Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Trump, Biden and Pelosi - an early assessment

Ten days into the Trump administration I wrote (Monday Forum - the administrative competence of the Trump Administration) I wrote: 

I think that the thing that most surprised me about President Trump's Executive Order "PROTECTING THE NATION FROM FOREIGN TERRORIST ENTRY INTO THE UNITED STATES" was the apparent administrative incompetence involved, something that may be becoming a feature of the new US Administration at this point in its life. 

I think that this assessment was reasonably accurate. 

We are now at the same point in the Biden administration and I haven't yet formed a view beyond a degree of concern about the huge number of Executive Orders, As President Trump found out, an Executive Order does not an action make.

Rightly or wrongly, I think that President Biden's biggest problem is his own party. In  Trump, fear, hate, love and the need for objectivity in US politics, I wrote: "Nancy Pelosi. To my mind, she has become part of the US problem, impeding a US solution."  She forced and lost a first impeachment trial. Now she is trying again. 

Her base case my be stronger, but in going for an ex-President she has created circumstances where Republicans can combine to reject the move on in-principle grounds without really addressing the underlying issue. Even more precisely, they can recognise that what President Trump said was wrong and then reject the impeachment on procedural grounds. 

The Democrats may have hoped to gain by dividing the Republicans. In fact, they have given Republicans a get out of jail free card.

I may be wrong of course. We will see. In the meantime, we have to wait to see how President Biden goes. As I said, I don't have a view here yet, just a concern.      


marcellous said...

I've a different view from yours about the current impeachment, even if it leads to an acquittal on party lines. See:

That started out more as a reflection on what is involved in with a "mob" (or, in the Rude/Hobsbawm approach, coming from the left "the crowd") but in the end I can see why notwithstanding it is a bit of a pile-on (easy for us to say that at this distance) impeachment is a fitting response.

There surely have to be some consequences for Trump setting his followers off in the way he did.

Anonymous said...

None of what follows will in any way alter the fixed opinions evidenced above by marcellous, and Jim himself in his post that the riot was incited by Trump.

But that acknowledged, I think it's important to at least set down some facts surrounding this mockery of a sham inflicted on the US.

1. There's a timeline of events here:

2. Trump begins speaking at noon, and concludes at approximately 1.13 p.m. with the words "So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue...."

- source of the above:
- which I very much doubt either Jim or marcellous have read in full? Apologies if my presumption is incorrect.

3. Numerous sources are available which state that it is an approximately 30 minute pedestrian journey from Trump's rally site to the Capitol building.

4. Back to the timeline.
- 12 noon Trump starts speaking
- 12.30 p.m. crowd gathers outside Capitol
- 12:53 p.m. Rioters overwhelm police along the outer perimeter
- 1:03 p.m. a vanguard of rioters have overrun three layers of barricades and have forced police officers to the base of the west Capitol steps.
- 1.13 p.m. Trump concludes his speech with the words "So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue...."

5. Don't forget: there's that 30 minute "walk down the avenue"

6. No person pretending to be impartial could deduce from the above that what happened at the Capitol while Trump was speaking was "incited" by Trump.

7. And if you bother to read Trump's rambling speech, as I have, you would have to be seriously biased to find anything within that speech which could be labelled as "inciting" - except for his "we're going to walk to the Capitol" line, which was repeated several times during his address.

But it's not about truth. It's about attempting to drive a stake through Trump's heart, so that "things can get back to normal".

We all know this, and it is hypocritical to pretend otherwise.


(if this post truncates I will split it in two - but here's hoping...)

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, I think that you may have misinterpreted what marcellous and I said. I will leave marcellous to comment from his viewpoint, but in my case it must be clear that I thought that the second impeachment was unwise, although I did say that the case may be stronger.

Before going on and just to clear the undergrowth a little, I would totally agree that the motives of those bringing the impeachment and many of the responses to events have little to do with truth but are indeed an attempt to drive a stake through President Trump's heart. I am a little less sure about the getting back to normal part, although I accept that's a significant view.

The timeline is interesting and important. While the articles of impeachment - - do reference Mr Trump's preceding arguments and stances, they focus on the effects of Mr Trump's single speech. That's a weakness.

Leaving aside general arguments about the impeachment of a President after leaving office, impeachment as worded seems to require the establishment of a clear nexus between the speech and the results. As the timeline notes, the riot began while President Trump was speaking and before he uttered the marching worlds. A substantial number of those in attendance were attracted by the previous controversy and may have been listening to the speech while Mr Trump spoke. That may have energised action but the timeline does apparently suggest that speech of itself did not cause the storming of the Capitol. I am not a lawyer and impeachment is only a quasi-legal process, but I would have thought that there might be difficulties in establishing a clear causal relationship between the speech itself and events at the Capitol.

I had not read the speech in full. As you note, it is incredibly rambling and mainly concerned with Mr Trump's views on alleged voter fraud. In that sense, it's a direct continuation of his previous views. Since his voter base believes that they were defrauded, and since many would have been listening on their mobiles, those remarks may have galvanised those near the Capitol. One interesting question, I suppose, is what happened to the crowd listening to him near the White House. Did they go on to join the riot after he finished speaking?

In all this, I don't know. I stand by my opening position that the second impeachment attempt was unwise.

Anonymous said...

With great respect Jim, I don't believe that I have misinterpreted marcellous "There surely have to be some consequences for Trump setting his followers off in the way he did" just above here, and also in his linked post - read the last paragraph of that link for evidence of "case closed!".

And while it is carefully written, as always, I don't believe I have misinterpreted your own words: "they can recognise that what President Trump said was wrong"

- as indicative of both your opinions being that Trump's speech, on the day, "incited" what was already in progress! at the Capitol.

That is all I'm saying.

I would be happy to entertain some sort of notion that his words and actions preceding his speech (days, weeks, months! earlier) "incited" the nonsense at the Capitol - but that is not the charge, or the issue.

My own attitude to Trump is that it appears people either "love" him or "hate" him; there is no middle ground apparent.

It is this visceral reaction that I find most interesting/weird in all this: normally quite sane and very thoughtful people seem to me at times to be quite unhinged by the very fact of his existence. One one level it is amusing; on another, quite frightening.


- and all the while, not a word about the closing down of Parler by its greatest enemy, Twitter, immediately assisted by both Apple and Amazon, plus Trump's own excommunication from Twitter. It's almost as if there was a plan in place :)

marcellous said...

I confess I only watched bits of the speech, though I'm sure I saw the most incendiary bits because they are likely to have been the bits extracted for repetition. I have always assumed that at no point did Trump say "Go ahead and storm the Capitol." What I have read is a (similarly, I am sure, selected for the worst bits) timeline of what Trump had been saying since the election. More contentiously, there is what was said by his supporters and not disowned by him.

So far as causation is concerned, the causative effect of the speech (as the act charged) should be judged according to the circumstances at the time, including what had already been said. So far as responsibility for this is concerned, I would have thought this is also to be judged according to the likely effect in the circumstances as should reasonably have been known to the actor at the time. By the actor I don't mean Trump in a subjective sense but a reasonable person in that situation.

Command responsibility is always contentious, and of course it is even more contentious when we are talking about a mob/crowd which by its nature is not controlled in a strict command sense, yet it has been summoned and encouraged. I think that was the starting point of my post.

I don't see a legal problem with impeaching a former president about his actions when he was in office. I'm not a US lawyer but I'm prepared to take on trust statements by a wide range of commentators that the legal consensus is that there is no obstacle to this. Off the top of my head I would have thought that this could well be the only means of proceeding in relation to actions by a president taken as president, because otherwise head-of-state immunity would most likely apply (subject to Nuremburg-ish exceptions).

Anyway, as we know, it's not a strictly legal process, if only because I don't expect it would be judiciable in the sense of any avenue of appellant oversight and because few expect senators to approach it that way.

Is it unwise to impeach? Hard to judge at this stage. The consequences are really all political and only time can tell. I do feel that at this distance we may underestimate how shaken people in the Capitol (and onlookers) were by the challenge to normal electoral process. My own sense is that amongst Democrats and (the very few) non-Trumpian Republicans this was something which could not be allowed to pass unprosecuted - a bit like when you have prosecutions for deaths said to be homicides which leave it to a jury to determine whether there was provocation (making it manslaughter rather than murder) or self-defence, or for that matter (to meet KVD head on here) whether the acts of the accused caused the death at all. And yes, I guess they saw political advantage in impeaching Trump rather than merely censuring him politically. I don't know how seriously they ever expected to get the requisite numbers as opposed to embarrassing middle-of-the-road Republicans. It seems to me the falling-out between Trump and his lawyers is because they want to take a minimalist causative/responsibility approach to the defence, whereas Trump reportedly wants to make his claim that the election was stolen central to his defence. That is an approach which ought to be ethically difficult for any lawyer in the absence of evidence to back it up, and may yet cause some difficulty for some Republicans - though in the end I expect they'll swallow any scruples and vote to acquit whatever defence Trump runs.

As to your last question, Jim, those who actually entered the Capitol were presumably listening to Trump wherever he was, but the vast majority of his audience did not and probably mostly were not expecting things to go so far. In the comments on my post I've singled a few moments in the Parler footage of demonstrators who are not happy about the violent turn, and indeed this seems to have contained the germs of the (myth as it turns out) that the violence was the work of false-flag Antifas.

marcellous said...

I hadn't read this comment, KVD, when I made my comment below. It responds in particular to your assumption that the impeachment can only be based on the words said on the day, as opposed to the effect and likely effect of the words said on the day.

I don't think I said "case closed" on the outcome of the impeachment. Actually, the case is more likely to be closed in the opposite direction.

As far as I can make out, one person has actually clicked on the link I gave to the video timeline. That was really what got me going, not so much on the question of impeachment but on the perspective it offered (from the participants' viewpoint, given it's what they chose to post) of such a crowd/mob event. I'd really recommend you look at it if you have not already done so.

I don't know if I'm "unhinged" by the existence of Trump, but honestly I do want to grab some of his followers, shake them and say "He's not your friend! He isn't going to help you!"

marcellous said...

The 2.16 comment didn't appear where I thought it would (immediately after KVD's and before my second comment) and was meant to be read accordingly.

Anonymous said...

So, I think I've digested marcellous' follow up post, but apologies if what follows is incorrect:

1 The first 3 paras deal directly with Trump's culpability. They seem a quite watered down version of marcellous' statement up top that "have to be some consequences for Trump setting his followers off in the way he did".

(side note: both marcellous and Jim have now stated that they did not actually read what Trump said. I find it remarkable that both were willing to "convict" without this basic review)

2. Paras 4-6 refer to the side/separate issue of the ability/legality/consequences for this impeachment process. Most of which I agree with - but that discussion is not this specific discussion. And further ignores the point that the end game is prohibition from further "office" - not simply impeachment per se.

3. The last para with "were presumably listening to Trump wherever he was" ignores the established fact that cell services (aka mobile services) were overwhelmed, and basically unavailable - both for our jolly insurrectionists, and for the authorities. And also - where in the law is "presumably" a solid basis for prosecution?

4. Secondly on that last para - there's a niggling suggestion that the actual footage of that woman being shot was from the camera of an Antifa activist. I do not know the truth of this, but it would tend to negate marcellous' "false-flag" throwaway. On this point, I guess we wait and see.

4.1 Note that for the Kavanaugh hearings, protesters were bused in, fed and housed, and provided with direct access to the Senate chamber to jostle and disrupt the proceedings - i.e. it is not a new tactic. So much for a complete dismissal as "false flag".

But I thank marcellous for his reply, even though I find it fairly unsatisfactory.


Anonymous said...

Whoah - sorry marcellous - again we cross post accidentally. I will now read your 2.16 and 2.19 comments - as always with a respectful and open mind.


Anonymous said...

Haha! That was me who clicked on your link marcellous - such is my respect for you to provide relevant information.

As a result of which I found myself agreeing with your contemplation of "crowds and mobs" - very much so.

And yes, I condensed your "To my mind it also shows why it’s fitting that he be impeached for inciting what then proceeded in his name" to my summary analysis of "case closed".

Guilty as charged :)


Anonymous said...

Jim - interesting read published in Time magazine:

- which - I'm guessing - depending upon your political leanings, would leave you with either a feeling of gratitude, or with a deep concern :)