By Ian Pattison
The question on most minds following Wednesday’s Capitol chaos in Washington is, “Where were the police?” The answer seems to be absence by design. But whose design was it? Was it the president’s? It certainly served him best.
In fact, Donald Trump didn’t have to order police to allow his supporters to advance largely unimpeded on the U.S. Capitol to disrupt the vote to confirm Joe Biden as president. His mere caustic presence in the White House, his open sympathy for extremism, has given the worst elements of American society a form of license to carry on in plain sight.
Which is not to say that Trump should escape his responsibility. He should be arrested on a charge of sedition, defined as “conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state …”
That is exactly what the outgoing president was guilty of Wednesday after spewing more illogical claims about a stolen election and stoking a huge mob’s worst instincts with incendiary rhetoric: “We will never give up. We will never concede . . . Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about . . . if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Then he urged his willing followers to “march” to the U.S. Capitol to protest the vote on Biden. He said he’d join them but apparently chickened out. His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, hollered, “Let’s have trial by combat.” So they did. And five people died.
The violent action had been openly planned for weeks on social media websites and online forums. There were T-shirts: “MAGA Civil War January 2, 2021.” In a Tuesday tweet, Ashli Babbitt who was shot and killed when she tried to force her way through a barricaded door, wrote, “Nothing will stop us . . . they can try and try and try but the storm is here and it is descending upon DC in less than 24 hours . . . dark to light!”
The signs were everywhere. U.S. intelligence will have seen them. There was no doubt this was going to be trouble. And yet, it was allowed to happen.
It’s been called “the bonfire of the insanitites.” With good reason.
Capitol Police are used to large protests. Witness the massive enforcement presence at the Black Lives Matter demonstration in June. That this huge mob was allowed to walk right into the seat of government suggests orders to stand down were in place. Police even sympathized with the crowd. Officers took selfies and made few arrests.
Command and control structures need orders to act. In the absence of orders, the U.S. Capitol was taken with breathtaking ease.The police chief has since resigned and investigations are already under way.
Congress ultimately confirmed Biden’s presidency Wednesday night so the whole thing was a bloody waste of time. Except that if finally prompted Trump’s top allies, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham and Mike Pence, to disown him. Cabinet secretaries are quitting in disgust (though they’ve already had plenty of reasons to jump the listing ship). Social media platforms have banned the president-reject.
Trump is on his own, a mad man in the roiling White House asking aides if he can pardon himself, while Congress decides whether to impeach him a second time, wait for his cabinet to remove him using the 25th Amendment, or let him spend his last 11 days in office contemplating his fate as a loser.
Entitlement: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.
By now most people are aware of Canadian politicians who preached the gospel of COVID isolation, then slipped away to southern climes at Christmas. It’s as galling as it is stupid. Their ethical failures erode trust in politicians at a time when we need it most.
These callous tourists of indifference, as someone nailed them, have shown they don’t care about their constituents cooped up at home, doing their best to stem the tide of disease that is overwhelming a health care system that the sightseers have helped to starve of resources.
It all began with former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips whose Christmas-by-the-fire video at home in Ajax conveniently appeared while his toes were warmed by St. Barts beach sand.
Premier Doug Ford played the angry parent, demanding that his minister get back home right now! But then we learned that Ford knew all along that Phillips was away. More trust eroded. More BS.
Most people probably thought it would end there but no, there were many more transgressions to be revealed. One by one, the holiday galavanters were outed by journalists who’d been used to writing the grim details of a pandemic that just won’t quit.
Phillips was invited to resign while in Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney offered the awkward excuse that his senior employees dallying in the southern sunshine could be at least partially forgiven because he hadn’t explicitly told them to stay home.
A giant guffaw arose throughout the land. The public health advice had been clear from the outset of this national emergency: avoid all non-essential international travel. Those who snuck out of the country knew it and needed to be put out of our misery.
As the numbers of vacationing ministers and staffers grew, Kenney had no choice but to try and save face. He announced the resignations of a minister and his chief of staff. Five other wayward United Conservative Party MLAs lost appointed positions.
Alberta MLA Tony Yao claimed he only learned of Kenney’s order home Tuesday when he turned his phone back on while in Mexico. He said he’d unplugged from the world because of a stressful year. Wasn’t it, though.
“Every shamed MLA still gets the $120,000 annual salary with benefits, travel allowance, etc., without much requirement to work anymore,” wrote Don Braid in the Calgary Herald. “Alberta’s unemployed, isolated, sick and grieving will be a long time forgetting.”
Let’s not forget about the Toronto family of four, all of whom worked in IT for the province, who stand accused of stealing at least $11 million destined as COVID-19 relief money.
The fired father, Sanjay Madan, “carried tens of thousands of dollars in cash to India” shortly after being confronted about the missing money, court documents say. Talk about entitlement!
Here at home, Dr. David Neilipovitz tweeted Monday to thank many who helped at a COVID vaccination clinic. “Great that there were minimal no-shows,” he wrote.
People who registered for a shot and didn’t show up meant that other people entitled to a shot didn’t get one. Unbelievable.
Thursday, the province extended the northern lockdown for another two weeks and Friday an alarming new provincial case record was set. Fed up with isolation, enough people were willing to break quarantine at Christmas to now force everyone else to endure more time alone.
Nearly half of Canadians ignored government urgings and visited with family or friends outside their home over the holidays, according to a Leger poll released Tuesday.
Writing in The Globe and Mail, Robyh Urback calls this second wave “a privilege pandemic, fuelled by Canadians who see COVID-19 as someone else’s problem.”
The longer restrictions are in place, the more likely entitled people are to ignore them. And the more people ignore them, the longer the restrictions will be in place. It’s a no-win unless we all get with the program.
Ian Pattison is retired as editorial page editor of The Chronicle-Journal, but still shares his thoughts on current affairs.