BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | JAN 8, 2021
When President Trump invited his hard-core supporters to Washington to protest the congressional certification of the electoral college vote declaring Joe Biden the President-Elect, he surely knew what he was doing. He has been toying with and exploiting the emotions of his supporters for years and when they got to Washington, he incited them to head for the US Capitol for a “wild” protest.
The Capitol was desecrated by violence. It hurt. I saw rooms in which I once worked, in hallways and rooms once revered. But the President did not condemn the insurrection; he told the rebellious horde that he loved them.
Only on Thursday, Jan 7, after a category five storm of anger and repudiation did he step before a camera and read from a script that the invasion of the Capitol was wrong.
He should resign the Presidency immediately. Hopefully, everyone around him including his family will encourage him to do so.
Richard Nixon faced similar outrage in August of 1974. His presidency was mortally wounded by a smoking gun. The bullet was a White House tape recording handed over to a special prosecutor confirming the President’s role in the famous Watergate cover-up.
“It hit me right in the solar plexus,” House Republican Leader Bob Michel said to me after he heard excerpts from the secret tapes that proved President Richard Nixon was complicit in the Watergate break-in. It was a blow to Nixon loyalists who did not believe Nixon was culpable. They were wrong and on August 8, 1974, Nixon resigned at the urging of family members, close friends, and advisors. In a day, he was gone.
President Trump’s complicity in the anarchist seizure of the nation’s Capitol is a smoking Howitzer. It was far more damaging than the smoking pistol two days before in a phone call with the Secretary of State of Georgia imploring him to “find” the votes needed to overturn the Georgia presidential balloting.
There comes a time on the darker side of politics when “enough is enough,” as Senator Lindsay Graham said on the Senate Floor. Those three words are now echoing down the corridors of Congress and the cramped quarters of the Executive and its agencies. The finality of those words now says it all. Enough is enough.
There are calls in Washington for the triggering of the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1967. Section 4 reads “Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President. Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representative his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless…” the original petitioners of his inability say otherwise.
The 25th Amendment is one recourse, but not a good one. Nor is another impeachment process. They will take too much time even if either is done in a week. There will be too much talk, too much hateful rhetoric.
President Trump should spare himself and us yet another indignity and another outpouring of the hate and anger that has already created such destructive division in the country and in politics. Enough is enough.
President Trump’s departure, whether tomorrow or two weeks from now, is not an end. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of the end of a decades-long era in American politics and governance that has left many Americans—maybe most Americans—disillusioned with the Republic, with their representatives in government, and the whole system of elective politics. Now many fear that the Republic is no longer the great beacon of hope, promise, and democratic self-rule that it once was. They fear for their own well being and security from harm and corruption.
The sooner Mr. Trump is once again Mr. Trump, not President Trump, the sooner the nation can even think about turning full attention to critical problems that 2020 and so many past years have wrought. There are a lot of them, all testament to failures of leadership, partisanship, citizen responsibility, and core American values that are just being abandoned and disavowed.
Here are just a few.
Congress, as it has been frightfully clear for some time needs reform. Begin with the stark reality that the institution is highly vulnerable to violent occupation, guarded by a 2,000-person police force that let down its guard with mortal consequences. One of the insurgents and one Capitol Police officer are dead. But Congress is also vulnerable to other security breaches including cybersecurity and is sadly lacking in plans and preparations for emergencies and contingencies in times of national crisis let alone relatively normal times. Its ability to conduct the business of the country in times of trouble is anachronistic. Critical problems have been ignored for years. The Institution is disgraced by the way it conducts elections and how campaigns are financed, by the excessive influences of partisan politics on the policymaking process, and by crippled and ineffective relationships between citizens and their representatives.
The media is in crisis. The Trump era has exposed the corruptive, influences of all media, but especially social media. So many outlets no longer have quit being purveyors of information, and now are purveyors of propaganda, for both politics and profit. The media have become the most powerful player in politics and governance. It is time to reassess the role and responsibility of the press and the protections afforded them under the First Amendment. The press won’t do it, and similarly to Mr. Trump they simply will not concede fault or failure. They are in a state of denial about what has happened. Some other path to change must be found. There are good paths forward, which I have discussed in previous columns.
There is a fundamental need for restructuring of the two-party system. Both parties, Democratic and Republican, are handcuffed by internal ideological divisions, outdated infrastructure, too much injection of partisanship in the process of public policy, and a dearth of effective leadership. The two-party system has failed us as George Washington once predicted it would. The Republican Party has greater challenges in the immediate future, but Democrats hold a losing hand as well.
There is also a fundamental need for the natural enforcement of civility in our society and civil discourse in our politics. There is a need for the renewal of respect for our civic institutions, our national language, and our values. We seem to have lost sight of who we are, what we want this country to be, and how we get it there. What we have witnessed over the past several years is not it.
Enough is enough.
We all hope that a Biden presidency will be the first step toward a restoration of some semblance of normalcy; that he will provide the leadership needed to heal the wounds, not irritate them more. He must bring us together, calm us down, and insist on a method of governance that is product-driven and all-inclusive; all meaning Americans of all persuasions, regardless of their race, creed, national origin, political philosophy, geography, age, education, or health. Above all, he most focus the nation’s attention and energy on eradicating the deadly pandemic.
The anger, universal distrust, and disillusionment are destroying us from within. It must stop.
Enough is enough.
Editor’s Note: Mike Johnson is a former journalist, who worked on the Ford White House staff and served as press secretary and chief of staff to House Republican Leader Bob Michel, prior to entering the private sector. He is co-author of a book, Surviving Congress, a guide for congressional staff, co-founder and member of the Board of the Congressional Institute, and a participant in the Congress of Tomorrow congressional reform project. Johnson is retired. He is married to Thalia Assuras and has five children and three grandchildren.