The assault on the Capitol inspired by President Donald Trump was a tragic event — disturbing to watch on television and leaving many difficult questions in its aftermath. Yet that terrible moment illuminated the national landscape like a flash of lightning.
It is now clear even to those who have pretended otherwise that Trump himself represents a grave danger to national security. He should have been removed last year during impeachment. He should be impeached again so he is ousted immediately and any possibility that he can seek office again curtailed. But nothing that can be done to Trump will disarm his armed and angry followers, who have warned loudly that they will be back.
No, he will leave and the threat will remain. But at least nobody can ever say again that they don't know what kind of murderous future the far right plans for our country. Although the evidence has surfaced all around us, over and over again for years, American government and law enforcement have failed to address the threat adequately for just as long. Perhaps now, after the fascist outfits that support and surround Trump have launched a violent coup d'etat, the authorities will at last confront this menacing movement.
Not the authorities as currently constituted in the Trump administration, of course. From the very beginning, Trump has promoted the racism and white nationalism that motivate his most ideological and violent supporters. Rather than create a bulwark against far-right extremism as the threat expanded, Trump's government either encouraged or ignored those malign forces.
In the Oval Office, presidential adviser and speechwriter Stephen Miller, who boasted a long rap sheet of associations with hardcore racist groups, came to symbolize Trump's association with white nationalism. But Miller, despite his personal weirdness, was hardly unique. The same racist network that produced him has provided literally dozens of appointees to administration posts.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security, which is supposed to secure the nation against internal dangers, was led by political hacks who saw their job as pleasing Trump. And pleasing Trump did not mean suppressing violent extremism (except for the chimerical "antifa"). Instead, it meant suppressing a vital homeland threat assessment for six months, according to a whistleblower, because department acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, worried how the facts would "reflect upon President Trump."
How quaint that concern seems now — after Trump and his gang drove rioters into the Capitol to prevent the certification of Joe Biden's election victory. While many questions remain, it is obvious that this attack was planned for weeks. Moreover, there are indications that White House connections with the attackers go well beyond the instigators — in particular the Proud Boys, whose leader, convicted felon Enrique Tarrio, was arrested in Washington on Tuesday for possession of loaded firearm magazines.
When Trump feigned ignorance of the Proud Boys last fall, while he signaled them to "stand by," that was just another lie. He has myriad connections with those militant fascists, in fact — notably through his longtime adviser Roger Stone, who actually joined them as they rampaged on Washington's streets last month. Stone's recent movements and communications deserve close scrutiny by the FBI as it investigates the circumstances behind the Capitol attack.
Wherever that probe may lead, we must hope that the Biden administration will address the right-wing terror threat with all the resources at its disposal. Choosing Merrick Garland as attorney general is a promising sign. He has considerable experience dealing with domestic terrorism, having led the investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Garland knows what horrors these fascist criminals want to inflict on America — which they hate.
They hate America, regardless of their claims of patriotism and their brandishing of our flag. Much like the Nazis of the Bund and their allies in the Ku Klux Klan — who waved the flag while following orders from Berlin — their patriotism is a sham. Any true patriot, anyone who actually loves this country, must despise them.
National reconciliation is a worthy objective for Joe Biden and his new government. Most political figures in a democracy can be rehabilitated if they are honestly contrite — perhaps even if they served in the Trump administration. But there is no way to reconcile with the criminal gangs who have promised to put a noose around our democracy. They have showed us who they are. Believe them and act accordingly.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.