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

Some time ago, I heard a power company executive arguing that humans have played no role in global warming. Actually, he went further, “demonstrating” that global warming isn’t even happening. (This is often done by cherry-picking dates to start with an unusually warm year.) He ended by spreading his arms and beseeching us in his common-sense voice, “Can’t we meet in the sensible middle?”

To which I thought, “If I say the moon is made of lunar rock and you say it is made of green cheese, is the ‘sensible middle’ that the moon is half lunar rock and half green cheese?”

That’s the problem with sensible middles. You can’t do the give-and-take without agreeing on facts. Nowadays, some of the thorniest problems get hung up on one side’s dismissal (or corruption) of accepted science. We can compromise over how far our society will go in confronting climate change, but we must first agree it exists.

Thus, when we ask questions like “Would Hillary Clinton be a centrist president?” what do we mean by that? We can be sure that if nominated, Clinton the candidate will try to seem centrist, as will her Republican foe. Americans like the sound of moderation.

Some debates can’t logically end in compromise. The right to abortion does not lend itself to concessions, making it a landmine for Republicans in a general election. Religious conservatives want abortion banned, but most Americans want it kept legal. So you have Republican candidates saying that they oppose abortion but would allow it in cases of rape and incest.

They may even paint others as extremist: “My opponent won’t even make an exception for rape or incest.”

In reality, the so-called extreme position is the only logical “pro-life” stance. If one holds that the organism formed at conception is a full human person, it is a full human being whether conceived through rape or through marital love. There is no biological difference.

I don’t agree that two cells fused at fertilization are a full human being. I respect the views of those who do, but not if they won’t accept the consequences of their position.

Another problem in reaching a sensible middle is finding the middle. Tax and spending policy is an area where compromise can be reached. But there’s no middle to work toward when one side portrays any tax increase as a deal killer.

In 2011, eight Republicans running for president were asked at a debate whether they’d accept a deal with Democrats giving them $10 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases. This would seem a conservative’s debt reduction dream, but not one of the eight would say yes to it.

The candidates were surely mindful of President George H.W. Bush’s electoral loss after breaking his pledge, “Read my lips: No new taxes.” The elder Bush happened to be doing the responsible thing, but his party’s right wing had moved fiscal management from the realm of political science to black-and-white religion.

Today this faction doesn’t want its leaders to be seen shaking hands with President Obama, much less compromising with him on matters of substance. The outcome is Republicans disinheriting their own ideas because Obama has adopted them. The great example was the Affordable Care Act, whose blueprint came out of the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Many Americans only pretend to seek a sensible middle by placing the middle in the middle of their stuck beliefs. No, it’s worse than that. Many are scuttling rational thought altogether, accepting or rejecting beliefs not on their merits but based on who is holding them. The end product is neither a middle nor sensible.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

Republican presidential candidates are pictured during the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate at the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011. From left to right: former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum; businessman Herman Cain; Rep. Ron Paul, R-TX; former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney; Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN.; former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty; former Utah governor Jon Huntsman; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, Pool)

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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.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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