Tuesday Reads: Goodbye and Good Riddance!Posted: January 19, 2021
Our long national nightmare is almost over. Tomorrow morning Trump will leave the White House for the last time with the blood of 400,000 dead Americans on his hands.
Trump’s horrific “legacy” includes his “Muslim ban,” the separation of thousands of immigrant children from their parents, his effort to build a ridiculous wall on the Southern border, the violation of long-held government norms, his active promotion of racism, sexism, and xenophobia, his corrupt use of his office to enrich himself, his efforts to weaken NATO and our most important foreign alliances while expressing support for foreign dictators, his multiple attempts to interfere with the 2020 election, and most recently his active promotion of an attempted coup to overthrow the election results and stay on as a dictator.
For an expert take on the Trump legacy, check out this BBC article: US historians on what Donald Trump’s legacy will be.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: Trump’s legacy will take years to purge from the American psyche.
After four exhausting years of raging tweets, lies, “fire and fury” rants and orders for far-right extremists to “stand back and stand by,” it’s almost over.
Donald Trump’s presidency is ending in a riot of division, discord and disgrace that encapsulates the pandemonium of his single term that culminated in him inciting an insurrection against Congress and a legacy that will take years to purge from the American psyche.
Trump is expected to unfurl a new list of pardons, including for white-collar criminals and celebrity rappers, in his last full day in office Tuesday that is likely to reflect the self-dealing contempt for justice that was a dominant theme of his tumultuous term. And there are sure to be more political traps for Joe Biden’s incoming administration on his way out the door.
The very experience of being alive in America will change at noon on Wednesday when the mandate expires of the loudest, most disruptive and erratic commander in chief in history — who forced himself into every corner of life on his social media feed and constant craving for the spotlight.
Millions of Americans who viewed the twice-impeached Trump’s assaults on decency and the rule of law with shame and alarm will finally be able to breathe easily again, liberated from his strongman’s shadow. Biden will be a President who seeks to unify an internally estranged nation in contrast to Trump’s obsession with ripping at its social, racial and cultural fault lines to cement his power. Trump’s cynical weaponizing of race reemerged on Monday when his White House chose the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. to issue a commission report that minimizes slavery and insults the modern civil rights movement.
But this is only one view of Trump. The 74 million Americans who voted to reward him with a second term saw him as a leader who voiced their anger at political, business and media elites. Trump channeled their belief that an increasingly diverse and socially liberal nation threatened their values, religion, gun rights and cultural heritage. His exit could trigger volatile political forces among a community that will mourn his White House. The continued devotion of Trump’s loyal base voters means that while Biden can wipe out many of the outgoing President’s policy wins, removing his influence from politics may well be impossible.
There can be little doubt that Trump is by far the worst president in U.S. history. Tim Naftali at The Atlantic: The Worst President in History. Three particular failures secure Trump’s status as the worst chief executive ever to hold the office.
President Donald Trump has long exulted in superlatives. The first. The best. The most. The greatest. “No president has ever done what I’ve done,” he boasts. “No president has ever even come close,” he says. But as his four years in office draw to an end, there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.
In December 2019, he became the third president to be impeached. Last week, Trump entered a category all his own, becoming the first president to be impeached twice. But impeachment, which depends in part on the makeup of Congress, is not the most objective standard. What does being the worst president actually mean? And is there even any value, at the bitter end of a bad presidency, in spending energy on judging a pageant of failed presidencies?
It is helpful to think of the responsibilities of a president in terms of the two elements of the oath of office set forth in the Constitution. In the first part, presidents swear to “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States.” This is a pledge to properly perform the three jobs the presidency combines into one: head of state, head of government, and commander in chief. In the second part, they promise to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Trump was a serial violator of his oath—as evidenced by his continual use of his office for personal financial gain—but focusing on three crucial ways in which he betrayed it helps clarify his singular historical status. First, he failed to put the national-security interests of the United States ahead of his own political needs. Second, in the face of a devastating pandemic, he was grossly derelict, unable or unwilling to marshal the requisite resources to save lives while actively encouraging public behavior that spread the disease. And third, held to account by voters for his failures, he refused to concede defeat and instead instigated an insurrection, stirring a mob that stormed the Capitol.
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
Trump has also perverted the presidential pardon process, and he is expected spend today issuing as many as 100, largely corrupt pardons. That link is to the NYT story that details many of the planned pardons. This is from Vanity Fair: Trump’s Last Power Grab Will Involve Around 100 Pardons in Massive “Influence Peddling” Operation.
Tuesday’s list, which was reportedly finalized during a White House meeting on Sunday, will likely be the final pardoning spree of Trump’s tenure and is not expected to include the president himself; advisers have urged Trump not to issue a self-pardon because it would imply guilt, CNN reports. Advisers close to the president have apparently also encouraged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the insurrection, a move Senator Lindsey Graham, a longtime loyalist, warned against during a Fox News interview Sunday, saying he thinks pardoning Capitol rioters “would destroy” Trump. Instead, allies expect Trump to grant clemency to those who could benefit him after leaving office. “Everything is a transaction. He likes pardons because it is unilateral. And he likes doing favors for people he thinks will owe him,” one source told CNN.
Criminals have been clamoring at Trump’s heels to achieve exactly this result, one well-connected lobbyists helped facilitate—some for a hefty price. Trump associates have apparently tried to monetize their access to the outgoing administration by selling pardons, or the hope of them, to convicted felons seeking clemency, with some allies bringing in tens of thousands of dollars to promote their clients’ position to the White House in recent weeks, the New York Times reported Sunday. The lucrative pardon lobbying reportedly ramped up as Trump’s chances of overturning the election became more and more distant, and people seeking pardons or commutations turned to fixers advertising their clout within the administration for last-minute reprieves. Since November, at least 10 convicted criminals have retained lobbyists whose described services include “pardon,” “commutation,” or “clemency,” according to Axios.
Trump’s final insult is his refusal to participate in the passing of power to his successor. That said, most of us are glad he won’t be there to ruin the day for the Biden and Harris families. Kate Bennett at CNN: Trumps’ snub of Bidens historic in its magnitude.
The dissolving of one of America’s most enduring transfer-of-power rituals — the outgoing president welcoming the incoming president on the steps of the North Portico, and then riding with them to the United States Capitol — is just one of the snubs the Trumps are perpetrating as they leave Washington.
Instead of a president and first lady, the Bidens will be greeted by the White House chief usher Timothy Harleth, according to a source familiar with the day’s events and planning. Harleth, a 2017 Trump hire from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, will likely not stay on in the Biden administration, the source said, noting the role of chief usher in all probability will be filled by someone more familiar with the incoming president and first lady.
The afternoon of Inauguration Day, then-President Biden will participate in a ceremonial wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery, joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. It is during these hours the bulk of the Bidens’ personal effects will be moved into the White House and unpacked, according to another source with knowledge of executive residence practices.
By that time, all Trump paraphernalia will be gone, and a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning of the entire White House campus will have been completed. Deeper cleaning protocols were arranged via the White House with outside contractors, on top of regular cleaning done by staff, including specialized attention to rugs, carpets, curtains and surfaces, to tackle any possibility of lingering germs, of the Covid-19 sort or otherwise.
“Moving furniture and vacuuming, cleaning baseboards, vacuuming drapes, wiping down shades, cleaning chandeliers, washing windows, high dusting,” are areas all covered during the traditional move-in of a new president and his family, according to the residence source. “That cleaning will start as soon as Donald Trump and Melania Trump depart.”
Today, the Senate is holding hearings on some of Biden’s cabinet appointments. Axios has a list of the hearings scheduled for today:
- 10 am: Alejandro Mayorkas, nominee for secretary of homeland security nominee, before the Senate Homeland Committee.
- 10 am: Avril Haines, nominee for director of national intelligence, before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
- 10 am: Janet Yellen, nominee for treasury secretary, before the Senate Finance Committee.
- 2 pm: Antony Blinken, nominee for secretary of state, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
- 3 pm: Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, nominee for defense secretary, before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Washington Post on Janet Yellen’s appearance: Janet Yellen urges lawmakers to ‘act big’ on economic stimulus relief at Senate confirmation hearing.