If we judge intelligence as always including the ability to think through the consequences of one’s behavior before engaging in any action, then President Trump qualifies as a dunce of the first order, based on his invitation to his followers to join him on January 6 for a “wild” event.
*Editor's Note: This column first appeared in the January 20 of the Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.
The president was oozing a sense of grievance after the election results were declared and his opponent, former vice president Joe Biden, was announced as the clear victor.
He got seven million more votes than the president and ended up with the same Electoral College numbers as when Trump won against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Trump’s lawyers and other experts made their case for a crooked election in various states before around 80 judges, but not even one of these courts could find any example of election malfeasance.
Trump’s angry refusal to accept the election results, confirmed by all these court judgements, led directly to the disgraceful insurrection in the Capitol Building on January 6.
Prior to the election, Trump was asked by an interviewer what his plans were if his opponent won. He replied without humor that there could only be one winner and loser – and the “L” word would never be associated with him. He asserted that the only way Biden could win would involve him rigging the result.
Election protocols are well-established and credible in the U.S. Each state operates its own ballot counting system.
After the numbers are tabulated and announced, an aggrieved candidate who believes that there were irregularities in some phase of the election, can question the appropriate state authorities. If their explanations are unsatisfactory then he or she may bring a case to local state courts. In rare circumstances, the Supreme Court may be called on to adjudicate.
All of these actions challenging the results, including two visits to the Supreme Court, were followed by the Trump campaign, and in all cases they lost. There was simply no credible evidence of wrongdoing in any of the contested states.
But Trump continued to rant about the results, claiming with no rational substantiation that he didn’t lose.
What did he hope to achieve by inviting his followers to Washington on January 6? Did he think that the pro-forma vote by House members that day could be manipulated to reverse the election results? Did he anticipate that the thousands who showed up would invade the Capitol to demand satisfaction?
Many of his devotees were very angry and they bought into the conspiracy stories that he was promoting, but what could they possibly do that would change the official result?
In a word, what scenario did Trump envisage that might lead to a reversal of the declared final counts? Was it just a fly-by-the-edge-of-his-pants act that he hoped would somehow create confusion and enhance his electoral prospects?
Calling his Proud Boys and similar supporters to his side in Washington was a last drive to erase the election without, it seems, contemplating the clearly dangerous consequences of this unfathomable presidential decision.
Interestingly, while many people feared what would happen at the Capitol gathering, Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, did not issue a statement stressing that it should be a peaceful assembly and that the law had to be obeyed at all times.
Instead, there was a whiff of cordite about the build-up, a sense that these Trump supporters were angry as hell not only against their number one hate person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but they also viewed Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence as traitors. They erected a noose on a scaffold for the vice president who, until Trump demanded that he disregard the Constitution, had been a completely reliable toady for his boss.
They were summoned to Washington for an explicit reason, to somehow alter the election result. When Trump spoke to them outside the White House in the morning of the big day, he assured them that he shared their hot anger about the allegedly stolen election.
Giuliani, his right-hand man, was more explicit, urging that they think in terms of “trial by combat.” Trump said he would go to the Capitol with them but, significantly, he reneged on that in an effort to avoid responsibility for their behavior. With or without him, the marchers were engaged in a completely incoherent project.
The great Enlightenment thinker, Voltaire, warned that “those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” a shrewd observation that surely applies to the thuggery in the Capitol building.
Trump badly needed an advisor that he respected or a friend whose counsel he valued. Unfortunately, he has neither.
Narcissism is a serious clinical debility characterized by extreme self-absorption. The person’s weak ego can only be mollified by constant adulation; his need for love can never be satisfied.
In all the books written about Donald Trump, not one names a close friend, someone who because of his affection and camaraderie he could confide in and who would always have his back.
The nearest he had to an advisor was General John Kelly who had served at the highest level of the U.S. Marine Corps. When he took over as chief-of-staff on July 31, 2017, many people felt that he had the strength of character and the prudent perspective to run the White House in a professional manner.
Hearing the public invitation for a protest issued by Trump, someone like Kelly would surely demand an explanation as to what benign purpose such a gathering would serve. What did he hope to achieve?
After a short time, the general realized that he was dealing up close with a mercurial president who mostly made decisions in a whimsical manner with little regard for logic or long-term political considerations. After the general left in January of 2019 he did not hide his disgust at the antics he witnessed during his time as chief of staff, and after the chaos of January 6 in the Capitol, he was one of the first prominent people to call for his former boss’ removal from office.
Most of the bunch of misfits and miscreants who invaded the Capitol conveyed an aura of hatred. They were angry that Biden and Kamala Harris were deemed to have won the election. They agreed with Trump that the results as confirmed by the Board of Electors had to be reversed somehow.
After a tilt at a final lawsuit to overturn the election failed, Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert, a former judge in Texas, admitted the only remaining option he could see was resorting to violent protests. No word of censure from the mediocre minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, denouncing his truculent underling.
The big question remains: What result did Trump have in mind when he summoned the crowd to Washington on January 6? What was his plan? What chain of events did he hope would happen to help him continue in office in defiance of the Electoral College?
Hubris, the biblical sin rated the worst of all because it involves a person placing himself above any behavior code of God or man, has led Trump into a dark place. He claims that calling his avid supporters to Washington does not make him responsible for the consequences of his wild invitation. That kind of flim-flam won’t sell this time!
He has been impeached, cut off from his lifeblood of social media, and viewed as a pariah by party contributors. And he faces a trial in the Senate with uncertain results.
You can read more of Gerry O'Shea's writing on his blog.