The Wonderful World of Whataboutisms

If it is a good idea to impeach and try former Presidents, what about former Democratic Presidents when Republicans get the majority in 2022? Think about it and let’s do what is best for the country – Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx)

So I guess next year, I don’t know, maybe it’ll be the impeachment of Jimmy Carter or the impeachment of Bill Clinton or the impeachment of Barack Obama.- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx)

There is really no mistaking what happened on January 6th, 2021. A bloodthirsty mob descended on our nation’s capital intent on violently usurping the results of a clear and convincing presidential election. These were not protestors; they lost that designation the moment they violently breeched the Capitol endangering anyone or anything standing in their way. In representation of a president who fancied himself as a  “law and order” advocate these people were responsible for the brutal murder of a law enforcement officer who died in the service of the democracy they pretend to care about. The great irony here is that Officer Brian Sicknick  according to those who knew him, was a supporter of the 45th President, whose words and deeds gave a salutary preamble to the day’s insurrection attempt. But partisan politics aside Officer Sicknick’s primary allegiance on that day was not to the president or his party but rather to the vow he took, just like the president and members of congress , to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. In short, he was on the front lines of a battle to protect democracy itself, not rhetorically as so many politicians and pundits pompously refer to such duty, but in an actual blood and guts laying it all on the line sort of way. In so doing he displayed a type of courage in his final moments curiously absent from many of the legislators he died trying to defend. All that is expected of them is the courage to stand up and take a reasonable and rhetorical stand, not the physical type required of a police officer. They are expected merely to display the courage of their convictions. After observing the behavior of too many republican legislators to count since Jan 6th , it is difficult for me to detect an ounce of either courage or conviction in more than a tiny handful of them.

It is winter and the winds are blowing. As are the shifting principles of people like Lindsay Graham who, in the hours immediately after the attempted insurrection dramatically declared on the Senate floor that “enough was enough…count me out” referring to the vote counting objections that precipitated the attempted coup. This is the same South Carolina senator and Capitol Hill invertebrate who once said, “If we nominate Trump we will get destroyed and …we deserve it” and “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot…This guy is so unfit to be commander-in-chief”. Now the walking weathervane from Central, SC exhorts against impeachment with a blood curdling plea for healing via the possibilities of further violence. I wonder, after all we have seen over the past four years and especially since the gentleman has wiggled out of whatever Capitol nook, cranny, or desk he was hiding in or under if he could answer this question. Do you not believe in consequences for toxic behavior (which you yourself once prophesied) to the  health of the nation? Search your soul, (if you still have one) and ask yourself honestly (if such a concept still matters to you) what your reaction would be if under the very same circumstances the 45th president was instead the 44th and exactly the same measures to attack democracy were taken.

Senator Shameless is not alone in his dereliction of conscience. A very large majority of Republican House members voted for the sham count objections. In fact only 10 brave souls from that caucus voted against it. They were since pilloried for having the audacity to exhibit spines. Republican Senators were not much better. Most of them waited weeks to refer to Joe Biden as the President -elect as they twisted themselves into pretzels defending the numerous vapid challenges from the Moaner from Mar a Lago. Even when the “evidence” of fraud alluded to in front of phalanxes of microphones and cameras  failed to materialize in front of actual judges and courtrooms, the defenders of the indefensible continued their  antics by falling back on their favorite maneuver- Whataboutisms.

The purpose of this sleight of thought is to deflect the attention of its audience from the reality of any given situation. Don’t’ look over here rather, try looking over there. And time and again Republican tricksters  have exhibited real skill in these dark arts. Let’s not talk about the ridiculous and dangerous motives and actions of the 45th president let’s instead focus on the events proceeding from the 2000 election. You know, the one where the difference in the Electoral College was 537 votes in one very populous state, such a wafer-thin margin that a challenge was guaranteed and expected. You know, the election where the popular vote total had the other guy winning by half a million votes. And where the defeated candidate ultimately accepted his defeat and called for the country to unify behind the new president as he graciously certified that election in his duties as President of the Senate.

Let’s not talk about the rhetorical bile emanating from the 45th president regarding the likelihood of widespread voter fraud in any election he might lose from almost the moment he declared his candidacy in 2015. Shush about his Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, first conceived in May of 2017 and failing to produce even an iota of evidence when it was terminated in January of 2018. Let’s instead talk about a challenge from House democrats in the wake of the 2016 election, of which there were quite a few, but let’s not talk about the fact that the democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton had quickly conceded her loss and that no democratic senators signed on to the objections making the point (more about voter suppression than about fraudulent voting) somewhat moot. Let’s not talk about a president standing in front of a mostly unmasked mob and armed supporters yammering on about walking down to the Capitol to “fight” before they “lose” their country. Let us instead talk about mostly peaceful, unarmed, and masked BLM protestors whose trifling amount of destruction never extended to the attempted violent overthrow of government and outright murder.

So when Mitch (The Survivor) McConnell attempts to gum up the works again as Minority Leader by harping on the new president’s inability to accept his insulting offer on the stimulus package, he should remember that the 46th has a heaping helping of whataboutisms he could toss about himself. The new president could revive memories of a Supreme Court nomination that wasn’t allowed a floor vote due to specious concerns that such a selection ten months before an election would deprive the American people of having a say in that decision, only to whoosh through his own president’s nominee less than six weeks before this election. Now as he  cries  turtle-dile tears over a recovery package for struggling  Americans being pushed to fruition through budget reconciliation, he might want to recall his own use of the same tactic while ensuring  a permanent tax cut of a larger bottom line for the perfectly comfortable.

The long-term threat from whataboutisms lie not in just their nature to deflect but also in the current climate of alternative realities where they will be used to compare the plausibly true with the utterly ridiculous. How long will it be before the next Whataboutism springing from legitimate investigations into claims of the former president’s  sexual improprieties becomes equated with Q-Anon claims of another Comet Ping Pong type absurdity? The ludicrous conflation by the party powers regarding the need for punishment among members  bears out how dangerously close to insanity the whole process has become. Marjorie Taylor Greene (admittedly before being sworn in-but should that matter?) approved of tweets to assassinate her own fellow congressional partners, she denied the 911 attacks, called the Parkland and Sandy Hook school shootings hoaxes even going so far as to harass one of the students fortunate enough to survive the vicious Florida massacre. She has even managed to traffic in some insane anti-Semitism by suggesting that Jewish space lasers were responsible for California’s wildfires.

Meanwhile Rep.  Lynne Cheney is pilloried on the same day for the crime of standing up for her conscience despite the political cost, chastened for putting her country before her party. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which when the prospect of forcing Rep. Greene to face some unpleasant music someone, (maybe Jim Jordan) piped up, “what about Cheney?” If you submitted any of this as a draft for a Saturday morning cartoon you would likely be laughed out of the production meeting. But this is what passes today as legitimate American political repartee.

It has been reported that a number of the insurrectionists protesting the vote count and the supposed theft of their democracy did not even vote in the 2020 election. What about that?

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