As The Curtain Finally Falls On 2020—A December To Remember!
Trumpism redefines Republicans and realpolitik at great cost to our nation
In my Washington Post letter of December 21, 2020 headlined, “Republicans’ tone-deaf fealty,” I had said, in part:
“One wonders whether Republicans in the United States fear President Trump more than Russians fear their president, Vladimir Putin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) finally congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his victory — only after Mr. Putin had done so early on Dec. 15. Is it possible that Mr. McConnell surmised Mr. Trump couldn’t do much damage to the Republican flock once Mr. Putin had thrown in the towel?”
Trump must feel a sense of betrayal, but Putin has proven to be smart at realpolitik and prioritizes Russia’s interests accordingly. My letter had concluded by saying:
“… it’s a shame that Republican holdouts are proving to be more tone-deaf politically — not only on domestic realpolitik but also on how our democracy actually works.”
The times they are a-changin’
But then, it’s not only Republicans that will need to adjust to the realities of a post-Trump world, but also major conservative media outlets — such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, controlled by media mogul, Rupert Murdoch — will have to adapt, if they want to remain relevant during a Biden-Harris administration. In this regard, it was appalling to read Joseph Epstein’s December 11, 2020 op-ed, “Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D.” in the WSJ. There is no way to justify this ridiculous piece of misogynistic claptrap and Mr. Epstein’s opening paragraph might provide a clue as to why:
“Madame First Lady — Mrs. Biden — Jill — kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the “Dr.” before your name? “Dr. Jill Biden” sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic. Your degree is, I believe, an Ed.D., a doctor of education, earned at the University of Delaware through a dissertation with the unpromising title “Student Retention at the Community College Level: Meeting Students’ Needs.” A wise man once said that no one should call himself “Dr.” unless he has delivered a child. Think about it, Dr. Jill, and forthwith drop the doc.”
The buck stops there, somewhere…
After the mainstream media and the Twitterati lit up with outrage, WSJ editorial page editor, Paul Gigot, cried foul and defended the op-ed a couple days later in his response, “The Biden Team Strikes Back.” But it became apparent that Mr. Gigot didn’t comprehend the difference between, what he called, a “provocative” piece and what most saw an “offensive” one. Instead of following the maxim, “when you are in a hole stop digging,” Mr. Gigot decided to go Trumpian in his defense of an op-ed piece that had clearly offended across the ideological spectrum.
It’s a sign of the times that the WSJ editorial page — which took repeated umbrage over issues of character, honesty, integrity, misogyny, sexism, et al. during the Clinton years — now refuses to admit that it made a mistake, much like our current president, who never does. Instead, Mr. Gigot chose to use conservatives’ go-to line of defense by citing “identity politics.” In framing the matter in race and gender terms, Mr. Gigot played to his readers’ base, much like Trump does. One fervently hopes that when President-elect Biden assumes office, “the buck stops here” once again becomes the guiding principle for chief executives in all professions across the nation.
Can’t accept the count, then count on a coup to stay in power?
By highlighting the fear of Trump at the highest levels of the Republican party and simultaneously pointing out the effects of Trumpism on a highly respected conservative publication in the country, we can hopefully comprehend the extent of the deleterious effects that this president has had on our democracy, including on the first branch of our government and on the First Amendment to our Constitution. Trump’s noxious behavior has plunged to new lows since the 2020 presidential election was accurately called in favor of Joe Biden. Despite multiple recounts, an official certification of the Electoral College results by the states, and a complete rejection by various courts of 59 election-related lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign throughout the country, Trump will not let it go. He is making a last-ditch attempt to block a joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021 from conducting its ceremonial role of opening and counting certificates of electoral votes. All it requires is one member of the House of Representatives and one senator to object to this formal certificate counting process from going forward. If an objection is raised successfully, the House and Senate must vote separately to confirm or deny the objection. The objection is almost certain to be rejected by both chambers, but Trump still insists on going through the motions. In fact, during a caucus call on Tuesday, December 15th, McConnell told his colleagues that they must not object to states’ electoral votes at a joint session of Congress in January.
In the interim, it’s the bizarre goings-on at the White House — which seems to be oblivious to the raging coronavirus pandemic and the economic toll that it is wreaking on the American public, as it continues to focus on trying to overturn a settled election outcome — that has everyone very concerned. Especially given that significant events have occurred in this month that should have put the kibosh on Trump’s attempts at overturning a legitimate election result. He should have instead refocused, in the waning days of his presidency, on critical national security issues and the increasingly deadly coronavirus pandemic. The following timeline — of a December to remember — makes my point.
A December to remember — here a hack, there a hack, everywhere a hack!
On December 8th FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, alerted the world that its network had been breached and the hacking tools that it uses to test clients’ networks defenses had been stolen. In a December 14th blogpost, FireEye confirmed that hackers had “gained access to victims via trojanized updates to SolarWind’s Orion IT monitoring and management software. This campaign may have begun as early as Spring 2020 and is currently ongoing.” On the same day, the Washington Post reported, “Russian government hackers breached the Treasury and Commerce departments, along with other U.S. government agencies.”
An official acknowledgement followed on Wednesday, December 16th, when the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued a joint statement — on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), CISA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) — which confirmed that they had “become aware of a significant and ongoing cybersecurity campaign.” The statement acknowledged that the “compromise has affected networks within the federal government.” The following day, December 17th, Politico reported, “The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation.”
Then on Friday, December 18th, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo put the blame for the hack squarely on Russia. Per the Wall Street Journal’s reporting, “‘This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,’ Mr. Pompeo said in a Friday night interview with radio host Mark Levin.”
However, placing the blame on Russia did not sit well with Trump, who took to Twitter the very next day on Saturday, December 19th, to downplay Moscow’s role in the hack. In its report, “Trump contradicts Pompeo in bid to downplay massive hack of U.S. government, Russia’s role” the Washington Post said:
“In a bizarre outburst on Twitter that Trump’s critics condemned for its alarming disconnect from the facts, the president contradicted his top diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who on Friday pinned the breaches that have afflicted at least five major federal agencies ‘clearly’ on Russia. Rather, the president baselessly suggested that the true culprit ‘may be China (it may!)’”
Dissent within the Trump administration continued to rise, when long-standing loyalist, Attorney General Bill Barr delivered a trifecta of positions that were at odds with Trump. Per an Axios report, at his final press conference on Monday, December 21st, Barr told reporters:
“…that he sees no reason to name a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, there is no basis for the federal government to seize voting machines, and that he agrees with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assessment that Russia was behind the massive recent hack of federal agencies”.
Yes, Russia has clearly been listening!
So, we’ve come full circle with the Trump presidency. It began with Russia hacking into our 2016 election and it ends with Russia hacking into several of our federal agencies. While CISA was busy overseeing our 2020 elections, one it called “the most secure in American history,” it was blindsided by Russia on what Putin — the aforementioned “smart at realpolitik” guy — was really after. Putin’s intelligence units probably discerned early on — around the time coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. and Trump then quickly botched the handling of it — that Trump was likely to lose his reelection bid. That’s when Putin probably directed this alternative and more substantive hacking campaign to begin, “as early as Spring 2020,” per CISA’s acknowledgement of when it started. It was a recognition of the fact that Putin would no longer have his preferred U.S. president starting 2021, so it was like, “let’s grab all their good stuff before he is outta there.”
A December to remember — the deadliest month yet of the pandemic!
Meanwhile the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the nation. The Atlantic’s December 23 report, “December Is Now the Deadliest Month of the Pandemic,” provides this somber analysis:
“Each month added to the country’s tragedy, and December began with 259,697 dead since the pandemic’s beginning. On December 23, the total was 317,513. That puts the total deaths reported so far this month at 57,683 — over April’s record, with another week left in the year, during which the country is likely to record more than 10,000 additional deaths.”
Despite this tragic loss of life, Trump has been AWOL on the pandemic since he lost his reelection bid. The only thing pandemic related that Trump has mentioned concerns the Covid vaccines — a couple of which received emergency use authorization by the FDA in December and started shipping across the country — for which he made sure to claim credit.
Trump’s parting “let them eat cake” message to the American people.
But the real Trump spoiler — à la the Grinch who stole Christmas — came on December 22nd. An NBC News report, “Trump threw a wrench into Covid relief. What could happen next?” described it as follows:
“President Donald Trump on Tuesday threw a wrench into the massive year-end spending and coronavirus relief bill, leaving the country on edge as the threat of a government shutdown and expiring Covid-19 protections loom over the holiday season.”
To make matters worse, Trump then headed down to his Mar-a-Lago resort and was seen golfing on Christmas Eve, even as the fate of much of the nation hung in the balance. It’s almost impossible to fathom how this man thinks or operates, but we can only thank our stars that come January 20, 2021 this nation will be free of what could arguably be one of the worst presidents in its 244-year history. On that hopeful note, here’s wishing all of you a merry Christmas, happy Holidays and a very happy New Year!