Mitch McConnell’s arc of Trump doesn’t bend toward justice

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Nothing describes the arc the Republican Party has traveled over the past few months better than the journey of Sen. Mitch McConnell: In February, the minority leader was calling former President Donald Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot; three-and-a-half months later he was making a “personal favor” plea to colleagues to kill a bipartisan commission that would have investigated the deadly insurrection.

This was the action of someone who, however much he might yearn to escape Trump’s long shadow, knows that his party’s base is wedded to the former president and could decide the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections.

Those who voted with McConnell “are afraid that a bipartisan commission would bring up new information that could make the party look bad in the next election,” wrote John Avlon. “They’re being intimidated by Trumpist thugs peddling the Big Lie. This is the moral equivalent of 9/11 truthers being allowed to derail a 9/11 commission — which is unthinkable.”

Democrats shouldn’t give up on investigating 1/6, Avlon argued. “What’s clear is that if we cannot unite and reason together after an attack on our democracy, then it will only embolden future insurrection attempts — and that is unacceptable.”

Anneliese M. Bruner’s great grandmother, Mary E. Jones Parrish, was a journalist and teacher who survived the Tulsa massacre that began a century ago on May 31. In a newly republished, book-length account, Parrish wrote, “The rich man of power and the fat politician who have maneuvered to get into office, and even our Congress, may sit idly by with folded hands and say, ‘What can we do?’ Let me warn you that the time is fast approaching when you will want to do something and it will be too late.”

Bruner noted that the Capitol riot raises similarly uncomfortable questions. “Will we demand truth and accountability, or will we accept a watered-down investigation that does not make people answer for potential crimes? Mary Parrish’s warning is clear that failing to hold those responsible for political violence will beget further violence and destruction, perhaps even of democracy itself.”

It took five days, but McConnell’s counterpart in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy condemned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s comparison between Covid-19 mask mandates and Jews being persecuted in Nazi Germany.

Greene, a Republican from Georgia, “is, unfortunately, not unique in a party that increasingly attracts xenophobes, misogynists, conspiracy theorists and crackpots,” Jill Filipovic pointed out. “The party can choose a different and brighter future. Or it can continue to walk the dangerous path laid by the former president (and vocal Greene supporter), Donald Trump.”

Zoom out, and the overall picture is disturbing, wrote Frida Ghitis, “Countless Republican leaders either declare or refuse to deny the Big Lie, the claim that the election was stolen. Tens of millions of Republicans erroneously believe Trump won. Almost one-quarter of Republicans believe it may become necessary to use violence to ‘save the country.’ Then they are told by Republican outrage peddlers that the US Constitution protects their right to own firearms for the purpose of rising up against the government. And then — the match to start lighting the fuse — they are told that Democrats are similar to Nazis.

“If that’s not the recipe for disaster — not just for Republicans but for the entire country — tell me what it is.”

Historian Julian Zelizer warned, “Greene should not be brushed off as an anomalous fringe figure who will eventually go away. She isn’t just fostering a base of supporters through cable television or Twitter — she represents the direction the Republican Party is headed.”

Under investigation

Trump’s business empire is under investigation by New York prosecutors and, as Errol Louis noted, the former president issued a 900-word “rant” aimed at New York’s Attorney General Letitia James. “Trump has every reason to worry, though we don’t know if any charges will be filed,” Louis wrote.

At the center of the investigation is the Trump Organization’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. “Having spent nearly 50 years inside the Trump organization, he has almost certainly played significant roles in businesses ranging from Miss Universe to Trump’s casinos, and he has handled Trump’s personal finances,” noted Michael D’Antonio.

“The pressure was raised on Weisselberg recently as his own tax returns became a subject of investigation. This development could make him the man Trump fears most in the world,” D’Antonio wrote. Trump has denied wrongdoing and accused prosecutors of acting on political motives.

Bernie Sanders’ message

President Joe Biden’s top legislative priority is a sweeping plan to rebuild America’s infrastructure. After failing to secure even one Republican senator’s vote for his Covid-19 relief package in March, he is engaging in talks to see if there’s a bipartisan path to passage of a bill.

The stakes are enormous, wrote Sen. Bernie Sanders. “We can create millions of good paying union jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, water systems and constructing the millions of units of affordable housing we desperately need.” The Vermont senator said that goal, and many other progressive aims, could be achieved “if the Democrats in the House and Senate are able to stand together.”

“But what happens if Democrats…spend week after week, month after month ‘negotiating’ with Republicans who have little intention of addressing the serious crises facing the working families of this country? What happens if, after the passage of the vitally important American Rescue Plan — the Covid-19 rescue package signed into law by President Biden in March — the momentum stops and we accomplish little or nothing?” If so, Democrats could wind up losing control of Congress in the next election, Sanders warned.

W. Kamau Bell wrote that Biden’s first speech to Congress last month made him think the President had just finished watching Sanders speak. Biden noted then that millions of jobs were lost in the pandemic while billionaires saw their net worth go up by $1 trillion.

“Few things say ‘The United States economy is broken’ more than the idea that while we’re in a global pandemic — with nearly 600,000 Americans dead, almost 10 million jobs lost, and the population of unhoused people higher for the fourth year in a row — there’s at least one billionaire somewhere going, ‘2020 was a great year!,'” Bell wrote.

Many Democrats believe that they will have to go it alone to achieve the kind of infrastructure package Biden is pushing. “There is no outcome, substantive or political, that Republicans would rather have than to see the infrastructure bill go down in flames,” wrote Paul Waldman in the Washington Post. “Democrats could let them write every word of it, and that would still be true.

“Which is why there will be no bipartisanship on this subject. And on every other important piece of legislation during the Biden presidency, the calculation will be just the same.”

Lab leak?

Covid-19 has killed at least 3.5 million people and sickened more than 160 million around the world. Yet the cause of the pandemic is still unclear. This week, scientists and public officials argued that one potential cause — the possibility of a leak from a virology lab in Wuhan, China — deserved more study. The Wall Street Journal reported that three of the lab’s researchers sought hospital care with symptoms similar to both Covid-19 and to seasonal maladies in November, 2019.

The Trump administration had given credence to the “lab leak” theory, and while Biden’s team had shut down a State Department initiative to prove the hypothesis, the President this week ordered US intelligence agencies to step up their investigation of it.

“An investigation into the true origins of the virus is essential not only for scientific reasons, but also because policymakers around the world need this knowledge to better prepare themselves for future pandemics,” wrote Lanhee J. Chen.

Ordinarily, the World Health Organization would be the obvious choice to carry out such a probe.

“But the WHO and its current director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have a history of being too closely tied to China. Ghebreyesus was supported by China’s government when he sought leadership of the WHO and was quick to effusively praise Beijing’s early actions on the coronavirus when still little was known about it, how broadly it would spread and how deadly it would be.”

A letter to my Black son

One year after the killing of George Floyd, Keith Magee wrote a letter to his almost 7-year-old son, “an endlessly curious, cheeky bundle of energy… brimming with self-confidence, slow to fret and quick to trust. You were lucky enough to be born in a country where dreams can come true, so they say, and I hope that this will be the case for you.”

Magee added, “More than anything else, I pray that I will be able to keep you safe. No child should have to know this, but as you start to roam beyond our contented, loving bubble you will encounter individuals who will see you as less than human because of the color of your outer layer. Some of them will even be the very people who have sworn to protect and serve you, and they will be armed.”

On the day Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing Floyd, Gene Seymour noted, the Library of America published “a long-lost novel that began with White policemen beating and torturing an innocent Black man into confessing to a double murder he didn’t commit.” It was by Richard Wright, the author of the 1940 best-seller, “Native Son.”

The newly published book, “The Man Who Lived Underground,” Seymour wrote, “resounds with near-explosive force as a novel for our own time… one of those indispensable works that reminds all its readers that, whether we are in the flow of life or somehow separated from it, above- or belowground, we are all human.”

On Monday, the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, which administers the Confederate memorial outside Atlanta, voted to relocate Confederate flags and “tell the truth” about the history of the site, Nicole Hemmer observed. The truth is that the enormous bas-relief sculpture of Confederate leaders arose out of the mythology of the “Lost Cause,” which held “that Confederate soldiers had fought bravely, that the war had been about states’ rights, that life had been better under slavery for both the enslaver and the enslaved.”

It “was the country’s original grievance politics, an attempt to rewrite history to make the cause just, the defeat tragic and the restoration of antebellum values urgent. Stone Mountain serves as a monument to false history, built on a site where an organization devoted to terrorizing Black people regularly convened.”

At the time the United Daughters of the Confederacy was raising funds for the memorial, Hemmer wrote, the “the 1921 racist pogrom” that destroyed Tulsa’s “Black Wall Street” neighborhood took place. It “destroyed not only a community but generations of wealth. And then it was carefully erased: the law enforcement records related to the massacre disappeared; the story that helped incite the massacre was removed from the local paper’s archive,” Hemmer pointed out.

Crying foul over Belarus

A Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius, suddenly escorted by a fighter jet, was forced to land last Sunday on the orders of the President of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko. His quarry: journalist and activist Roman Protasevich, who was seized by security forces. “Recent years have seen so many autocrats brazenly violating once-accepted norms — assassinating government critics on foreign soil, murdering journalists, seizing other country’s territory — that some may lose sight of how unacceptable, how intolerable this behavior is,” wrote Frida Ghitis.

“The international community has rightfully cried foul,” wrote Gulnoza Said, of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “World leaders must demand the immediate and unconditional release of Protasevich and all other journalists in Belarusian jails.”

Honoring the heroes

Memorial Day has a special resonance this year as the first US holiday since the widespread lifting of masking and social distancing mandates — a time when family gatherings, trips to beaches, parks and restaurants will soar. Yet it remains a day dedicated to the memory of those who fought and died in war.

Former CIA officer Matt Castelli saluted his colleagues who “rushed forward, putting their lives on the line to confront threats facing our nation. A CIA officer, Johnny ‘Mike’ Spann, who served on one of the earliest teams to enter Afghanistan in 2001, was the first American killed there. Since then, multiple stars have been added to the Memorial Wall at the agency’s headquarters “for those who perished in Afghanistan. They represent a cross-section of the CIA workforce — analysts, case officers, paramilitary officers and more.”

In the 1930s, Jewish teenagers fleeing persecution in their native Germany and Austria arrived in the UK on kindertransport. When war broke out, their German language skills were recognized as an asset by the British, and they were recruited into a secret unit Prime Minister Winston Churchill named X Troop, wrote Leah Garrett, the author of a book on the subject.

“Lieutenant Peter Masters (Peter Arany) was one of the first land forces to reach Pegasus bridge, and secured vital intelligence that enabled the British to cross the Rhine at Wesel,” wrote Garrett. “X Trooper Corporal Ian Harris killed and captured so many Hitler-Jugend SS that he was awarded a Military Medal. Sergeant Maurice Latimer seized a crucial outpost on Walcheren, in the Netherlands, by tricking the Nazi garrison there. Sergeant Colin Anson’s interpersonal skills and bravery assisted in the bloodless surrender of an SS garrison on Corfu. And after being central to a whole string of Allied successes in France and the Netherlands, Lieutenant Manfred Gans drove across Germany as the war was ending and, incredibly, rescued his own parents from the Theresienstadt concentration camp.”

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The new Disney film “Cruella,” wrote Sara Stewart, “boils down to a battle of wills between two fabulously snarky women.” She describes it as “a celebration of visual excess that stealthily aligns with the worldview of the Disney corporation itself.”

What it doesn’t do is “adequately explain the Cruella de Vil whose bloodlust for skinning puppies fueled the 1961 animated classic and its source, Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel.” Stewart observed, “The big Mouse would, understandably, like to whitewash that little detail. It does so with an intoxicating dose of Disneyfied glam.”

Disney properties are “traditionally weighed down in morality messaging and nuclear-family modeling.” But this “featherweight trifle…might be Disney’s most honest movie yet,” Stewart argued, “a love letter to the joys to be found in spectacle and artifice – and if the little people get bruised as you ascend on their backs, well, so be it.”

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