President Biden gave the best speech of his presidency — and perhaps of his entire political career — yesterday morning at the U.S. Capitol. The video is below, and you are required by law to watch it. The President spoke specifically about Trump’s responsibility for the insurrection.
Josh Kovensky: “President Biden’s speech commemorating the first anniversary of Jan. 6 this morning treaded a fine line: on one side, condemning and promising to fight a burgeoning anti-democracy movement committed to former President Trump.
But on the other side, Biden took a lighter tone. He offered an off-ramp for conservatives who can differentiate between policy disagreements and the democratic system in which they are contained. It made for a speech filled both with strident denunciations of the former president and paeans to Republican politicians of bygone years.
Biden took a direct line in trying to reach an audience that he appeared to view as composed of millions of Americans who regularly vote Republican, but who support the basic Democratic bargain: you obey the will of the people — if you lose, and if you win.
He spoke about the GOP’s forebears, including Ronald Reagan in a list of Republican presidents that he respected, while adding that too many members of today’s party “seem to no longer want to be the party of Lincoln.”
He pitted that vision — of a Republican party that had policy differences with Democrats, but that was fundamentally committed to democracy — against the post-Jan. 6 Trump movement: one built around a man who “can’t accept that he lost,” and which is now trying to enable state legislatures to submit alternate, anti-democratic slates of electors.
“You can’t love your country only when you win,” Biden said. “You can’t obey the law only when it is convenient. You can’t be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies.””
Walter Shapiro: “Just a handful of sentences into his speech commemorating the insurrection a year ago on January 6, President Joe Biden unveiled the biggest political decision of his presidency.”
“Instead of tiptoeing around the specter of Donald Trump, Biden went after the former president directly with an intensity unparalleled in modern political memory.”
“No members of Republican leadership have said they plan to attend Thursday’s events commemorating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob,” the Washington Post reports.
“A year ago, while Republican lawmakers tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election by blocking the certification of the results, President Donald Trump incited a mob to storm the Capitol in an effort to obtain the same objective,” NBC News reports.
“Now, with official Washington observing the anniversary, Republicans are accusing Democrats of politicizing the attack and blaming them for what the GOP describes as lax Capitol security.”
Nearly all of the 147 Republicans who voted to reject the 2020 presidential election results wouldn’t tell the HuffPost if they regret that vote.
“Some Georgia Republicans planned to spend the anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol praying — not just for those killed or hurt during the Jan. 6 riot, but for the ‘J6 Prisoners’ and ‘J6 Patriots’ who stormed the building in a futile attempt to keep then-President Trump in power,” the Washington Post reports.
“But after bipartisan blowback, the Cobb County GOP on Wednesday canceled what it had been calling a ‘prayer vigil,’ citing ‘mischaracterization of the event.’”
Mona Charen: “The most threatening aspect of January 6th was not the ferocious attack on the Capitol but the response of Republican officeholders thereafter. Even after the unleashing of medieval mob violence; even after the erection of a gallows; even after members had been forced to run for their lives; even after the deaths and injuries; even after all of that and more, 147 Republican members of Congress voted not to certify Joe Biden as the winner of the presidency.”
“The transformation of the GOP from a political party into an authoritarian personality cult became official that day. McCarthy’s bootlicking visit to Mar-a-Lago in late January 2021 merely provided the visual.”
Jimmy Carter: “Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss. Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late.”
John Harris: “Only in recent years have we seen foundation-shaking political conflict — both sides believing the other would turn the United States into something unrecognizable — with no obvious and easily summarized root cause. What is the fundamental question that hangs in the balance between the people who hate Trump and what he stands for and the people who love Trump and hate those who hate him? This is less an ideological conflict than a psychological one.”
Karl Rove: “If Democrats had done what some Trump supporters did on that violent Jan. 6, Republicans would have criticized them mercilessly and been right to do so. Republicans would have torched any high official who encouraged violence or stood mute while it was waged and been right to do so. Republicans would have demanded an investigation to find who was responsible for the violence and been right to do so.”
“To move beyond Jan. 6, 2021, we must put country ahead of party. For Democrats, that means resisting their leadership’s petty habit of aggravating partisan fault lines by indiscriminately condemning all who came to Washington that day.”
“We Republicans have a heavier burden. I’ve been a Republican my entire life, and believe in what the Republican Party, at its best, has represented for decades. There can be no soft-pedaling what happened and no absolution for those who planned, encouraged and aided the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Love of country demands nothing less. That’s true patriotism.”
“A former Trump White House official said then-President Donald Trump initially refused to tweet the words “stay peaceful” as the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, was escalating,” CNN reports.
“The former official, who was working in the West Wing and was close to White House messaging during the insurrection, said Trump did not want to include the words ‘stay peaceful’ and was ‘very reluctant to put out anything when it was unfolding.’”
Instead, the former official said Trump was “letting it play out.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland gave an update on the Justice Department’s investigation into the Capitol riot during a press conference Wednesday, emphasizing that the department has “no higher priority” than holding those accountable responsible, Axios reports.
George Conway: “Garland must not fear that prosecuting Trump would be viewed as a partisan act. He need only look to the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, after voting against an impeachment conviction on the (meritless) ground that Trump had left office, all but called for Trump’s prosecution.”
Said McConnell: “We have a criminal justice system in this country. President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office.”
He added: He didn’t get away with anything yet. Yet.”
Washington Post: “Federal judges in D.C. have gone below the government recommendation in 49 out of 74 sentencings held for Capitol riot defendants one year after the attack, about two-thirds of the cases. In eight cases where prosecutors asked for jail time, the judges instead opted for probation. Of the 74 people sentenced so far, 35 have been given jail or prison time, 14 home detention and 25 probation alone.”
Florida has more citizens involved in federal cases regarding the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol than any other state by far, Axios reports.
The January 6 Committee is working its way to the top. Many in Pence’s office have already spoken with the committee, according to a wave of new reporting.
Now the committee wants to speak to Pence himself, and hopes he will sit down with investigators. “I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee,” Chair Bennie Thompson told CNN this week. The former VP was, of course, the focus of the ex-president’s pressure campaign, and could speak to many of our unresolved questions.
“We have not formally asked. But if he offered, we’d gladly accept,” Thompson added to CNN. “Everything is under consideration.”
“People in and around former Vice President Mike Pence’s office have been particularly cooperative as the Jan. 6 select committee focuses on what former President Trump was doing during the more than three hours the Capitol was under attack,” Axios reports.
“Both Pence’s former chief of staff Marc Short, and former press secretary Alyssa Farah, who later served as communications director to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, are among those cooperating with the committee.” Short would not have done so without approval from Pence himself, Axios reported late Wednesday. “You could see how much information they already had,” Farah said of her interviews with the committee.
Keith Kellogg, a Pence adviser, has given a deposition too, CNN reports. Kellogg was with Trump in the White House while the insurrection was happening.
Beyond Pence, there’s been a slew of other news from the January 6 committee, as more Trump-era characters are called out of the past tense. Subpoenas have rained down for Seb Gorka, White House aide-turned-dietary supplement hawker, and Mike Lindell, king of pillows.
William Walker, previously commander of the DC National Guard, contradicted one of the more inflammatory claims that have emerged from the committee’s investigations. He said Tuesday that he had no idea what Mark Meadows was talking about when the former chief of staff allegedly said that Guards would be on standby at the Capitol on Jan. 6 to “protect pro-Trump people.”
“The threat continues. And it’s very important, if you look at what’s happening today in my party, the Republican party, rather than reject what happened on 6th, reject the lies about the election and make clear that a president who engaged in those activities can never be president again, unfortunately too many in my own party are embracing that former president, are looking the other way, are minimizing the danger. That’s how democracies die, and we simply cannot let that happen.” — Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), in an interview with NBC News.
“Have you ever had your house broken into or been a victim of a burglary, and when you walked back into the house it felt differently, it felt violated? I felt that way for the longest time — and I still do.” — Sen. Dick Durbin, quoted by the New York Times, remembering the Capitol riots.
Adam Schiff: “In the hours and days after the insurrection, it seemed like the GOP leadership might finally come to grips with what President Trump had wrought with his big lie about massive election fraud.”
“And for a brief moment, we had a chance to turn the corner on a disastrous period of our nation’s history. We had a chance to repudiate the immoral grifter who led our country for four years, and weaponized people’s worst fears and anxieties to the point of violence against our capitol. We had a chance to turn back from one party’s grim flirtation with authoritarianism. We had a chance to move forward, still fragmented, but together as a country and a democracy.”
“And then, just like that, the opportunity was gone. Fingers to the wind, McCarthy, McConnell and state and local GOP leaders decided that Donald Trump really could, if not shoot someone in the middle of the street with impunity, at least incite a violent attack on our democracy and retain the support of his base. Lacking the courage of their convictions, guided by nothing more than their ambition to regain power, the GOP leadership buckled again to the former president.”
Sean Illing: January 6 should’ve moderated the GOP. It did the opposite.
Dan Pfeiffer: “The fact Republicans are moving ahead with a plan to steal the election in 2024 without fear of consequence is frightening and depressing. The political winds heading into the midterms are at their backs. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema remain more interested in protecting their centrist credentials than American democracy. Too much of the political media has normalized election theft as a legitimate political strategy in a fruitless attempt to avoid accusations of bias.”
“The time, place, and plan for perhaps the greatest crime in American history have been identified. We have three years to stop it. Yet, our political leaders are either unwilling or unable to intervene.”
Playbook: “For those who always despised him, feel betrayed by him, or fear his return to power, today is about remembering — never forgetting — his lowest point as president: the day he incited a mob to attack Congress while it affirmed Joe Biden’s clear victory, the final desperate move in a plot to overthrow an American presidential election.”
“For those who love him, merely tolerate him, or crave his return to the White House, today is a media stunt: a contrived anniversary of an insignificant event boosted by Democrats and the press to punish Republicans and cynically advance Biden’s legislative priorities.”
“Americans often have a shared understanding about big traumatic national events. That is not the case with Jan. 6, which is why the cliché about our politics feeling like a civil war has more and more resonance.”
New York Times: “Today, it has become heresy among conservatives to question Mr. Trump’s legacy. The cabinet secretaries and White House aides who resigned in protest of his role in the violence now largely keep to themselves. Many corporations that vowed to halt donations to Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the election have quietly reopened the contribution spigot. The congressional Republicans who angrily denounced the president after their headquarters was invaded have gone silent or even made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, all but pretending it never happened…”
“While nearly three-quarters of all Americans view the storming of the Capitol as an assault on democracy, about half of Republicans say the rioters were actually the ones ‘protecting democracy’ and nearly as many think the attack was not even that violent. While most Americans believe Mr. Biden was elected legitimately, seven in 10 Republicans think otherwise.”
Jonathan Bernstein: “Marking the day with appropriate ceremonies should be just the beginning. The main public attempt to explain just what happened — the attempt by a president who lost an election to nevertheless remain in office — will be in what is promised to be “weeks” of hearings by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. Americans need a full accounting, but even more than that we need a compelling story, threading in the organized attempts of the White House and its allies, the thuggish organized groups that participated, and the ordinary citizens who wound up caught up in the president’s lies…
Both Democrats and democrats — that is, the party and all those who wish to defend the republic — should be realistic about what these hearings can accomplish. The Democratic Party should be under no illusion that hearings, no matter how devastating to Trump and other Republicans, will help them in this year’s midterm elections. For better or worse, voters are almost certainly going to judge the incumbent Democrats on the pandemic, on economic growth and jobs and on inflation. As frustrating as it may be for the party in power, it almost never matters what the out-party does or how discredited it seems (to the incumbents anyway) it should be.”
Norm Ornstein: “A group of Senate Democrats, including thoughtful institutionalists who have been reluctant to push for change but see the gravity of the moment, want to break this impasse and return the Senate to its former self and at least give it a fighting chance to slow our slide away from government by the people.
In essence, they say if you want to filibuster, you have to come to the floor and talk, and the burden is placed on the minority to muster 41 votes to keep it going, rather than the other way around. This way, senators and the public can hear the debate and decide who has the better of the argument — for example, why it is better if many Americans don’t vote. The plan guarantees the right of the minority to propose amendments, and would be limited to use once a year so the current rules would apply in the vast majority of situations.
Is there a risk that this process could be turned against Democrats when the majority shoe is on the other foot? Sure, but the time it would take and the spotlight it would shine on the debate would discourage its promiscuous use. In most situations, this would be a powerful impetus to both sides to compromise.”
Will Bunch: “A viral moment from Pennsylvania’s court battle over school funding about kids on ‘the McDonald’s track’ holds a buried truth on the anniversary of Jan. 6.
This lightbulb moment occurred in the middle of weeks of arduous testimony over unequal K-12 funding during the Harrisburg trial. On the witness stand was Matthew Splain, superintendent of the underfunded Otto-Eldred School District in sparsely populated McKean County and board president of the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools. His inquisitor was John Krill, a lawyer representing the state’s top Republican lawmaker, defending a political regime that’s made Pennsylvania 45th in the nation in state support for its public schools.
Splain, who advocates for Harrisburg to do more for schools in rural areas experiencing economic hardship, testified about his belief that lack of resources is linked to lower student test scores in subjects such as biology and math in recent years. Krill then basically said the quiet part of Republican education policy out loud in the packed courtroom.
“What use would a carpenter have for biology?” asked Krill, questioning the need for learning for learning’s sake in a locale where many of the available jobs don’t require a college degree. In stating so plainly the modern conservative philosophy that public schools exist solely to develop a workforce — one in which not everyone need be a rocket scientist or a philosopher — the Harvard Law-educated Krill didn’t stop there.”
Walter C. Stern writes for The Hill that teachers of American history need to reclaim the idea of “patriotism” from the right wing when teaching the truth about American history.
“The need to cultivate teachers and students who are brave — and patriotic — enough to think critically about the nation’s past could not be more urgent. Without independent thinkers who care enough about the nation’s well-being to wrestle with, rather than retreat from, its complex history, the country is ill-prepared to tackle current and future challenges. A society, after all, can’t solve problems whose existence it refuses to acknowledge.
That’s why Americans must reclaim patriotic education from the right. Universities have a key role to play here. Universities can train teachers who are uniquely positioned to do exactly what Republicans say they want to do: develop patriotic citizens. I know, because it’s how I and countless other professors teach. […]
The best classes end with more questions than answers: When does governmental power over education preserve liberty, and when does it suppress liberty? Why have some emphasized the university’s responsibility to prepare students for jobs, while others, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, emphasized its capacity “to be the organ of that fine adjustment between real life and the growing knowledge of life?” What is the purpose of education, and how can people in a democratic society determine the ends it should serve as well as the means for achieving those ends?”
“A group of former Trump administration officials are banding together in an effort to block their former boss from entering office again,” Politico reports.
“The meeting of the group, announced by former White House press secretary and chief of staff to the first lady Stephanie Grisham, is scheduled for next week where they will discuss how to ‘try and stop’ former President Donald Trump and the ‘kind of violence and rhetoric that has been talked about and continues to divide our country.’ In an interview with CNN on the morning of Jan. 6, Grisham said about 15 former Trump administration officials — some she said, who ranked higher than her — have held informal discussions and plan to meet in person.”