The Morning Jolt

White House

Trump’s Remarks Are Too Little and Too Late

President Donald Trump gestures at the end of his speech during a rally to contest the certification of the 2020 presidential election results in Washington, D.C., January 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Hell of a way to start the year. But I promise you, before this newsletter ends, I will give you genuine, meaningful, indisputable good news. But first, on the presidential front . . .

Trump: ‘A New Administration Will Be Inaugurated on January 20’

Thursday night, Donald Trump offered a three-minute video that conceded “a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20” and pledged “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

I’d like to begin by addressing the heinous attack on the United States Capitol. Like all Americans, I am outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.

I immediately deployed the National Guard and the federal law enforcement to secure the building and expel the intruders. America is and must always be a nation of law and order.

The demonstrators who infiltrated the capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country.

And to those who broke the law, you will pay. We have just been through an intense election, and the emotions are high. But now tempers must be cooled and calm restored.

We must get on with the business of America. My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results.

My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote. In so doing, I was fighting to defend American Democracy. I continue to strongly believe that we must reform our election laws to verify the identity and the eligibility of all voters and to ensure faith and confidence in all future elections. Now Congress has certified the results.

And a new administration will be inaugurated on January 20.

My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation. 2020 has been a challenging time for our people.

A menacing pandemic has upended the lives of our citizens, isolated millions in their homes, damaged our economy and claimed countless lives. Defeating this pandemic and rebuilding the greatest economy on earth will require all of us working together.

It will require a renewed emphasis on the civic values of patriotism, faith, charity, community and family. We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family.

To the citizens of our country, serving as your president has been the honor of my lifetime. And to all of my wonderful supporters, I know you are disappointed, but I also want you to know that our incredible journey is only just beginning.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

Notice Trump couldn’t even bring himself to mention Joe Biden, much less congratulate him.

If Trump had made these kind of remarks . . . say, back on December 11, when the Supreme Court declined to take the Texas case, the country would be in a better position today. We wouldn’t have seen Wednesday’s violence on Capitol Hill, which has now resulted in five deaths, including U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian D. Sicknick, who succumbed to his injuries Thursday. He was reportedly hit repeatedly with a fire extinguisher.

If Donald Trump had conceded a month ago, the president of Zimbabwe would not be telling the world, “the United States has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy.” Chinese state-run media would not be comparing the chaos on Capitol Hill to the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Russian politicians would not be scoffing, “The celebration of democracy is over. America no longer forges that path, and consequently has lost its right to define it. Much less force it on others.”

No, the damage is already done, and a three-minute video of the president reading the appropriate words from a teleprompter, mitigates very little of that damage.

We have seen brief moments of normalcy from Trump before, and we know they never last. Each of the past four years, he’s given either a joint address to Congress or the State of the Union address. Each night he’s stuck to the script, talked about policy proposals and accomplishments and paid tribute to great Americans, and the night goes well. Some people wonder if Trump is “growing into the job” or sees the responsibilities of the office with a new sense of seriousness and purpose . . . and then in a day or two, he reverts back to furiously tweeting, denouncing members of his own cabinet, calls a porn star “horseface,” and his usual circus of chaos.

Last night, the fringiest corners of the world of diehard Trump supporters insisted the video of the president making the statement had to be a computer-generated “deepfake.” That’s paranoid and conspiratorial nonsense, but that doesn’t mean the video isn’t “fake” in a different sense. There’s little reason to think that Trump will remain committed to “a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power” for very long, and there’s every reason to think he’ll revert back to insisting the election was stolen and a great crime was committed against him.

‘No One Seems to be Certain how Mr. Trump Spends his Days’

Peggy Noonan has a scorching column that will run in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, but I want to focus on one section:

As for prudence, Mr. Trump is a sick, bad man and therefore, as president, a dangerous one. He has grown casually bloody-minded, nattering on about force and denouncing even his own vice president as a coward for not supporting unconstitutional measures. No one seems to be certain how Mr. Trump spends his days. He doesn’t bother to do his job. The White House is in meltdown. The only thing that captures his interest is the fact that he lost, which fills him with thoughts of vengeance.

What is Trump doing all day? His official schedule notices, which appear to be dictated by him, say only, “‘President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening. He will make many calls and have many meetings.” The White House refuses to specify the who, what, when, where, and why of any of these meetings.

For much of the past four years, despite grumbles about long stretches of “executive time,” Trump was at least in front of the cameras on a nearly daily basis — cabinet meetings, photo ops, rallies, televised grip-and-grin handshake meetings with foreign leaders in the Oval Office, award ceremonies at the White House, etc. Since Election Day, the president’s public schedule has been minimal.

It’s not as if the country doesn’t have real problems to address right now. For the first time, more than 4,000 Americans succumbed to the coronavirus in a single day. The vaccine rollout is infuriatingly slow and complicated. Russian hackers have gotten into the computer systems of the Department of Justice and the U.S. court system.

Trump keeps insisting he must remain as president, but he shows zero interest in doing the job of a president.

Trump’s Easily Overlooked Attack on the Supreme Court

It is easily overlooked in all the other events of Wednesday, but at the “Save America” rally, Trump accused the entire Supreme Court — including, presumably, his own appointees — of ruling against him out of personal animus and a desire to be popular:

The Supreme Court, they rule against me so much. You know why? Because the story is — I haven’t spoken to any of them, any of them, since virtually they got in. But the story is that they’re my puppet. That they’re puppets. And now that the only way they can get out of that, because they hate that, it’s not good on the social circuit. And the only way they get out is to rule against Trump. So ‘let’s rule against Trump,’ and they do that.

Lots of presidents have disagreed with Supreme Court decisions, sometimes vehemently. No other president has ever come close to accusing his own appointees of ruling a certain way to fit in at Georgetown cocktail parties.

Finally, the Good News, Because Lord Knows We Could Use Some

Hey, remember what I wrote about the South African variant Tuesday? The early word is we don’t have to worry about that variation of the virus being resistant to at least one of the new vaccines:

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in Britain and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the U.S. drugmaker.

The study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.

The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists. . . .

AstraZeneca, Moderna and CureVac are also testing whether their shots work against the fast-spreading variants. They have said they expect them to be effective, but the timing of those studies are not known.

Whew! If we get enough people vaccinated, then the spread of the virus slows down, which means it gets fewer opportunities to grow and multiply and mutate. The pool of human beings to spread to gets smaller and smaller, and at some point, it runs out of people without antibodies. And then SARS-CoV-2 dies, and we don’t have to worry about it anymore. That’s probably a long way off, but we can get there. Someday SARS-CoV-2 will seem as far away as the original SARS, MERS, Zika, and H1N1.

ADDENDUM: The other day, just before all the chaos broke out, I wrote about the phenomenon of prayer candles featuring political figures.

I really liked this comment from Eric:

A good deal of the trouble afflicting our political situation is attributable to the idolatry of the state. For decades now we have taught ourselves to pray towards Washington and acted as if the election of a president was the election of a god or demi-god. See Michael Burleigh’s books Earthly Powers and Sacred Causes. These two books show how the thought patterns taken up by the left have taken them there. What has been distressing is the way the supposedly conservative section of the country has joined in this idolatry – and it predates Trump, however much it may have reached what I hope is its apogee with him.

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