Jan 11th 2021

Accepting Responsibility for January 6, 2021 

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of the Arab American Institute

 

On January 7, 2021, after two months of denial, false charges of fraud, and incitement, Donald Trump acknowledged that he would be leaving the White House on January 20th and promised a “seamless transition of power.” As welcome as this may be to some, it cannot be the end of the story. There must be accountability for the damage done to what we now see as our fragile democracy. 

One of my favorite philosophers, Jacob Bronowski, introduced me to an expanded understanding of the term “paternity.” For Bronowski, paternity meant more than just “who is the parent of a child?” When looking at the consequences of the injustice, poverty, or violence we encounter daily, he calls on us to ask​, “who has responsibility for this?” Or “who owns this?” For Bronowski, accepting paternity for the evil we do is essential to building a moral society.  

In the immediate aftermath of the nightmarish events that ravaged Washington on January 6, 2021, I thought of Bronowski’s lesson. The siege of the Capitol Building by rioters who shattered windows, invaded the House and Senate Chambers, and vandalized offices, didn’t just happen. It had paternity.

The President of the United States urged them to come to Washington. And once here, incited them with inflammatory rhetoric and literally told them to march on the Capitol. But paternity for this mayhem doesn’t stop with Donald Trump alone. 

We’ve witnessed elements of this tragedy unfolding for years now, with Trump’s coddling of extremist right-wing groups. He fueled their grievances with hatred of minority communities, immigrants, the judiciary, the media, Democrats, and anyone he perceived as standing in his way. He fueled their penchant for conspiracies with an alternate reality about how his many successes were being ​ignored. He insisted that he was always winning (his crowds were larger, the pandemic was being defeated, America was safer and greater than ever, and he had won the election by a landslide), but his enemies not only wouldn’t admit it, they were doing all they could to stop him. Action had to be taken.

He knew that individuals associated with white nationalist groups, armed militias, and the QAnon cult ​responded to his call to converge on Washington. He knew that they would commit mayhem. And yet, he persisted. Donald Trump, therefore, has paternity for what happened. But the responsibility for all that occurred cannot be visited on him alone.

He had enablers who supported his false claims. Some may have believed his distorted view of reality, but many others acted out of the callous political calculation that by courting the President’s faithful followers they could lay claim to be his political heirs.

Over one hundred Republican Senators and Congressmen endorsed Trump’s complaint that the election was fraudulent and vowed to turn the January 6th Congressional ratification of the results into a heated fight. Popular Fox News and radio talk show hosts added fuel to the flames by daily repeating every conspiracy and false charge of fraud that were already rejected by courts across the country.   

And then there were those closest to the President, from his Vice-President and his cabinet on down to his loyal White House staff. They too have paternity for what transpired on January 6th. For years now they should have seen sufficient evidence of the danger ahead. Just listening to his incitement against his foes at his campaign rallies should have provided warning signs.

Some of those in Trump’s retinue, ​including some of the GOP leaders in Congress, may have been “true believers,” but most had made a “Faustian deal.” They were conservatives at heart, and even though they never trusted or even respected the man, ​but ​​as long as they got the tax cuts, deregulation, and conservative judges they wanted, they were willing to hold their noses and remain silent.

What is so deeply disturbing is that after the damage wrought by their silence, these same silent enablers now feign horror. After the shocking scenes of insurrection in the Capitol, Republican Members of Congress have issued statements denouncing the violence. Members of the President’s staff and Cabinet are resigning, and even the President, in his January 7th remarks​, has sought to distance himself from those he now terms as “thugs” and calls for them to be arrested and prosecuted.

But this cannot be the end of the story for two reasons. In the first place, it’s not enough to punish the vandals. Those who lit the fire, fanned the flame, and poured fuel on it, must accept their paternity. Without accountability, there is impunity that threatens to very survival of our democracy.

Secondly, it is critical that we understand that lasting damage has been done. Members of Congress and others may believe that they are now absolved from responsibility by their recent “conversions.” But the reality is that there are millions of followers of various cults and militia, who remain not only unrepentant, but now more deeply aggrieved. They will not go quietly into the night. The white nationalist groups, the armed militias, and the far-right cults angered by what they will perceive as the humiliation of their leader will continue to pose a challenge to the country.

The answer can’t be to pretend that the crisis is now over or to believe that the way forward can be found by simply impeaching the President or using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. That will not do. January 6th had antecedents. And more than one man has responsibility for what happened.

To understand the roots of this crisis, President Biden and/or Congress must create a national commission – not unlike the Kerner Commission created to understand the root causes of civil unrest in the 1960s.  Only by a full examination of what led us to this tragic state of affairs will we be able assess paternity and make the course corrections needed to move forward.

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Mar 8th 2021
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Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "
Jan 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, if cornered, any populist might resort to Trump’s endgame methods: trying to coerce elites into committing fraud to prevent a transfer of power, or deploying right-wing extremists on the ground to intimidate lawmakers. These desperate acts signaled Trump’s weakness. But it is important to note that most Republicans still did not disown Trump even when confronted with his blatant lawlessness on January 6. ... Other right-wing populists may well take notice of this fact. The recent events in the United States have shown that elites who are prepared to collaborate with authoritarians will tolerate quite a lot in the end. This ignominious precedent is especially likely to hold true in other countries where crony capitalism has implicated the business community in illegal behavior."    
Jan 21st 2021
EXTRACT: "May, a decent and honest woman, was far outdistanced by her successor and his colleagues in the Trump sycophancy stakes. In January 2017, Johnson’s senior fellow Brexiteer and principal ministerial fixer, Michael Gove (a former journalist with The Times newspaper), conducted an interview with then President-elect Trump that plumbed new depths of oleaginous toadyism. Gove wallowed in Trump’s endorsement of Brexit. It subsequently came to light that Gove’s then-employer, Rupert Murdoch, was in the room while the interview took place. And why not? The owner of Fox News as well as The Times was entitled to keep an eye on his two protégés."
Jan 21st 2021
EXTRACTS: "Does anyone really think that the vast majority of Republican legislators who could not bring themselves to object to the attempted coup at the Capitol — or any of the other outrageous antics Trump has unleashed on America for the past four years — will suddenly experience sleepless nights and pangs of conscience now that he is gone? Au contraire. This band of spineless, morally bankrupt congresspeople and senators are far more likely to follow Trump and carry Trumpism into the 2024 presidential election." ..... "A recent survey of Europeans revealed that the majority believe that America’s political system is hopelessly broken, that President Biden will be unable to halt its decline on the world stage, and that China will become the world’s leading power within a decade. What if they are right? America’s Trump-inspired death spiral has practically ensured any real recovery will likely take decades — and multiple terms with a Democratic president and Congress at the helm — to achieve."
Jan 19th 2021
EXTRACT: "What our polling tells us is that what the peoples of Middle East want is regional unity and investment in the future that can bring peace and prosperity. They’ve had enough of war and want ​stable employment, education, health care, and better future for their children. It’s time we start listening to them."
Jan 13th 2021
EXTRACT: "Trump intentionally and directly incited the insurrection of January 6. But he does not bear sole responsibility. Every one of his enablers, and the enablers of his enablers, is guilty. Fox Corp’s hidden backers, especially those who are so fond of touting their piety, must now ask themselves, as the Gospel of Mark instructs: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? "
Jan 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "What’s astonishing is that the bottom 50% reduced their borrowing over roughly the same period, but their debt servicing costs increased. Over this time, smaller corporations saw their profit margins dip consistently into negative territory. The decades-long fall in interest rates appears to be the only thing that has kept smaller corporations afloat. Smaller corporations thus appear to be caught in a vicious circle. The fact that their debt-servicing burdens have increased sharply despite deleveraging and falling interest rates points toward rapidly deteriorating financial fortunes. This is reaffirmed by the severe losses registered in their negative profit margins."