By Ray Hunkins, guest columnist
Early in his presidency, President Trump was quoted as saying something to the effect that he could shoot someone in the middle of New York’s 5th Avenue and wouldn’t lose any political support. After the events of January 6th, he may be testing that hypothesis.
I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the President, a contributor to his campaigns and a defender of his policies and persona to friends and family.
I haven’t always been a supporter. I went to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as a Wyoming delegate pledged to Ted Cruz. But, when Donald J. Trump was nominated, I boarded the “Trump Train” and have been riding it ever since.
There have been times that I have winced at a tweet or comment, and even times when I have thought the President erred in his assessment or approach to getting things done.
The tough guy, brash “Queens approach” has never been my cup of tea. I’m more the, “walk softly and carry a big stick” type. Since nothing else seemed to work, given the absolute mess in Washington, it has been easy to overlook Trump’s objectionable characteristics on the basis that the “Queens approach” was what was needed.
The election was a disappointment and also a surprise. When I went to bed it looked as if the President had earned another term. It didn’t seem possible that Biden-Harris could overtake the convincing lead Trump-Pence had amassed. After all, Biden and Harris had hardly campaigned.
During the rest of November and December, it became apparent that skullduggery, of one kind or another, may have been afoot.
I believed the protestations and assertions of Mayor Rudy, attorney Sidney and others. I was far enough removed that I was unable to accurately assess the legal cases being filed in the various courts of the battleground states.
All most of us in Wyoming had heard about fraud and irregularities were allegations, denials and suspect news reports. It seemed strange that the judges and justices reviewing the campaign’s petitions and complaints wouldn’t get involved.
Mostly, the legal actions were dismissed on non-substantive grounds. I kept hoping that some court would do what courts are for: test the veracity of the accusations. None did.
I was hopeful the rally in Washington would be a positive event; that the Joint Session of Congress on that day would provide an opportunity to hear the President’s position regarding the “stolen” election and learn about the evidence his campaign believed supported that assertion. It didn’t happen. The riot that took place at the Capitol overshadowed all else.
I was an eyewitness, via Fox News, to the events of January 6th, watching much of the coverage of the rally and listening carefully to the President’s remarks.
Trump’s comments concerning the Vice President gave the impression of an effort to intimidate and bully Pence into doing Trump’s bidding.
And, what he was asking Mike Pence to do, was desperate and wildly unreasonable. At a minimum, those remarks were ill advised and the apparent intimidation by the President, unseemly.
Trump asked the crowd to march up Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Capitol. At that point the crowd was not by any stretch, a “mob,” but some of those who accepted the President’s invitation would soon become one.
What was he thinking? Was he not aware that every crowd that large is bound to have a fringe element and a few jerks hanging around? Was he unaware of the possibility of anarchists and other troublemakers infiltrating the crowd.?
Did he not remember the riots around the White House in the summer of 2020? Was he in receipt of any intelligence concerning the event?
Did it not occur to him that any trouble would result in the smearing and besmirching of those good and loyal people who had gathered to show their support for him? In the aftermath, these are important questions.
After hearing the two remarks: threatening his Vice President unless he performed as Trump wished, and encouraging the crowd to march on the Capitol, I was filled with a premonition that major trouble could result and sadly, that’s what came to pass.
An ugly, deadly and demoralizing riot ensued. People died, the beautiful Capitol building was trashed and America’s fratricide was put on display for all, friend and foe alike, to see.
Trump handed his political adversaries a gift. His supporters, as Attorney General Barr recently noted, were recipients of a betrayal. The election grievances were lost in the melee’.
I respectfully disagree with those who have accused the President of “inciting a riot”. “Inciting” a riot would be a criminal as well as an evil act. Trump is not evil. There was nothing said by the President at the rally which could be interpreted as intent to incite a riot or any other criminal act.
Donald J. Trump, like the rest of us, is flawed. It can be surmised that he lost perspective and who wouldn’t?
After four years of leaked confidential conversations, baseless accusations, a fake dossier, obstruction of the Administration’s agenda, hoaxes, investigations, a special counsel, civil lawsuits, impeachment and scurrilous and salacious rumors, after an election marred by unexplained and seemingly inexplicable irregularities, it is easy to see how the President might have been caught up in the moment; how his view of political reality might have become jaded and cynical, leading to the exercise of poor judgment.
He wasn’t alone. “Jaded”, “cynical”, “caught up in the moment”, “poor Judgment” are all words that could be used to describe the unfortunate display by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she tore up the President’s State of the Union address on live television. Occasions for bad judgment seems to be in abundant supply in Washington.
The many accomplishments the Trump administration have enjoyed, despite the obstructive strategy of the not so “loyal opposition”, were exhilarating for many conservatives.
Such conservative policies and appointments have not been seen in Washington since Ronald Reagan was President. These accomplishments are now overshadowed by the tragic events of January 6th.
Overshadowed also, is the very grievances Trump and his campaign were attempting to hi-lite: voter fraud and election irregularities. Were they real or just hyperbole? We may never know.
Thanks to the riot, we missed the opportunity to make a case for meaningful election reform. The arguments of the senators who objected to the electoral vote of some states were, shortened and summarized and made in the dead of night. Who remembers what was said that night in the Senate Chamber?
The reputation of Donald Trump’s presidency has suffered a serious blow. But, with the passage of time it will be at least partially rehabilitated. Think Nixon. I believe that’s how those of us who have ridden the Trump Train will see it.
Not surprisingly the President’s political adversaries are overreaching and appear to be piling on. Impeachment is clearly not the appropriate remedy.
It has the distasteful aroma of a vendetta about it, of getting even for past slights and insults. There seems no shortage of poor judgment and high emotion in our Capitol, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Many mistakes have been made and poor judgment exhibited since January 6th. Equaling the President’s ill- advised exhortations, was the interjection of the Speaker of the House into the military chain of command.
By engaging the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a conversation about his superior’s access to nuclear codes, she displayed poor judgment at least equal to the President’s. If it comes time to hand out censures, Speaker Pelosi is deserving.
We would all, including our elected representatives, be wise to take a deep breath and calm down. Wisdom and clear thinking are needed not raw emotion and hyperbole.
It doesn’t seem that we are going to get what is needed before additional examples of poor judgment are on display in Washington.