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Trump presidency collapses amid capitol insurrection

Jules Witcover, syndicated columnist

WASHINGTON — Nearly 80 years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt condemned the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as “the date which will live in infamy.”

On Wednesday, another such date informed the American people that lame-duck president Donald Trump had personally incited an insurrection against the government by calling for the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

In a fiery speech that morning, Trump vowed to lead the march there himself. But he then cowardly retreated to the safety of the White House as the mob proceeded without him. In the ensuing mayhem, a woman was shot and killed, as offices of Congress were ransacked in an unprecedented act of what many would call treason.

Almost at once, calls were heard by some in Congress for a second Trump impeachment, after the first one earlier voted by the House had been annulled by the Republican Senate. There appeared to be mixed public sentiment on whether invoking the 25th Amendment allowing the vice president in concert with the cabinet would be worth the effort, considering that less than two weeks remained in Trump’s first term.

Trump’s treachery, however, was so egregious to the very heart of American democracy that advocates of a second allegation held it was never too late to punish such a crime, if only in the service of national honor.

Whether or not that next step is taken, Donald Trump will go down in history as our worst president and will forever be a nagging reminder of the folly of an American electorate that fails to take seriously the qualifications of all seekers of our highest office.

Worse is the prospect that Trump, buoyed by his own narcissism and the fact more than 70 million Americans voted for his reelection last November, may encourage him to run again in 2024, and meanwhile to continue his efforts to undermine the presidency of the man who beat him in 2020, Joe Biden.

While Trump out of the Oval Office will lack the forum or power he has enjoyed as president, he already has demonstrated his ability and willingness to intrude on Biden’s plans and efforts to return the country normal practices and policies of constructive public service.

An immediate challenge will be to ensure his administration’s civil order, including protection of all aspects of the federal establishment, so astonishingly neglected in Wednesday’s fiasco.

Beyond that, Biden is already committed to giving first priority to improving the government response to the coronavirus pandemic through better cooperation with state governors, along with swifter coordination in the distribution of vaccines.

Working in his favor are two obvious expectations after the now more widely discredited Trump years. The first is public recognition of Biden’s more trustworthy and admirable personal history as a man of strong family and religious conviction. The second is his record of nearly half a century as a public servant at the levels of local, state and national service.

Trump’s woeful recklessness and disdain for American political values and institutions as demonstrated in our latest day that will live in infamy has set a very easy and low bar for Joe Biden to clear in the days immediately ahead.

Editor’s note: Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcovercomcast.net.

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