Blame or Owning Up?
Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 9, 2020
As the Capitol riot continues to roil our government, I’ve been struck by a question posed by Washington Post columnist Cathleen Rampell: “What ever happened to the ‘personal responsibility’ we’ve so often heard Republicans prattle on about?”
Even as we debate the efficacies of invoking the 25th Amendment or an impeachment that can come early next week to remove Donald Trump in his waning days and weigh criminal charges and political fallout for the various actors from actual rioters to Capitol police to members of Congress and Trump himself, the responsibility issue persists.
If all of the players in this disgraceful chapter believe in what they did as right, why aren’t they standing up firm and taking personal responsibility — and the appropriate punishment for their uncivil disobedience. Why are our leaders seemingly forcing an impeachment process that inevitably will continue to emit legal and political divisions? Why is it tht the Capital police chief resigns while politicians blame others?
Even in finally acknowledging loss, Donald Trump can’t say he invited and incited his most loyal rioters, some armed, most without Covid-required masks, into the Capitol without a thought for what they would do. Instead, he is offering soppy remarks written by others in an obvious attempt to avoid actual arrest on a criminal charge emerging from the riot, he now blamed the same rioters to whom he had offered his “love” just a day earlier. And now he was reported by be talking with aides about pardoning himself and his family — a likely violation of law in itself — but not reflecting anything we understand by the word responsibility.
For that matter, personal responsibility would mean Trump should suck up his disappointed ego and, for the sake of the country, attend the inauguration — something he ruled out yesterday.
Trump apologists in Congress and in the media quickly blamed leftist Antifa members infiltrating a Trump-clad crowd, not their own supporters who did the damage. Capitol police leadership said they never anticipated what was obvious to all. Even those Republicans suddenly distancing themselves from Trump, including Vice President Mike Trump, seem to prefer to quit than sign an order for Trump’s removal.
Where’s the notion of taking responsibility? Where’s You-Break-It, You-Own-It? Where is this “accountability” that has been bandied about for years?
A Basic Principle
Of the politicians, from Trump and company to Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley — who used the attack on the Capitol to send out fund-raising letters — to 120 Republican House members, Rampell noted, “These arrogant demagogues thought they were merely playing to the mob, as they’ve been doing for the past four years. It apparently never occurred to them that the mob might someday come for them, too.
And now they have the gall to blame antifa, Democrats, (Joe) Biden? Take some responsibility for what you’ve done. . . . If Republicans will not voluntarily accept accountability, then the ballot box must force it upon them. Name, shame and eject all these traitors from office.”
It was interesting to hear Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., the senator whose official election challenge had been interrupted by the riot. When the body returned, Lankford recanted. It was just such a moment to take a personal stand to call out Trump and the rioters. — though not so for Trump and Hawley.
It’s a basic lesson we teach our children: Take responsibility. Think about what you’re doing and own up to it when you screw up. Apologize and make it right.
The more reporting we see about what was going on in the White House as the riots were under way, the worse it got. Trump was reported to be watching it all unfold on television, and enjoying the idea that people would fight on his behalf. A Punchbowl report said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was furious that Trump initially refused to call off his rioting supporters, and would not call in the National Guard.
Instead, official Washington, which ironically is now moving to Democratic control in both houses of Congress, seems fixated on staying silent unless shifting the blame for whatever’s gone wrong to the next guy. Republicans may be privately blaming Trump for having gone rogue, but outside of a few you’d hardly know it from their shirking away from having to take an action like invoking the 25th Amendment or voting for immediate impeachment.
There is absolutely nothing about inciting a riot, particularly one about fantasied election fraud, that should be seen here as partisan, just as there is nothing partisan about a serious security failure at the Capitol or letting rioters walk away and go back to home states to threaten more violence at the inauguration and at state houses.
How did remarks by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., exhorting “violence in the streets” after failure of his ill-conceived lawsuit to sway Pence to overturn election results represent responsibility? How did the Congressional calls to keep alive false hopes of overturning a settled election reflect responsibility? How did the federal failure to protect the Capitol reflect responsibility? How does commentary and news at Fox and in right-wing media that distorts by substituting hope for fact contribute to taking responsibility? And how have we all ducked responsibility by a social media that instantly shoots out anti-democratic fables?
Hyper-Focus on Washington
There is understandably increased focus on the fallout of the Capitol riots. But the lessons that come with this refusal to take responsibility continues to slap our faces nationally.
Where are the police officers, unions and departments that are involved in the never-ending list of killings of Black citizens on routine stops? This week’s failure in Kenosha, Wis., to find anything criminal in the shooting of Jacob Blake seven times in the back from 18 inches away just underscores the distortion of justice we see daily. Where is the responsibility issue for turning away from Civil Rights in the name of supporting Law and Order — an fatal irony that finally showed itself in these Capitol insurgencies.
Where is the personal responsibility among those refusing to wear Covid masks — including among Republican lawmakers taking refuge in the bowels of the Congress during this riot — and putting others at medical risk? Where is Trump to take responsibility for geometrically rising American coronavirus deaths while he takes credit for fast development of vaccines by private companies that are not getting to the public?
Where is the personal responsibility issue when Republican Senators vote for corporate bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthy, but balk at supporting Americans lining up for food handouts and facing eviction?
As we cringe watching the news spill out, let’s ask ourselves what of it we are taking responsibility.