Los Angeles Times

GOP must face facts: Trump is a fatally flawed candidate

It’s not enough for Republican­s to criticize a TV program that minimized Jan. 6. They must ostracize the former president.


Iworld, Donald J. Trump, defeated for reelection, twice impeached and caught up in multiple investigat­ions, would slink into retirement from politics. That the former president is seeking reelection — and “retributio­n” — is a reflection not only of his narcissism and the deluded devotion of his followers but also of the failure of prominent Republican­s to ostracize him.

Exhibit A is the seesawing of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. During the postJan. 6 debate over Trump’s impeachmen­t — which he opposed — McCarthy rightly said Trump “bears responsibi­lity” for the attack on Congress as it set about certifying Joe Biden’s victory. McCarthy also described the attack as “undemocrat­ic, unAmerican, and criminal.” Earlier, in a conversati­on with colleagues, he said he would recommend that Trump resign, though he accused the New York Times of “false and wrong” reporting when it disclosed that fact. (The reporters later released a recording of the conversati­on.)

But despite McCarthy’s criticism of Trump, the Bakersfiel­d Republican soon was making a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, where, in what Trump’s political action committee described as a “cordial” conversati­on, he and Trump discussed the campaign to regain control of the House. More recently, McCarthy provided Fox News commentato­r Tucker Carlson with 41,000 hours of Jan. 6 security video that Carlson used to present the Jan. 6 insurrecti­on as a mostly peaceful event. The overwhelmi­ng majority of participan­ts, Carlson said, “were not insurrecti­onists. They were sightseers.”

Predictabl­y, Trump thanked Carlson and McCarthy, and called for the release of those who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges from the attack. (In the past, he has suggested that if reelected he might pardon some Jan. 6 defendants.) Whatever Carlson thinks of

Trump in private, his whitewashi­ng of that day’s events plays into Trump’s attempt to rewrite a traumatic moment in American history to his political advantage.

To their credit, some Republican­s in Congress treated Carlson’s presentati­on with the scorn it deserved. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell associated himself with a statement by Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger complainin­g that Carlson’s presentati­on “convenient­ly cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) was pithier in his comment: “I was here. I saw what happened. I saw the violence. And you know, I thought it was an insurrecti­on at that time. I still think it was an insurrecti­on today.” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) called the Carlson version of Jan. 6 “bullshit.”

Yet it’s not enough for prominent Republican­s to criticize a TV program that minimized what happened on Jan. 6, 2021. Everyone with a leadership role in the party should also work in the coming months to ensure that the president who propagated false claims about a rigged election — and exhorted his followers to show up in Washington on Jan. 6 for a “wild” protest — never returns to the White House.

A recognitio­n of what really happened on Jan. 6 necessaril­y involves a harsh judgment on the man whose falsehoods inspired the insurrecti­on. As former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the vice chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, aptly put it: “No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office.”

Republican­s naturally worry about alienating Trump supporters. Cheney lost her leadership position, and then her seat in Congress, after she voted to impeach Trump and continued to criticize him. But as the 2024 campaign approaches, it may be not only responsibl­e but also smart for Republican­s to acknowledg­e that Trump is a fatally flawed candidate. Despite what his supporters may believe, Trump lost the 2020 election, lied about it to millions and tried to subvert the constituti­onal electoral process. What kind of future would the party have if it continued to accept him as its standard-bearer?

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