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Former GOP National Security Officials Blast Trump, Endorse Biden
Photo by Gage Skidmore/ CC BY 2.0

As far as I’m concerned, Joe Biden is a national hero: the savior of our democracy, and as decent a man as has ever occupied the Oval Office. They ought to put up his statue on courthouse squares across America.

But Biden should not run for re-election in 2024.

It’s time for those of us born during the FDR administration to stand down. I’d favor a constitutional amendment requiring the president to be not just over 35 but under 75.

As fit and lively as he is—every other over-70 bicyclist I know who’s taken a fall has been hustled straight to the emergency room—Biden will be 80 on his next birthday. He’d be 82 during the 2024 campaign, and 86 at the end of his second term.

Assuming he lives that long, which Biden’s more apt to do if he’s taking walks on the beach with his grandchildren instead of flying off for stressful meetings in Saudi Arabia or South Korea.

Biden shouldn’t do it to himself, and he shouldn’t do it to the country. As I wrote in 2019 urging him not to run against Donald Trump: “Anybody in their mid-70s who tries to tell you they don’t feel the transmission slipping as time’s winged chariot draws nearer is definitely bluffing. Maybe your judgment’s sounder, but your memory’s not what it was, solving complex problems is more difficult, and new ideas are harder to absorb.”

But you know what? Biden was right about being the only Democrat who could defeat Donald Trump in 2020, and I was wrong.

Hard to believe, I know. But also a fact.

None of this is to endorse the poisonous slanders of Republicans portraying the president as a feeble-minded marionette whose strings are being pulled by George Soros, Antifa, “The Squad,” or whatever other puppeteers the right-wing imagination has conjured. If my emails are any indication, embittered Trumpists will believe anything, the crazier the better.

Joe Biden demented? Get back to me when he recommends injecting bleach as a Covid-19 cure, talks about Revolutionary War airports, or brags about imaginary big-league tryouts with Hall of Fame first-basemen.

But yes, the president’s approval ratings have sunk to near Trumpian levels. Former Obama strategist David Axlerod put it this way in a New York Times interview:

“Biden doesn’t get the credit he deserves for steering the country through the worst of the pandemic, passing historic legislation, pulling the NATO alliance together against Russian aggression and restoring decency and decorum to the White House…And part of the reason he doesn’t is performative. He looks his age and isn’t as agile in front of a camera as he once was, and this has fed a narrative about competence that isn’t rooted in reality.”

Alas, to millions of Americans, government is TV show, and they’ve always got the remote in their hands, anxious to change channels. Many have already forgotten that Biden took office in January 2021, Covid was killing thousands of Americans every day, unemployment was rampant and the economy in steep recession.

Today, the pandemic is pretty much under control, and the job market is the strongest in more than fifty years. Thanks in large part to the Democrats’ post-Covid stimulus plan, tens of millions have paying jobs who didn’t have them two years ago, and worker shortages are a serious problem in some sectors of the economy.

But, yes, rising prices are a bigger problem, even if semi-hysterical media coverage has reached downright comic proportions. My favorite blogger Kevin Drum put it this way: “High inflation is damaging, but not nearly as damaging as high unemployment. After all, would you rather have a job along with higher prices, or be unemployed with stable prices? The question answers itself.”

Unless you work for CNN, NBC and the rest. You can’t hardly turn on the TV anymore without seeing somebody fueling up a 5000-pound, $80,000 SUV and whining about the high price of gasoline.

CNN actually ran a recent news feature about the impact of expensive gasoline on the “Van Life” subculture. Datelined, Baja California, Mexico, CNN interviewed couples living in schoolbus-sized RVs on the beach but feeling the pinch. Everybody involved kept perfectly straight faces. (CNN didn’t say so, but gasoline is marginally cheaper in Mexico.)

Anyway, Mr. President, you don’t need this. You’ve done your bit.

Writing the The Atlantic, veteran correspondent Mark Liebovich put it this way: “Biden could instantly burnish his own legacy by opting out of 2024… He would be praised for knowing when to step aside, for putting the interests of his party and country before himself, and for selflessly turning things over to the next acts…. Everyone loves an elder statesman. A historic credit would be due to Joe Biden.”

You never see a Hall of Fame ballplayer retire without tears in his eyes. But when it’s time, it’s time.

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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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