I wasn’t able to track everything that was going on yesterday, at the Capitol, in the media, and in cyberspace. I confess: I didn’t even try to listen to the news networks. I know their biases, assumed, correctly, that the rioting would just give the news media perceived license to unleash all of the hate for President Trump they might have left unexpressed over their four years of resistance. I don’t respect these people, I don’t trust them, and I don’t care what they think or say. They are at least as responsible for the violence as the President; I would argue that they are more responsible.
Here are some ethics observations on matters that came to my attention since the post on this topic last night:
1. I’ll repeat this one:
First and foremost, anyone who did not condemn all of the George Floyd/Jacob Blake/Breonna Taylor/ Black Lives Matters rioting that took place this summer and fall is ethically estopped from criticizing this episode.
That covers almost all of the mainstream media, Joe Biden, “The Squad.” and many others. Now that I have checked, virtually all of the conservative media and its pundits have unequivocally condemned those who invaded the Capitol yesterday as they should.
2. The President’s statements about the rioting following the one I quoted were irresponsible, but about what I would have expected. Conservative writer Tyler O’Neil, who, like me, has chronicled the wretched way Trump has been treated by the AUC since his election, wrote (in part), in an admirable post titled, “Trump Needs to Forcefully Condemn the Rioters, Not Coddle Them”:
Never in my life did I expect to see the president of the United States refuse to unequivocally condemn a mob that broke into the U.S. Capitol. There is no place for political violence in America, and the president needs to be the first person to always insist upon that. Tragically, President Donald Trump not only failed to denounce the mob but even praised some of them, essentially coddling rioters….
Trump’s comments remind me of the way Joe Biden responded to the Black Lives Matter and antifa riots over the summer. Biden asked protesters to remain peaceful, but he also repeatedly praised the protests that devolved into riots and condemned America’s “systemic racism,” repeating the arguments that inflamed the riots in the first place. Biden refused to full-throatedly condemn the noxious ideology behind the riots. Like Biden, Trump has called for peace even while suggesting that this political violence followed from a legitimate grievance. Yet even at his worst moments, Biden did not say “we love you” to antifa and he did not insist that riots were the natural response to systemic racism.
The 2020 election was not a pristine exercise of democracy, as many legacy media outlets have claimed, but it wasn’t a “steal,” either. As Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) pointed out, it is unlikely that the very serious irregularities and mistakes in the 2020 election were responsible for Biden’s win. Trump’s legal team had many chances to present evidence in court, and when push came to shove, they caved.
It is important for Americans to demand election reform after 2020, but it is also essential for them to accept that Biden won…President Trump decided he would fight the loss, which is his right. Yet the president did not just call for recounts or raise specific problems — he repeatedly claimed that he won by a “landslide.” He also cited the 74 million Americans who voted for him as an achievement. That 74 million number is indeed an achievement — but if the president says the election results are in doubt, he should not brag about the election results. Tragically, Trump’s supporters were primed to listen to him, rather than the legacy media and other sources, because the legacy media has proven itself heinously biased against Trump, again and again. … a Media Research Center poll found that many Americans who voted for Joe Biden said they would not have done so if they had heard about one of eight key election-related news stories that the legacy media suppressed (like allegations of Joe Biden’s personal connection to Hunter Biden’s corruption). If these Americans had not voted for Biden, Trump would have won the election.…
Trump did not win, however, and his rhetoric after the election has been dangerous. The president never encouraged his supporters to storm the Capitol, but he did support various schemes to overturn the election results, including crackpot theories about the vice president’s ability to reject Electoral College votes from certain states. (Mike Pence wisely refused to take this course.)
When Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Trump had a moral duty to vocally condemn their lawless attack. This situation also gave him an opportunity to demonstrate that he supported law and order more than Joe Biden had over the summer.
Instead, Trump arguably proved himself worse than Biden. The president coddled violent elements among his supporters, even when they broke into the People’s House. This was despicable. Trump’s comments were beyond the pale.
The president needs to reverse course. He should follow the lead of Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who called for the mob to face “prosecutions to the fullest extent of the law.” He should not equivocate or suggest that it was natural for some of his supporters to break into the Capitol. He certainly should not praise them or declare his “love” for them.
3. Let me interject here, as I hate to say “I told you so,” but I told you so, that Ethics Alarms stated that the President should have conceded, and gracefully, on December 13, a full three weeks ago. I concluded,
By digging his heels in now, after the Supreme Court dismissed with prejudice the Hail Mary Texas lawsuit, all President Trump can accomplish is to further divide the nation (the objective of Democrats for four plus years, but that’s no excuse for him) and appear to fulfill his foes’ worst assessments of his character. The President has plenty to be resentful and angry about, and there is much to question about how the election was handled. If he were, say, ten-years-old, it would be asking too much to expect him to give up a futile fight and to do what is in the best interests of the country.
But he is not ten, and he is President of the United States.
I was right, and I knew I was right, though the majority of comments on that post were negative. All the President accomplished was to fulfill the worst predictions and assumptions of his foes, and embarrass his defenders.
3. On the President’s typically unrestrained tongue and fingers: In case you missed the worst of his comments last night, he said,
“[G]o home, we love you, you’re very special.”
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Saying “I love you” to violent morons who disrupted the election process and got a women killed is a new low for Trump, who has had lower lows than almost any politician in U.S. history. This is the kind of conduct that led me to conclude over a decade ago that he was a uniquely toxic figure in the American culture. Yet again, it is not far from what I would have expected.
4. It was largely ignored, but the President did finally concede last night after Congress, as there was never any doubt that itwould, certified the election results. He wrote,
“Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th. I have always said we would continue our fight to ensure that only legal votes were counted. While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning of our fight to Make America Great Again!”
Of course, more people would have known about the concession, such as it is, if Twitter hadn’t suspended the President’s account, a cowardly and irresponsible act clarifying the platform’s despicable bias, as if more clarity was needed.
It must also be noted that the riots didn’t “endanger democracy” in any way, nor did they constitute a “coup” or even an attempted coup. Like most riots, this was a tantrum.
5. Finally, another word from Professor Reynolds, which does not in any way mitigate the disgrace of the rioting or the President’s unethical response to them, as he wrote,
“Meanwhile, does anyone think there wouldn’t have been riots if Trump had been declared the winner?”
In fact, the rioting would have been nationwide, and have lasted days, if not weeks and months.
Which, neatly, brings us back to observation #1.