On the floor of the United States Senate, which modestly proclaims itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body” on its own website, we are now watching a great debate that will surely be unlike anything that stately chamber ever hosted.
Today’s debate features the Senate’s most powerful critic of ex-President Donald Trump vs. the Senate’s most influential advocate of all Trump-backing Republicans.
Their debate topic: Should Americans have an independent commission to finally disclose who was responsible for the horrific Jan. 6 insurrection in which pro-Trump insurgents brutally beat police, seized the U.S. Capitol and halted the Senate’s ceremonial certification of Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential defeat?
“January 6th was a disgrace,” says Debater Number One. “American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like. Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president. They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he’d lost an election. There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”
Debater Number Two rises to reject the creation of any new commission: “There have been … and there will continue to be no shortage of robust investigations by two separate branches of the federal government. It’s not at all clear what new facts or additional investigation yet another commission could lay on top of the existing efforts by law enforcement and Congress.” (Left unsaid: A new probe might reveal possible complicity between a few congressional Republicans and pro-Trump insurgency plotters.)
Debater Number One rises to rebut: “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. …The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.”
Debater Number Two shifts gears, arguing this isn’t about urgent patriotic concerns, just Washington’s same-old politics: “What is clear is that House Democrats have handled this proposal in partisan bad faith from the beginning.”
Suddenly, yet another debate in the world’s greatest deliberative body ends abruptly. Oh – and I haven’t yet told you the names of today’s debaters. They are both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Debater Number One’s words were quotes from McConnell’s Feb. 13 Senate speech where, after voting to acquit Trump on his second impeachment, the Kentucky Republican told us what he really thinks of Trump.
Debater Number Two’s words were from McConnell’s May 19 Senate speech, where he opposed creating a new commission – and vowed to use the Senate’s archaic filibuster rule to block it. And in an extraordinary plea that put personal political gain above patriotism, McConnell privately pleaded with GOP senators to vote for a filibuster as a “personal favor.” Why? Because he mainly wants to be majority leader again. And he doesn’t want to anger Trump’s voters.
Trump, of course, is always just about Trump. As a panicky political novice, he first revealed his fear of being a certified loser by repeatedly declaring the only way he could lose is if the election was “rigged.” And ever since he lost in 2020, that’s all we’ve heard from him.
It’s just gotten worse. A tweet from The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman said Trump has told his pals he expects he will be “reinstated” as president by August – which cannot happen in our constitutional democracy.
Meanwhile, one politician has just shown McConnell what a truly patriotic leader can do to heal a politically fractured nation that is consumed by the politics of hate. To find the answer, McConnell must look halfway around the globe – in, of all places, famously fractious Israel.
A centrist-minded Israeli party leader, Yair Lapid, just moved to end the government of Trump-like Benjamin Netanyahu, by forging a fragile coalition. And to make it happen, Lapid is allowing a very conservative adversary, Naftali Bennett, to serve first as prime minister (Lapid will replace him after two years).
Using language that must have sounded quite foreign to McConnell (see also: quintessentially Bidenesque), Lapid said this unity government “will have a simple goal: to take the country out of this crisis — the coronavirus crisis, the economic crisis, the political crisis and mostly the crisis within us, within the people of Israel. … (We) will also treat the opposition differently. We won’t attack or belittle. We’ll respect them and we will deal with the challenges faced by those who didn’t vote for us.”
What a concept.