Stupidity Is not a defense

Rod Phillips

And, so, here we are.

To begin, what’s more amazing than Donald Trump becoming president in the first place is that anyone ever thought his presidency would end any better than it has.

The events of January 6 in Washington were predictable and inevitable, the natural culmination of four years of a steady escalation of Trump’s incendiary rhetoric and relentless lies.

In 2016 I was telling anyone who would listen that Trump would never make it four years. I was wrong. But only because the mechanisms we have in place to check this type of presidential behavior failed.

Trump’s cabinet failed us in early 2016 when they began to truly understand that this severely flawed man was unqualified and unsuitable for the presidency in every possible way, and that they might need to remove him by invoking the 25th Amendment. They choked. They chose power over integrity and duty.

And, of course, Congress failed to do their job in February 2020 when they failed to remove him by impeachment. Senator Susan Collins famously said at the time that she was voting to acquit because she thought Trump had “learned his lesson.” Well, yeah. He did. He learned he could do anything he wanted and get away with it.

I am finishing this column on January 10. At the rate things are progressing, by the time you read this, removal efforts may be well underway again, assuming sufficient courage on the part of Congress.

Less likely, because it would require a measure of decency he has never before displayed, Trump may have resigned.

We have to remember that Trump contested this past election not because he so desperately wanted another term as president, but because he simply refuses to lose.

His goal in any contest (whether in business or politics) is to show all current and future competitors that you cannot climb into the ring with him and expect to leave on your feet. Even if you are declared winner, you will be carried out bloody and broken on a stretcher.

In his mind, Trump never loses, simply because he never admits defeat. That’s part of his brand, and all these efforts to contest the election have been simply a reinforcement of that. I would argue that it has had little to do with the presidency per se.

The attack on the Capitol Building would never have happened but for Trump. He owns it. He called for the rally, he inflamed the audience, he then told them to advance to the Capitol. As many others have put it, he threw out the gasoline, then lit the fire.

As a result, five are dead, dozens are arrested, the Capitol Building has been ransacked, and our democracy has been assaulted.

A drunk driver does not set out for home intending to kill someone. But when he has a wreck and does so, he is prosecuted.

When people die because of your stupid behavior, stupidity is not a defense. Everyone on that January 6 stage with Trump should be arrested.

Recounts in the contested states, and investigations of fraud, have all upheld the initial results. Further recounts, a “10-day audit” by an “Electoral Commission,” all of this would have been a waste of time.

Any recount, investigation, “forensic audit,” or electoral commission that did not result in a Trump win would never be accepted by these election doubters. So why bother?

One woman I saw being interviewed on TV plainly said, “I will never believe that Joe Biden got more votes than Donald Trump.”

So, the problem is not an election fraud problem. The problem is a mental health problem. We should be investigating the cause of this mass hysteria, not fanciful claims of election fraud.

It would not bother me if a Nuremburg type trial were to be held, holding accountable not only Trump but all of his lackeys and enablers, all of these people who have fed us a steady diet of lies, fantasy, and incompetence for the past four years.

But, the culpable would number in the thousands, at least. And, while all that might be satisfying to some of us, it is surely impractical and undoubtedly would be counterproductive.

Best to bury the bodies and move on, I suppose. (And, if you want a true body count of this administration, be sure to include the tens of thousands of unnecessary Covid victims.)

But, regardless of how the current removal efforts end, Trump’s future includes financial ruin and a trainload of lawsuits and criminal charges. I may have to settle for that.

As for Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and right on down to our own Congressman Greg Murphy (who was compelled to substitute specious reasoning, defective research, and the paranoia of his constituents for common sense), these people apparently think that when you bet on crazy and lose, the smart thing to do is to dig in your heels and go double or nothing. The problem with that is, in this case it is a certain road to moral bankruptcy.

There are among us tens of millions who could watch Donald Trump literally burn the White House down on his way out of town, and their loyalty to him would never skip a beat. But, madness should never be accepted as a norm simply because it is widespread.

Wishing is easy, but wishing will not get us to a better world. When our elected leaders (local as well as national) present themselves as dangerous fools, we have an obligation to call them out.

When their bad behavior persists, we have an obligation to work to turn them out. Those who have a voice and know how to use it should do so. As I have said before, silence can be taken as acceptance, and acceptance as approval.

I may miss the mark more often than I hit it, but I do not want to be like the musicians on the deck of the Titanic, playing their fiddles while the ship goes down. I want to sound the alarm, man the lifeboats. And try as best I can to help keep our heads above water.

To repeat the recent long overdue words of Lindsey Graham, “Enough is enough.”

Rod Phillips, a resident of Edenton, can be reached at