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Destroying conservatism will be Marjorie Taylor Greene's only achievement

With their cowardly refusal to discipline Marjorie Taylor Greene, the retreat from integrity of the House Republicans is now complete. Only under the threat of sanctions against Greene by House Democrats did Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) even pretend to address the Georgia representative's many offenses against decency, comity, and sanity. And when the Republican caucus met behind closed doors, McCarthy's weak leadership allowed Greene to take over the meeting, which reportedly concluded in applause for her.

What were the Republicans applauding? The gun-toting Greene has not apologized for any of her endorsements of violence, including those spittle-flecked threats to assassinate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She hasn't withdrawn any of her racist slurs against Blacks and Muslims, or her gutter excursions into anti-Semitic fantasy. Only under duress has Greene admitted the reality of the 9/11 attack and the school shootings upon which she had cast paranoid doubt, after inflicting renewed grief on the families of the dead. She didn't apologize to them, either.

Behind closed doors, Greene reportedly told her Republican colleagues that she is sorry for embarrassing them. Her alibi was that she was drawn to QAnon only because she was suffering a "dark period" in her life. Yet that too was a lie. She praised the conspiracy cult on Twitter as recently as December 4.

So this wretched character deserves to be booted off the prestigious budget and education committee assignments that McCarthy had unaccountably awarded her. But with little intellectual aptitude and no interest in policy, she will hardly suffer from that sanction. Instead she now gloats that all the attention to her baneful idiocies is elevating her profile, a boast that is surely accurate. She will bask in attention – and rake in money – from the aggrieved bigots for whom she stands.

There can be no doubt that Greene and others like her pose a continuing threat to democracy, as they proved with bloody ferocity on January 6. In their psychotic fantasies -- as she hinted in her own social media posts -- they would exterminate every Democrat and liberal in America, because "freedom" is only for them and nobody else.

But what these violent extremists are much more likely to destroy is conservatism.

In one of her many defiant public rebukes to her critics, Greene wrote that Pelosi persecutes her because she is "a Christian" and "a conservative." Obviously her brutal style does no credit to Christianity, but it is conservatives who should worry more about her claim to being one of them.

At their best, conservatives are supposed to defend American institutions and values. They are supposed to believe in civility, protocol, manners, and traditional standards. The conservative instinct is to reject excess and uphold personal responsibility. They valued reason and logic over maddening emotion. Or at least those were the things they believed about themselves.

In recent decades, however, that venerable sort of conservatism has increasingly given way to a coarser and uglier version, which is now epitomized by Trump and his followers such as Greene. If she is a conservative, with her crazy theories about a Jewish space laser and her stupid prejudices, then conservatism is intellectually bankrupt and merely a political scrim for fascism.

This was the same danger perceived by William F. Buckley, the framer of modern conservatism, when he sought to isolate the authoritarian and conspiratorial John Birch Society from his movement. With its wild accusations against Dwight Eisenhower and its hatred of democracy, he knew that the society would poison conservatism in its cradle.

Some Republicans, notably including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of Senators and Representatives, seem to recognize this peril. The question is whether they have the courage and energy for a sustained fight against it.

Uncovering the #MAGA plot against America

Investigations of the terrible crimes committed against the United States at the Capitol last week had scarcely begun when the usual suspects launched a right-wing cover-up. Rather than blame the motley swarm of #MAGA fanatics, white nationalists and habitual criminals whom we all witnessed storming into the citadel of democracy to stop certification of the 2020 election, they pointed the finger to the antifa and Black Lives Matter movements.

This article first appeared in the National Memo.

But such a preposterous political alibi, premised on nonexistent evidence, won't stand up to the kind of scrutiny that must now be brought to bear on these momentous events. Long after President Donald Trump's impeachment is over and done, and regardless of whether he is convicted or not, the myriad investigations and trials of the perpetrators of the Capitol insurrection will go on for years. Justice will be done; the truth will be revealed; and the breadth of the assault on our constitutional democracy will stun even the jaded and cynical.

Combining vanity and stupidity, the shock troops who carried out the assault recorded themselves in the process of the attack. Perhaps they believed that they would be pardoned by Donald Trump. Knock, knock. Now the FBI is sweeping them up across the country to face federal prosecution.

More than a few of these individuals have prior convictions for serious crimes. These predicate felons, who exemplify the extremist wing of Trump's movement, are likely to crack under prosecutorial pressure and disclose what they know. And no matter what they expected, Trump probably won't dare to pardon them. He is reported to be upset at the low class of his diehards apparently willing to kidnap and assassinate in his name.

While much of what occurred on Jan. 6 and the days and weeks leading up to the attack still remains somewhat murky, it is already clear that the insurrection was not a spontaneous uprising. The mob that assaulted the Capitol included highly trained fighters who came prepared with tactical gear of all kinds, often superior to the equipment of the police officers trying to hold them back, as well as a communications system. What they needed from the thousands of dupes whipped up by Trump and Rudy Giuliani was an overwhelming physical force to enable an unstoppable rush into the building.

We don't know the extent of coordination, if any, between the White House, various ultra-right members of Congress and fascist gangs like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers that came to Washington bent on bloodshed. The initial clues, however, raise deeply troubling questions. Why were members of Congress escorting groups of Trump supporters around the Capitol on Jan. 5, the day before the attack, when the building was supposed to be closed? Why did the attacking vanguard leave the Trump rally at the White House early and proceed to the Capitol? And why did the Pentagon fail to send National Guard reinforcements in time, despite desperate pleas from the Capitol Police?

The support structure for the demonstration that turned into an insurrection ranged across the Trumpist movement, encompassing figures like Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, and Charlie Kirk, who runs the far-right college outfit Turning Point USA and boasts close ties with Donald Trump Jr. Both of them have tried to erase evidence of their organizing efforts.

Equally intriguing is the role of Ali Alexander, who takes credit for staging the "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, whose militant rhetoric set the event's tone and who now seems to have gone into hiding. He has a long history of connections with Trump confidant Roger Stone and Stone's proteges in the Proud Boys. He has also received funding in the recent past from the billionaire Mercer family, which lurks behind many of the nation's most toxic far-right elements. And Alexander says that he worked on the insurrection with at least three Republican members of Congress — Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., and Mo Brooks, R-Ala.

Here it is worth recalling that Stone oversaw the "Brooks Brothers riot" in Miami that stopped the vote counting in Miami-Dade County and swayed the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. Since last November, he has repeatedly called for Trump to impose martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The events of Jan. 6 represented the worst threat to democracy and the rule of law that we have seen in our lifetimes. The violent authoritarian impulse within the Republican right has metastasized under Trump into a potent and very dangerous force. Uncovering the roots of that threat and isolating its sponsors will be a lengthy and complicated process that will involve the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, state and local law enforcement, the attorney general of the District of Columbia, many committees of the House and Senate, and almost certainly a national investigative commission on the order of the 9/11 commission. And there will be trials.

Nothing less will suffice to defend our democratic republic from its enemies, foreign and domestic.

Why America must hold Mike Flynn accountable

When Donald Trump finally vacates the White House on Jan. 20, his departure won't exorcise the political demons that have infested the nation over the past four years. The cult of personality that surrounds Trump has combined with his own profound disdain for constitutional norms, fulfilling the worst fears about his rise to power. He will surrender the presidency only after seeking to overturn a legitimate election, while encouraging demands among his followers for "martial law" and a turn toward dictatorship.

This article first appeared at the National Memo.

Trump is plainly a fascist, surrounded by bootlicking flunkies of like disposition, and he will continue to encourage a fascistic faction in and around the Republican Party.

How can a new administration protect America from this enemy within, as President-elect Joe Biden will swear to do on Inauguration Day? Biden can begin by appointing a new attorney general and homeland security secretary empowered to crack down on violent extremists, as Trump refused to do. He can isolate the conspirators against democracy by all legal and political means at his disposal.

But that responsibility doesn't fall to the president alone.

During these final weeks of the Trump regime, we have watched in astonishment as Michael Flynn, a retired Army general who has already disgraced his uniform, embarked on a campaign to encourage a coup d'etat.

On Dec. 2, Flynn tweeted an advertisement that appeared in The Washington Times, urging Trump to take "executive action" to avert a "shooting civil war" in the election's aftermath. Two weeks later, he expanded on that theme in a television appearance, declaring that Trump should impose martial law under the Insurrection Act, order the military to seize control of the electoral apparatus in states he lost and then "rerun" the election, presumably to achieve an unearned victory.

In that bizarre outburst, Flynn echoed an earlier call by Trump confidant Roger Stone. Days later, the retired general went to the Oval Office — with kooky conspiracist-lawyer Sidney Powell so he could sell that sickening proposal to the president in person. While reportedly intrigued, Trump hasn't attempted this treasonous scheme, presumably because the military has warned him against any such madness.

What Flynn did may have stopped just short of "sedition" under both the U.S. Code and the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). According to Article 94 of the UCMJ, that includes "Any person ... with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of lawful civil authority, creates, in concert with any other person, revolt, violence, or other disturbance against that authority is guilty of sedition." Although his words have yet to result in violent acts, they set the stage for a conflagration when the Proud Boys and other fascist elements congregate in Washington on Jan. 6 as Congress ratifies Biden's Electoral College victory.

But even if he only skirted sedition, Flynn's political misconduct falls under the military prohibition against behavior "dishonoring or disgracing the officer personally" and bringing dishonor to the military itself. By violating his sworn oath to uphold the Constitution — which nowhere authorizes the use of the armed forces to overturn an election or institute martial law — Flynn invited court-martial.

And, as Flynn must well know, a retired general can be called back to active duty by the secretary of defense for the sole purpose of instituting such proceedings. Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served as a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, has publicly called for Flynn's prosecution under those provisions.

The danger that Flynn represents is real. Holding him accountable for his despicable acts would show that in the wake of Trump, our military leaders intend to uphold their oaths and defend our democracy.

Trump will inevitably disappoint the maniacs who are spewing seditious babble after his election loss

Nearly a year before he accepted the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump's authoritarian impulses already were too obvious to be ignored. By then he was encouraging physical attacks on undocumented immigrants, demanding the deportation of millions more, and constantly appealing to hatred and bigotry. He bragged of being the "most militaristic" candidate and denigrated the free press. So extreme was his rhetoric during those months that prominent conservatives -- including several who now spinelessly truckle to him – warned of what his rise to power might portend.

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