GELFAND’S WORLD - On Wednesday night, the Writers Bloc program hosted Senator Amy Klobuchar, who was introduced and interviewed by Jay Leno. Ostensibly, the event was about Klobuchar's new book, titled The Joy of Politics, but as you might imagine, the discussion centered on current events and the insurrection attempt of January 6, 2021. Klobuchar was a central presence in the lockdown of the Senators and Congressional representatives that night. As she described, she was in charge of the room which held 90 senators while the Capitol was swept by the police to make sure that there were no more rioters in the building.
The interesting comment by Jay Leno, slightly paraphrased here, was how anybody can still, at this time, not recognize that the January 6 event was treason.
That's a pretty strong word, but in retrospect, it seems to fit. Giving aid and comfort to the enemies of this country -- the only catch being that the enemies were not a foreign army, but the very same people who were attacking the Capitol. And they made clear that it was their intent that Joe Biden not be allowed to become president. Their only defense is that they can't understand how he could have actually been elected, in spite of how much evidence there is that he was.
It was interesting to me that a national presence such as Leno would come right out and say Treason in regard to the rioters. Perhaps this signifies that other cultural leaders will start to do the same.
And that leads to another update in our nation's ongoing battle against those treasonous folks: On Thursday morning, the founder of the Oath Keepers was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for his part in the Jan 6 attacks. Note that Stewart Rhodes was actually convicted of seditious conspiracy, not treason per se, but it is still a pretty serious crime and a substantial sentence.
You can read the news story here. Perhaps the one interesting thing left in this story is that Rhodes did not confess and ask for mercy, as many of the rioters have done. No, he refers to himself as a political prisoner. This suggests that he has been reading and hearing some seriously deranged ultra-right-wing stuff. It would be interesting if some adventurous reporter could do a series of interviews with this guy (there will be plenty of time) and find out who he listens to on the radio, what he was reading, and whether he took political positions from the Fox News commenters.
This is not a silly or trivial question. It's important to know the deeper reality behind an attack on the United States of America, which is what Jan 6 actually was. The attackers came from their own, alternate version of the USA. The rest of us have a right to know how this happened.
Musings on Ron DeSantis
I'll start with a little about Amy Klobuchar's biography. She went to Yale, then attended the University of Chicago Law School. This is the sort of pedigree that we used to expect from people who were running for office. One of the top colleges and one of the most prestigious law schools. Then she did service as a prosecutor, etc. etc.
Now let's compare her background to Ron DeSantis, who has been acting like a thug, who has damaged his state's economy with a childish feud against Disney, and who is doing his best to make sure that the facts of American history (or the facts of life) are not taught to Florida students. We might wonder what reform school he came out of.
So here's the DeSantis educational record. He also went to Yale, and then went to Harvard Law School. So, curiously enough, he has an even more prestigious academic record than Senator Amy. He joined the US Navy and basically practiced law for them (Judge Advocate General is what they call it), worked at Guantanamo, and served in Iraq. He has a bronze star and other decorations. He served in congress before becoming Florida’s governor.
So superficially, Ron DeSantis is a spectacularly well qualified, well-educated person -- at a level of scholarship where he would be referred to as gifted -- yet his recent behavior is kind of a joke.
DeSantis just declared officially as a presidential candidate. His recent behavior, signifying his attempt to run to the right of Donald Trump, shows that he understands the Republican electorate. The fact that he panders to the worst and lowest element of that electorate shows that he has no intellectual integrity, in fact no significant principles.
Musings on the Civil War II fantasy
A number of the Jan 6 rioters have expressed their expectation (at the time) that they were ready for a new civil war if they could not protect the country from a Biden presidency. We might pause for a moment and consider how that expectation has panned out. Not very well, obviously, but why not?
I think that we have an alternative model from the 1960s, when the Viet Nam antiwar movement was at a peak. There weren't as many committed antiwar activists as there were Trump voters in 2020, but there were a lot, and they had organizations all over the country. There was even a national organization called Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that had its own manifesto. If you had listened to what the leaders and committed followers had to say at the time, it was apparent that they had attached their antiwar fervor to an equally fervent left wing fanaticism. There were those who celebrated Mao's version of Chinese Communism, there were those who were merely anti-capitalist, and there were those who were in a sort of nihilistic limbo. Their peak was probably in Chicago, where the Democratic National Convention became the backdrop for mass demonstrations and the odd bit of rioting. I don't need to tell you about it, because you can read the books and watch the movie.
The bottom line was that -- in spite of tens of thousands of American dead in Viet Nam and more hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dead, there was no new American revolution or Civil War II. And that's not due to any failure by the leadership to fantasize.
It turned out that the American people were pretty much middle of the road in terms of their concern over the escalating war costs vs. their disdain for the radical left.
In fact, there came a moment when otherwise unpolitical people joined the antiwar protests -- housewives and lawyers and dentists and college students all marched down the nation's streets in quiet protest, and that was pretty much the end. Nixon ended drafting people and eventually we pulled out. (Republicans who like to point out what happened when we left Afghanistan might consider how Viet Nam was evacuated under a Republican president).
The point is that the American people don't seem to buy into wildly violent fantasies about overthrowing the government. The few who do find themselves in jail, or simply ignored.
The Trump paradox
I wonder if Donald Trump and his imitators are making a political mistake by promising a mass pardon of the Jan 6 insurrectionists. We might start asking our conservative colleagues (and perhaps one or two of my fellow columnists) whether violent overthrow of the elected leadership is your chosen policy. Because that's what we're talking about.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)