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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

President Joe Biden

Photo by The White House

Two tiresome realities about being president of the United States: first, everybody blames you for things over which you have little or no control: such as the worldwide price of oil, and international shipping schedules. Should there be too few electronic gee-gaws on store shelves to pacify American teenagers this Christmas, it will be Joe Biden’s fault.

Second, everybody gives you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Everywhere you look, Democrats and Democratically-inclined pundits are tempted to panic. “The cold reality for Biden,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait “is that his presidency is on the brink of failure.” A return to Trumpism, and essentially the end of American democracy, strikes Chait as altogether likely.

Everybody cites Biden’s “plunging” or “nosediving” poll numbers, although they’ve held steady at roughly 43 percent even since pretty much since the news media’s collective freakout over Afghanistan. Definitely not good, but still better than, well, Donald Trump’s, who hovered permanently around 40 percent. And that was before he raised a mob to sack the U.S. Capitol.

Chait mainly blames congressional Democrats, specifically the preening and posturing of the Democratic left, along with the stonewalling of “centrists unable to conceive of their job in any terms save as valets for the business elite.” In short, Senators Joe Manchin and Kirsten Sinema. He notes that when Manchin goes home to consult his West Virginia constituents, he meets the Chamber of Commerce at the Greenbrier golf resort.

When in Washington, Sen. Manchin lives aboard Almost Heaven, his 60-foot yacht —some distance from the coal mines. Sinema has shifted from campaigning as a trendy leftist to expressing tender concerns for the well-being of, yes, Arizona’s Chamber of Commerce. Between them, the two Democratic Senators have the capacity to cripple or kill President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plans to make life better for working Americans.

And if they do, Biden will get blamed. It comes with the territory.

By any rational measure, meanwhile, the U.S. economy is booming. In late November, for example, new unemployment claims fell to the lowest level in 52 years. If you’re like most Americans—Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike—that’s probably news to you. You may not even believe it.

“Given the U.S.’s steady job growth,” Chait comments. “nobody can ascertain exactly why the public has turned so sour so fast. Biden is like a patient wasting away from some undiagnosable disease.”

Actually, I think the all-too diagnosable psychological miasma of Covid lingers even among fully-vaccinated, for whom normal life has pretty much returned. But more about that later.

Expressing similar concerns from further left on the ideological spectrum is Ryan Grim of The Intercept. “IT’S NOT JUST WHITE PEOPLE,” Grim’s analysis is headlined, “DEMOCRATS ARE LOSING NORMAL VOTERS OF ALL RACES.” Basically, he too blames left-wing culture warriors speaking the other-worldly cant of academia. They’d do far better, he argues with “candidates who focus on…economic issues but don’t talk like juniors at Oberlin.”

No kidding. Maybe the dumbest political slogan in recent American history, as I’ve written before, is “Defund the Police.” Without exception, and nationwide, every Democratic candidate espousing the idea not only lost last November, but lost big. Buffalo, Seattle, Austin, Philadelphia, from sea to shining sea. Even in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered.

And why? Well, imagine yourself a Black parent in an inner-city neighborhood. Bullying, condescending cops can be aggravating and worse. But well-armed street gangs shooting up whole neighborhoods are an existential crisis.

Existential as in: They are killing people in their own homes.

Defund the police? What planet do you live on?

Planet “Woke” in all too many cases. Or, as Grim puts it, “Democratic elites are creating conflict within the working class while protecting their own class and cultural interests.” Left-wing imagineers, fantasizing about a revolution that’s never coming. President Biden could do worse than to pick a fight with these Froot Loops—low-hanging Froot Loops at that.

Then there are the Republicans, a party rapidly morphing into a Jonestown-like death cult. Not figuratively, mind you. Literally.

Covid vaccine mandates, that is, public health requirements that citizens accept what’s essentially a miracle cure to protect themselves and their neighbors from a deadly, transmissible disease are deemed “tyranny” and “communism” by Republican politicians.

As a direct result, their constituents are dying. While fully-vaccinated Fox News celebrities broadcast denialist propaganda—the jab is a condition of their employment—data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that unvaccinated individuals are currently five times more likely to test positive from the virus and thirteen times more likely to die.

The omicron variant appears unlikely to make things better.

In a saner political time, you’d think a party doing everything to resist the president’s efforts to control a deadly disease outbreak would be ill-advised to expect Covid survivors’s support.

But that’s not the world we live in.

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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