What's Tony Thinking

Do the Right Thing


I have been asking myself what should be done in the wake of Wednesday’s riot and attack on the Capitol. I’m sure you have too.

Do we ride it out until January 20th, hoping Trump does nothing worse? Should the 25th Amendment be invoked, removing him from office by a vote of the cabinet? A second impeachment in the House and another trial in the Senate?

Often we, or at least I, tend to think about such things from a strategic point of view. We try to assess the likelihood of Trump doing something even crazier, like attempting to declare martial law or start a war with Iran. Or we ask, would Mike Pence invoke the 25th amendment and what number of the fast diminishing cabinet would go along?

Or how can impeachment be processed in the time remaining? Would it result in yet another indictment in the House and exoneration in the Senate, and further division in the country?

As I say, these ways of thinking are strategic. What might work? What would be the relative costs and benefits of any of these courses of action? What would be most helpful or detrimental to the beginning of the Biden administration?

All such thinking is understandable, but wrong.

What have we told ourselves, our kids, our grandkids time and again? Consequences. Doing the wrong thing has, and must have, consequences.

This is a time to do the right thing and let the chips fall where they may.

When a President incites a mob to take over the U.S. Capitol, he should be removed from office. When a President repeatedly, systematically, lies about an election and seeks to undermine its legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the nation’s institutions, he should be removed from office.

When rioters invade the Capitol, desecrate and murder, they should be held accountable to the full limits of the law. What’s more, I fear these people are the tip of the iceberg.

You may recall a post from last fall (September 2) in which I reported on warnings from a former official of the Department of Homeland Security about wide-ranging right-wing extremists and conspiracies.

“Elizabeth Neumann was a top official in the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump Administration. She resigned in April. Neumann is a life-long, self-described, “conservative Republican.” She is also a conservative Christian. She voted for Trump in 2016, albeit “reluctantly.”

Now she’s sounding the alarm. In an interview today with NPR she said that the threat of domestic terrorism from the right is real and growing, but nothing is being done about it by the Trump Administration. No, that’s not quite right. Something is being done about it. This President is encouraging it. 

Here’s Neumann:

“If you had a very clear voice at the top, from the president, from other senior leaders in the Republican Party, denouncing this and warning conservatives — warning Republicans — that these groups are trying to recruit you based on things that might sound like a typical conservative belief, but behind it is this insidious, ugly, evil thing, if we had more clear voices talking about it — it would somewhat inoculate people from that recruitment and that radicalization,” she says. “But instead, we have the opposite effect. We have the president not only pretty much refusing to condemn, but throwing fuel on the fire, creating opportunities for more recruitment through his rhetoric.” (italics added)

“Throwing fuel on the fire.” That’s the real truth about this “law and order” President.

Neumann says that these right-wing groups have adopted the ISIS (Islamic State) playbook to radicalize people on-line. She tried in vain to get White House funding to respond to these growing threats, but was unsuccessful. You can’t talk about “domestic terrorism” or “white supremacist” movements to this White House. They don’t want to hear it.”

In a December post I said that what we were dealing with in Trump was not simply someone who may or may not have been “wrong” on policies, but someone whose words and actions constitute evil. Here’s an excerpt from that December 1 post.

“While there will certainly be many angles for evaluation, I was struck by a distinction made by the essayist Lance Morrow in his 2003 book on Evil. 

That distinction is between “wrong” and “evil.”

Morrow says that he would have trouble calling the Nazi “Final Solution” or the torture-murder of a child “wrong.” They are something different. They are evil.

As I think about the Trump Presidency, Morrow’s distinction seems helpful. One can disagree with people and argue that they are “wrong,” even as they may conclude and say the same about you. This seems like normal life — we disagree — as well normal behavior in the realm of politics.

But Trump went beyond wrong to something I would call evil. One might, for example, believe his trade policies “wrong” or not. But his relentless, bold-faced lying was something else. His tactic was to repeat a lie so often that many came to accept it as truth — the election being the most recent case in point. That’s a different order of magnitude than “wrong.”

Or again, one might disagree with his judicial appointments and call them “wrong” or not, but his going for the jugular of national division and hatred time and time again and his personal attacks and ridicule directed against anyone who questioned him was different. That seems to me “evil.”

This is not a time for strategic thinking to get the last word. It is a time to think in terms of the basics, right and wrong, good and evil. It is time to do the right thing.




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