Donald Trump was a ticking time bomb from the start. On Jan. 6, 2021, just two weeks before the end of his rapidly deteriorating presidency, it finally detonated when he incited thousands of his frenzied followers at a Washington rally to march on the Capitol building where Congress was in session for the routine tradition of counting the state-certified electoral votes proclaiming President-elect Joe Biden the winner. The resulting riot, as mobs invaded the Capitol building, made for one of the darkest days in America’s history, endangering the people’s elected representatives, forcing the evacuation of the Vice-president, causing the death of five persons, shaking the nation to its very core, inflicting serious damage on the Republican Party and destroying his own legacy.

As members of Congress were herded to shelter while rioters broke into their chamber and offices, Utah’s Sen. Mitt Romney was heard to call out, ”This is what you’ve gotten, guys!” He was so right and I was reminded of why I voted for him in 2012 when he ran for president and wrote in his name in 2016 when I couldn’t bring myself to vote for either Trump or Hilary Clinton and why I wrote in this space and elsewhere during the GOP nomination campaign in 2016 that it was “Time to Dump Trump” because of his belligerent and insulting behavior toward anyone who disagreed with him, his lack of experience in government and his inability to construct a sentence or complete a thought. I also referred to him as a buffoon with the communications skills of a high school sophomore which, in retrospect, turned out to be an unintended insult to high school sophomores.

There are a dozen or more traits that characterize a transformational leader but four strike me as essential for success. They must be competent decision makers, able to weigh the merits of various alternatives. They must have mature ethical judgment, able to distinguish right from wrong and truth from fiction. They must have excellent communications skills and, finally, they must, by their behavior and manner, inspire and model confidence and trust. Mr. Trump is deficient in all four but especially the latter three. While I defended the legitimacy of his election, opposed efforts to delegitimize his election and applauded many of his accomplishments and promises kept, I always felt that it was a mistake to have nominated him.

Mr. Trump is entirely responsible for his own undoing and for the harm he has inflicted on his party, the nation and his legacy which overshadows all that he has accomplished. His attempts to intimidate elected officials in Georgia to overturn election results and “find” 11,780 votes amounted to criminal behavior. So did his attempt to bully Vice-president Mike Pence, also an elected official with responsibilities under the Constitution, into invalidating Mr. Biden’s electoral college victory. Finally, his inciting a crowd of supporters into becoming a mob that invaded the Capitol building amounted to sedition. Many of those supporters had been led to believe that the Vice-president, presiding over Congress, could actually overturn state-certified election results. What astonishing ignorance. What a sad commentary on the state of education in the nation.

This conduct by the president and by those who invaded the Capitol building cannot go unpunished nor should a president who abused his power be permitted to retire gracefully from office. There isn’t time to impeach him but his entire cabinet should resign if he refuses to do so, letting Mr. Pence, who did not give in to the president’s pressure, finish out the few remaining days of Trump’s disgraced presidency. Since Trump refuses to concede, he remains an unpredictable and dangerous commander-in-chief.

As Trump continued his outlandish campaign to overturn the election results, Georgia held its runoff election for its two senate seats that would determine control of the Senate. I urged, again in this space, that Mr. Trump could best serve his party by refraining from doing or saying anything that could harm the chances of the two GOP candidates and that perhaps he should just stay out of Georgia and leave the campaigning to prominent southern GOP officeholders who were more knowledgeable regarding Georgia politics. Instead he insulted and threatened Georgia’s governor and secretary of state, falsely claiming that he actually won in Georgia and that the election was stolen from him.

Both GOP candidates subsequently lost and, with their defeat, Republican control of the Senate was also lost. It was Trump’s final gift to the party that made the grave mistake of nominating a TV personality and real estate mogul with poor judgment, an inflated ego, primitive communication skills, no self-control, no experience in government and, apparently, no conscience.

(1) comment

jim orourke

I will admit that I began reading Captain Kelly's Day of Infamy column with trepidation, fearing a Trumpian apologia in the clever and cynical Wall Street Journal/ conservative media tradition of minimally chastising our disaster of a president while setting up various straw men and then knocking them down with copious examples of liberal failings, hypocrisy and "equivalent" abuses.

I truly commend Captain Kelly for his rational and objective condemnation and dissection of an evil, soulless and traitorous failed man, Donald J. Trump. I believe that if Trump had won re-election (he barely lost), this country would be moving quickly toward a next level cult-of personality, authoritarian and increasingly lawless state. With Trump an updated version of," I am become death, Destroyer of Worlds." Trump's behavior since losing reelection unmasks him completely. He is a menace to everyone he deals friend or foe.

Trump received 74MM votes to Bidens 81MM. However, 5MM of Biden's total margin came from California alone. The electoral vote margin was much greater, of course. For me the big takeaway is that after witnessing four years of Trump's aberrant behavior, constant dissembling and dangerous buffoonery so many adult Americans voted for him. Not all of them are hillbillies, racists, violence prone extremists, nativists, shut-ins or emotionally challenged. More than a few are, sadly. But most are our friends and neighbors. There is something in American society at work that is putting our fragile experiment in representative democracy at risk of fragmenting permanently. Trump tapped into it but it was there already waiting for permission and encouragement to ignite. We are better than that but it will take dialogue and respect of the other to rebuild America.

Jim O'Rourke


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