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. . . While Truth is Pulling Its Boots On.
The origins of that quote and its variations are in some doubt. It is frequently misattributed to Mark Twain and Winston Churchill. Variations are attributed to everything from a Chinese proverb to famous statesmen, such as John Randolph, or famous preachers, such as Charles Spurgeon, who did say this:
”If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’”
The quote comes to mind after finally deciding to pay attention to day two of the Senate Impeachment Trial of former President Donald Trump. As a former Senate official who loves history and my former place of employment, I should be watching – what is happening is without precedent. The US Senate has never tried a former president before. There is a lot about this impeachment process that has broken new ground. But like many Americans, I find the whole thing practically unwatchable.
There’s plenty of commentary around the impeachment, including its dubious constitutionality, and what qualifies as “incitement,” that I won’t delve into. Plenty of others more expert and widely read than me are doing that. I just want to repeat a point I made in a prior post that generated some controversy among friends. That post was written the evening of January 6th, the day of the infamous illegal breach and violence at the US Capitol, and can still be found at my prior blog site, http://www.againstthegrain.expert.
In that post, I made several observations about events that day, starting off with this one:
“First, as a former journalist, take nothing you read, watched or heard via corporate media today at face value. I have long learned that much early reporting is wrong. Worse, much of the media has been pining for years for an event like this – something to prove that ‘tea party’ or Trump supporters are prone to violence. Some no doubt are. But let’s wait for the facts before drawing conclusions.”
That quote has, unfortunately, aged very well. It is February 11th, and there is still much we do not know about the events of that day. The results of the official investigation are still outstanding, and Capitol Police are not talking. The official cause of death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, whose remains lied in repose in the US Capitol rotunda, is still not known. Early reports that he was bludgeoned by a Trump rioter with a fire extinguisher appear now to be in question. No arrest has been made in direct connection to that alleged murder. We know only a little more about other people whose lives were tragically lost that day in conjunction with the events that fateful and tragic day, including a heart attack, a stroke, two suicides, and an apparent trampling.
But that hasn’t stopped the House Impeachment Managers from making unproven if false or misleading assertions, selective use of (some say, “doctored”) videos, tweets, and an array of Washington Post headlines, all bookended with emotional appeals. One of those false assertions resulted in real drama on the Senate floor as the proceedings were coming to a close last night. Law professor and author Jonathan Turley describes it in some important detail, and his last sentence is noteworthy:
“At the end of its first day of argument, the Senate trial was thrown into chaos when a ‘juror’ stood up like a scene out of Perry Mason to contest the veracity statements made by ‘prosecutors.’ That moment came as the Senate was preparing to end for the day and Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) jumped to his feet to object that a quote by House manager Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) was false. Lee should know. They were purportedly his words. After a frenzy on the floor and a delay of proceedings, lead House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md) announced that it would withdraw Cicilline’s statements and that ’this is much ado about nothing, because it’s not critical in anyway to our case.’ In reality, it had much to do about the manager’s case and highlights a glaring problem in its case. The House has elected to try this case of incitement of insurrection largely on circumstantial evidence and using media reports rather than witness testimony. It is trial by innuendo and implication rather than direct evidence of what Trump knew and intended on January 6th.”
Another dubious statement, also made by Rep. Cicciline, called the breach of the Capitol an “armed attack,” despite the lack of evidence of actual weapons being used by the rioters (perhaps fire extinguishers are now considered assault weapons). the closest thing I saw to a weapon was the spear used by the nutty “QAnon Shaman” clown that he appeared to be using as a flag pole. I am told that many of the charges filed against protesters do include weapon charges, but I’ve seen no evidence of weapons being brandished or used by anyone other than the Capitol Police. I do not minimize the tragic death of a celebrated, even heroic Capitol Police Officer. But facts and rhetoric matter, especially a Senate impeachment trial that has produced more heat than light. We dishonor Officer Sicknick’s memory by using it for political purposes, and especially before the official cause of death has been established.
I could go on, but what we really need are some questions answered. Were the Capitol Police given a heads up about the potential for violence at the Capitol in advance of January 6th? Why wasn’t the Capitol better protected that day? Did President Trump actually offer to call up 10,000 National Guard troops before the rally that day, as former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows asserts? Did the Capitol breach begin before Trump completed his speech on The Mall that day? What was Officer Sicknick’s cause of death? These are important questions that should have been answered before this impeachment process began. And let’s be sure to look in a mirror when asserting that challenging election results “incited” all this (Umm, which election, and challenges by whom?).
One more question. Why are some 5,000 troops and a Baghdad-style green zone, complete with concertina wire, still needed at the US Capitol?
An overused legal cliché goes something like this: “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither the facts or the law are on your side, pound the table.” And we are seeing plenty of emotional table-pounding by House managers, facts and the law (especially the Constitution) be damned.
This whole ugly debacle is embarrassing on several levels, from President Trump’s harmful, even reckless rhetoric following his narrow election defeat to the use of the January 6th event for a political show trial devoid of due process but with plenty of political motivations. I wish Trump had accepted the Electoral College certification of December 14th, as he said he would. That January 6th “Save America” rally should never have been scheduled, especially on the day where Electoral College results were being ceremoniously certified by Congress. And I wish state legislatures and the courts would have done their jobs to provide more fair hearings to credible accusations of voting irregularities and election law (even violations of a state constitution) in a handful of states.
President Biden, were he serious about unity, should have asked the House and Senate to call things off in tribute to his now-hollow inaugural address. He missed an opportunity to show much-needed leadership that most Americans would have saluted him for. Major fail. But he’s far from alone. Hindsight is 20/20, and there’s plenty of wreckage – and wreckers – for all to see in the rearview mirror.
So here we are. We shouldn’t be here. The Senate trial’s outcome is not and was never in doubt despite the media’s efforts to Jedi-mind-trick us. There is no demonstrated need for 5,000 National Guard troops, fences and razor wire around the Capitol. We are gaining nothing from this other than more division and recriminations and providing fodder to anti-American propagandists. We need to wrap up this debacle, and quickly, including sending troops home and removing the barricades and fencing.
We would all be better served by waiting for the truth to get its boots on and make an overdue appearance, no matter how inconvenient that may prove to be, at least to certain political narratives that are flying around the world. Fact are, indeed, stubborn things.Published in