that he was only speaking metaphorically about politics. … [Now he] has been arrested in the riot.
“Trump promoted the video by saying, ‘Thank you Cowboys [for Trump]. See you in New Mexico!’ (Twitter suspended both Trump’s and the Cowboys for Trump accounts this month.)
“But while Griffin qualified his comments in the video, he later indicated to the Daily Beast that he wasn’t speaking entirely figuratively. He suggested Democratic governors who locked down their states amid the coronavirus pandemic could be guilty of treason and might face the death penalty. ‘You get to pick your poison: You either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope,’ Griffin said.”
(Blake, Aaron; “Trump Promoted N.M. Official’s Comment That ‘The Only Good Democrat Is a Dead Democrat.’ Now the Man Is Arrested in the Capitol Riot.”; The Washington Post; 1/18/2021.)
Jesus H. Christ!
Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate is scheduled to start within days or weeks. He’s been impeached in the House for promoting violence toward political opponents and the government: “Article I (of 1), Incitement of Insurrection.” Though already out of the White House, accountability and possible exclusion from future public office are key factors in pursuing the charges.
The Griffin video retweet by the former president might just be Exhibit A.
Inauguration Day — Our National Nightmare Has Ended
You might have heard about a certain recent past president who liked to exaggerate (with military force) his inaugural crowd size while comparing it to that of his predecessors. This year, former president Trump ensured that pictures of his successor’s inaugural crowd size definitely would reflect a far smaller number than his own.
Inauguration Day ceremonies were a far cry in 2021 from the usual fare. As president, Mr. Trump ignored a world pandemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans since early 2020. Probably half or more of those could have been avoided with competent, non-corrupt leadership.
Then the Insurrection of Jan. 6 happened. Former president Trump called his supporters to Washington, D.C., the day of the Electoral College vote certification (his perceived last chance to retain power). He incited them to breach and ransack the Capitol building. They brought guns, zip ties (for handcuffs), high-powered mace, Tasers, bats, hockey sticks, and all manner of other tactical gear. They terrorized members of Congress and chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” and “Where’s Nancy [Pelosi, House speaker]!” while rampaging through halls and offices.
Consequently, for public health and security reasons, Inauguration Day ceremonies were trimmed back to a few hundred attendees instead of, for example, Barack Obama’s 2009 estimated 1.8 million people. The National Guard deployed 25,000 troops to ensure safety. Everyone at the festivities wore masks.
Instead of Trump lying about the photo comparison showing his relatively sparse crowd of an estimated 300,000 to 600,000, he’ll be forever remembered for 2021 Inauguration Day National Mall photos of 400 solemnly lighted columns framing the reflecting pool (one for each 1,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths) near a forest of 200 American flags (one for each 1,000 canceled invitations).
Speaking of Canceled Invitations
My partner and I got our official Inauguration Day invitation last week, all glossy and formal-like. We’d made the non-refundable-hotel-room commitment a week after the election (four nights at triple the normal D.C. Hampton Inn prices, five minutes’ walk from the White House). We had hoped we weren’t too late and we weren’t, snagging some of the last available reservations. Then we requested inaugural tickets from our congressperson, as required.
In early December, the COVID-19 travel warnings started blaring. Since my partner and I are somewhat older than 35, we made the painful decision not to go to Washington. After a fight with the hotel (my partner is really good at this type of thing), we did get a refund on the rooms.
Then came Jan. 6, the Trump-provoked riots at the Capitol building, and the succeeding security lockdown of government row, still in effect.
It’s always somethin’: If it’s not a once-in-a-century pandemic, it’s an armed insurrection. So nobody got to go except a few hundred elites. What a week on-site it could have been. Anyway, I took the day off work and we watched the ceremonies virtually.
But we’ll always have our official glossy Inauguration Day invitations — and Paris. ■
02/06/2020 — U.S.: 1 | World: 620
01/21/2021 — U.S.: 406,384 | World: 2,078,315
Conservatively estimated Trump malfeasance deaths: 203,192 (50% of total U.S. deaths)*
The United States accounts for 4.2% of Earth’s population, 20% of world COVID-19 deaths.*
“PANDEMIC: Vaccine Rollout Crippled by Trump Admin. Non-Cooperation w/ Biden Team” (1/14/2021)
“INAUGURATION: 20K National Guard Troops Have Been Deployed to Capitol for Security” (1/14/2021)
“RIOTS: Dozens of Rioters Were on FBI Terrorist No-Fly Watch List; Authorities Alarmed” (1/14/2021)
“RIOTS: Several GOP Reps. Who Voted for Trump Impeachment Fear for Their Lives; at Least 3 GOP Reps. Say They Voted Against Impeachment Only out of Fear for Family Members’ Lives” (1/14/2021)
“RIOTS: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) Apologizes to Black Voters for Voting to Overturn E- C-” (1/14/2021)
“INAUGURATION: WH, Capitol Protected by Baghdad-Like Military ‘Green Zone’” (1/15/2021)
“RIOTS: 98 Rioters Charged so Far, 275 Investigations Ongoing” (1/15/2021)
“PANDEMIC: Trump Admin. Lied About Non-Existent Vaccine Reserve, States Left in Lurch” (1/15/2021)
“ELECTION: Poll: ‘Is Biden Legitimate Pres.?’ Dems: 99%; Independents: 66%; GOP: 19%” (1/16/2021)
“PANDEMIC: WORLD DEATH COUNT SURPASSES 2 MILLION” (1/17/2021)
“INAUGURATION: FBI Vetting 20K+ National Guard Members to Prevent ‘Insider’ Attacks” (1/17/2021)
“RIOTS: Multitude of Connections Between Trump Campaign, Rally-Riot Organizers” (1/17/2021)
“RIOTS: 116 Arrests, 300+ Open Investigations, 150,000 Leads to Follow Up” (1/17/2021)
“INAUGURATION: 25K Guard Troops in D.C.; all Vetted for Domestic Terrorist Connections” (1/18/2021)
“ELECTION: Trump Still Constantly Telling Aides, Visitors He Won Election” (1/18/2021)
“ELECTION: Trump Forcing Loyalists in at Top Military/Intel Positions in Final Weeks/Days” (1/18/2021)
“PARDONS: Trump Allies Reportedly Selling Access for Pardon Lobbying” (1/18/2021)
“Trump Leaves Office w/ 34% Approval Rating, His Lowest; 1st Pres. Never to Reach 50%” (1/19/2021)
“Trump’s Heralded Health Care Plan Announcement Never Came” (1/19/2021)
“PANDEMIC: U.S. DEATH COUNT SURPASSES 400,000” (1/19/2021)
“INAUGURATION: 12 Guard Troops Canned: Vetting Found Domestic Terrorist Sympathies” (1/19/2021)
“ELECTION: Trump Refuses to Utter Joe Biden’s Name in Last Few Wks., Farewell Video” (1/19/2021)
“INAUGURATION: TRUMP 1ST PRES. IN 152 YRS. TO BOYCOTT SUCCESSOR’S OATH” (1/19/2021)
“INAUGURATION: TRUMP’S IS 1ST NON-PEACEFUL TRANSFER OF POWER SINCE CIVIL WAR” (1/19/2021)
“INAUGURATION: President-Elect Joe Biden Nominates Dr. Rachel Levine as Asst. Secretary of Health; Will Be First Openly Transgender Federal Official Ever Confirmed by U.S. Senate” (1/19/2021)
“Trump Breaks 30,000-Mark of Lies in (1) Presidential Term, per Wash. Post Tally” (1/19/2021)
“RIOT: In 1st Statement Since Jan. 6, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) Blamed Trump ‘and other powerful people’ for ‘provoking,’ Feeding ‘lies’ to Violent Mob That Stormed Capitol” (1/19/2021)
“PANDEMIC: Pres.-Elect Biden Oversees 400K Pandemic Deaths Memorial Service at National Mall, 1st Honoring of Deaths Since Trump Began Playing Down 1st U.S. Virus Death Feb. 6, 2020” (1/19/2021)
“PARDONS: Trump Issues 143 Pardons, Commutations, Including Corrupt Associates Steve Bannon, Elliot Broidy; Did NOT Pardon Self, Aides, Family, Rioters, GOP Reps Associated w/ Riots” (1/19/2021)
“INAUGURATION: PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS SWORN IN” (1/20/2021)
“INAUGURATION: Fox’s Chris Wallace Calls Biden Inaug. Speech Greatest in His Lifetime” (1/20/2021)
“INAUGURATION: Pres. Biden Signs 17 Executive Orders, Actions to Reverse Trump Policies” (1/20/2021)
“INAUGURATION: VP Harris Swears in 3 Dem Senators, Swings Senate Control to Dems” (1/20/2021)
“PANDEMIC: U.S. Has 4.2% of World Population, 20% of World COVID-19 Deaths” (1/21/2021)
“PANDEMIC: U.S./World: 24.4M/97.0M Cases; 406.4K/2.1M Deaths; 11:39 a.m. ET” (1/21/2021)