Trump said the crowd at his rally preceding the Capitol attack was so large — falsely claiming that “some people say it was over a million people” — because supporters were upset about fraud and said he was “disappointed” in former vice president Mike Pence for certifying the election later that day. He expressed no regret about his actions on Jan. 6, nor about those of the Capitol rioters.“I wish that Mike Pence had the courage to send it back to the legislatures. . . . I like him so much. I was so disappointed,” Trump said.
The Republican Accountability Project ran an ad before the event (which might warrant a sequel, now that we know what was said):
His speech also included a gibe about former first lady Michelle Obama’s appearance and a recap of his racist rant about immigrants from Mexico. (“You have murderers. You have rapists. You have drug dealers.”)
No one in attendance walked out. None of the 2024 aspirants rejected or denounced his comments. They silently assented to his rewriting of history, thereby proving critics’ point that they are complicit in the Trumpification of the GOP and its attendant racism, xenophobia and web of lies. By showing up at his properties, they stuff more money into his pockets. They even gave him an award.
One of the handful of sane, morally intact Republicans, former congresswoman Barbara Comstock of Virginia, smartly stayed away. "This is all about the Trump circle of grift,” she told the New York Times. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) also denounced the rant as more of what was heard on Jan. 6. These women are the exceptions, not the rule, these days in the GOP. There is an abundance of cowardice, even by those who no longer hold office.
Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is a case in point. In January, she said about the speech that set off the deadly attack: "He was badly wrong with his words. ... His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.” In February, she was even more emphatic. “We need to acknowledge he let us down,” Haley said. “He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him, and we shouldn’t have listened to him. And we can’t let that ever happen again.” Well, except if he runs for president again in 2024.
On Monday, Haley said about her own presidential ambitions: "I would not run if President Trump ran, and I would talk to him about it. That’s something that we’ll have a conversation about at some point if that decision is something that has to be made.” I suppose she will not be one of the Republicans who “can’t let that ever happen again.”
All of this is to underscore the profound spinelessness of most Republican elected officials, certainly those with presidential ambitions. They enabled Trump for four years. All but one GOP senator voted to acquit him in the first impeachment trial; all but seven in the second.
The media nevertheless continues to treat Republicans as normal politicians on the same moral plane as those who defend democracy, call out lies and reject white supremacy. Interviewers do not press Republicans to explain their silence — if not active involvement — with regard to the Big Lie. They do not grill Republicans on why they still kiss the ring of the man who set off a riot that resulted in multiple deaths and scores of injuries. They do not interrogate them as to how they can denounce violence but celebrate the man who crows about Jan. 6.
One would think we are long past time that the media hold Republicans accountable for their ongoing enabling of the former president. Don’t hold your breath. Faux balance and moral obtuseness remain distressing features of mainstream coverage of the parties.