USA Today: Trump triggers the American carnage he vowed in his inaugural address to stop
In a divided America, the events that unfolded on Capitol Hill on Wednesday afternoon should unite us all. In a universal sense of national shame and embarrassment.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States — historically a beacon of freedom and citadel of liberty — has devolved into a shocking exemplar of dysfunction. Democracies around the world, those established and those fledgling, could only look on in horror at the televised images of a pro-Trump mob storming the august American center of government, crowding its balustrades, smashing windows, flooding into its statuary hall.
Congratulations, Mr. Trump. Our Shining City on the Hill is now a tarnished emblem of national disgrace. The American carnage you promised to eradicate at the beginning of your term has turned to reality at the end of it.
The scenes looked like something out of a bad action movie: Rioters descending on the Capitol. Armed but outnumbered security forces barricading themselves with weapons drawn, firing teargas and hustling members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence to safety. A woman shot at the Capitol, later pronounced dead. And, in an iconic image of pure insurrection, a smug protester sitting in the president’s chair in the evacuated Senate Chamber.
How could the Capitol have been left so vulnerable even as protesters gathered in large numbers downtown? There will be time to investigate and understand how authorities were so unprepared for this rush of rioters and so slow to regain control of the Capitol.
But there’s little question about what triggered it.
Just before Congress gathered in a joint session for the ministerial task of counting the electoral votes showing that Joe Biden was elected the next president of the United States, Trump spouted his rancid conspiracy theories about a stolen election at a rally on the White House Ellipse.
He closed his remarks by egging his followers to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol and make their grievances known. “We’re just going to try and give (Republicans in Congress) the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country,” Trump exhorted them.
And they followed his every word.
The congressional tallying of electoral votes proscribed under the Constitution had to be suspended. And like an arsonist enjoying his handiwork, Trump watched the chaos unfold from the safety of the White House. Finally, he urged his fervent followers to stay peaceful and go home.
Too little. Far too late.
What to do about this man who has brought such ignominy upon our country? Censure by Congress? Certainly. Criminal exposure for inciting violence and pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to flip that state’s election results? Perhaps.
But can any punishment truly fit the crime? Four years of Trump’s divisive leadership have produced impeachable conduct, failed management of a pandemic that has killed 360,000 Americans, and the undermining of democracy with self-serving and contrived claims of voter fraud.
And now — as a capstone — he fomented mob violence that had all the earmarks of an insurrection.
All the way, he was abetted by sycophantic Republican enablers in Congress, who should immediately drop their disgraceful effort to decertify the Electoral College votes of battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden.
Trump’s onetime fixer Michael Cohen testified in 2019 that Trump wouldn’t cede power peacefully if he lost the election. Cohen, who knew Trump as well as anyone, was prescient.
One way or another, however, Trump will soon be gone from the White House. It will be left to Biden and the people of the United States to convince the world that Wednesday’s disgraceful images don’t represent the essence of America.