We’ve seen at last the long-elusive, final straw for Donald Trump — an insurgent breach of the U.S. Capitol marshaled by the president of the United States himself.
This was not a drill. It was an American tragedy.
The straw finally materialized on the strangest day, following the strangest year in most of American history. Republicans, many of them at work on the floor of the House and Senate, finally saw and felt for the first time what millions of other Americans have seen and sensed since Day One of Trump’s presidency. The words Trump has spoken and actions he has taken finally (and very nearly) brought the republic tumbling down.
I expected the final straw long before Jan. 6, 2021. I’d lost count of the number of times I thought that, surely, this raw comment, or that reckless tweet, would be the one that did him in. Surely, this time, someone would call him out. But for four years, most Republicans defended Trump and cheered him on, dismissed the danger he posed and pretended not to see his obvious decline — mentally, morally and ethically.
I long ago gave up hope that the GOP would confront this delusional man and send him back to wherever he’s welcome. The clamoring mob that overtook the Capitol, forcing legislators, security officers, aides and journalists to hit the ground and say their prayers, was apparently what it took to break the back of a party in thrall.
Trump kept a low profile through most of it. After rioters had taken up residence inside the Capitol, one mounting the Senate dais and another propping a foot up on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office, the leader of the so-called free world choked out something about “law and order” and asked his personal militia to stand down.
But first, he cajoled them with his favorite lie: They had been cheated. He did nothing to tell them he had misled them in service of his own ego, which meant they could all go home or to the local pub and comfort each other in the knowledge that they were true patriots.
It was shocking to see, horrifying to watch. The attack on our Congress — and the five deaths that resulted — was something we expect to see in other countries, not the United States of America. I commented to my son that I was glad my father was not alive to see it. Members of the Greatest Generation, who grew up during the Depression and fought the Second World War, wouldn’t be able to comprehend how we let this happen. Their disappointment might have broken them when war could not.
Not so Sens. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Ted Cruz, R-Tex., who, as my father might say, “couldn’t hold up the socks” of men like President George W. Bush or Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah — or, for that matter, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.—all of whom spoke eloquently against Trump’s treasonous tactics. Hawley and Cruz, whose names can now be found in the dictionary under the word “tool,” led the opposition to certifying Arizona’s electoral college votes, becoming agents of King Trump’s madness and giving cover to the insurrectionists crawling over walls, breaking glass and terrorizing members of Congress.
It’s a shame that tar-and-feathering has gone out of style. Both men will be lucky to escape censure.
A few other Trump devotees have made symbolic gestures of stern disapproval. Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, resigned Thursday, along with McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Mick Mulvaney, who served as Trump’s first budget director and more recently as an envoy for Northern Ireland, followed suit. With only a few days left in Trump’s presidency, their outrage fell short of heroic.
The terrible scene at the Capitol will not soon leave our memories, thanks in part to the mental imprint of bare-chested barbarians wearing animal skins, horned helmets and other memorabilia from their loopy, imaginary lives on Planet Q. These are the people Trump considers his compatriots, along with those Republican sycophants who’ve yet to discover their spines.
Invoking the 25th Amendment, as some suggested, might have shaved a day or two from Trump’s craziness, but it will take years to undo the damage he has inflicted on our land, our national security and the stability of the world.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org