Yesterday was a day of infamy in the United States, a moment like no other in American history, when the sitting president, Donald Trump, incited violence and insurrection and promoted sedition, thereby disgracing himself in the eyes of most Americans.
Still clinging to the false claim that the presidential election was “stolen,” despite Joe Biden’s certified victory, and still stubbornly refusing to concede, Trump recklessly urged thousands of his diehard supporters gathered in Washington, D.C. to march on the Capitol building to vent their anger and disapproval of the outcome of last November’s presidential election. Scattered in the crowd were a gaggle of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who feel a kinship with Trump.
Congress was in the midst of certifying the election result when hundreds of marchers stormed Capitol Hill, interrupting the certification process and forcing lawmakers to seek shelter.
As they swept through the halls of Congress, the rioters smashed windows, vandalized the office of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and briefly took control of the Senate chamber in a sickening spectacle that conjured up visions of a coup in a Central American banana republic.
It’s puzzling why security personnel were unable to stop these goons from entering the premises. It’s a question that will have to be answered, and heads will probably roll after a thorough investigation. In the meantime, Americans can breathe a sigh of relief that the guards exercised restraint and held their fire.
Amid the chaos, two photographs of the mayhem stand out in stark relief. The first is of a self-satisfied intruder in Pelosi’s office leaning back complacently on her chair, his rubber-heeled boots planted firmly on her desk. The second shows a trespasser carrying a large Confederate flag as he roams the halls of Congress.
These telling images have been seared into the consciousness of Americans and foreigners alike. They convey an unmistakable message of profound disrespect for the tradition of law and order and contempt for the principles of democracy and the will of the people.
Contrary to Trump’s utterly divisive “stab-in-the-back” conspiracy theories, Biden beat Trump by a margin of almost eight million votes, and his victory in the Electoral College was substantial as well.
Yet Trump and his allies persisted in circulating the baseless allegation that the election was fraudulent, an accusation that was repeatedly dismissed, due to a glaring lack of evidence, by Trump’s attorney-general, William Barr, a procession of state judges, and the Electoral College itself. The U.S. Supreme Court twice declined to consider his petitions.
Trump, whose character and temperament rendered him unfit and unsuitable to be president, behaved shamelessly yet again as the Capitol, the citadel of American democracy, was besieged by rioters. On social media, his favorite means of mass communication, he condoned the violence, which resulted in the death of one protester, and praised his civilian army of resisters, whose long list of grievances can only be ignored at America’s peril.
“These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted from the Oval Office after watching footage of the unfolding events near the White House. “Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!”
Fortunately, Trump’s campaign of disinformation had no decisive effect on Congress. Although some of his supporters in the Senate and House of Representatives remained steadfastly loyal to his dangerous cause of overturning the election, two of his key allies, Vice-President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, parted ways with him.
Much to their credit, they refused to cave in to his pressure to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory. Pence correctly described the siege of the Capitol as “a dark day” and McConnell accurately called it a “failed insurrection.”
In the wake of these unsettling events, Congress resumed its deliberations of the electoral count and finally certified it at 4 a.m. on January 7, capping a fraught incident instigated by an unhinged president.
Still in defiant mode, Trump issued a statement shortly afterward, saying he “totally disagrees with the outcome of the election,” but promising there will be “an orderly transition” of power. Which means that the inevitable will happen: President-elect Biden will be formally inaugurated on January 20.
Trump’s noxious behavior on January 6 will not be forgotten. Self-serving, narcissistic, bombastic and most certainly unpresidential, he has been one of the worst presidents ever to occupy the highest office in the land.
Top Democratic leaders have called for his immediate removal under the 25th Amendment. With the Democrats having won control of the Senate thanks to the victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia runoff elections on January 5, they may be in a position to launch this drastic procedure. But with only 13 days left in Trump’s four-year term, it’s doubtful whether there is sufficient time to finish it.
For all his failings, Trump scored one major foreign policy achievement. He orchestrated Israel’s normalization agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, though he abysmally failed to produce a fair, balanced and realistic proposal to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As a mob descended on Capitol Hill, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and a Sudanese cabinet minister signed a document in Khartoum paving the way for Sudan to move forward toward normalizing relations with Israel in the near future. Mnuchin flew to Israel to brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the latest developments.
Israelis will applaud and appreciate Trump’s efforts to break barriers in the region, but the majority of Americans will regard Trump with deep distaste following the tumultuous and embarrassing events in Washington yesterday.