Some Cases Should be Settled

Likely, the most interesting conversation happening today surrounds the end of the Trump administration. It does not seem like a bold prediction that those who felt betrayed would abandon him as his power waned. That is how people behave. Especially in politics.

I am not sure who the long-term thinkers are with respect to the end of the presidency of Donald Trump, or even if there are any, though I hope there are. In fact, I hope there are both Democrats and Republicans and I hope they are talking with each other. It could require a vision not generally found among politicians, and business leaders might need to intervene.


The desire for revenge against a man who has treated his enemies so badly while in a position of power is quite understandable.

Various social media platforms have expelled him, which, as private companies, they have a right to do. (Many disagree with that notion based on monopolistic arguments, but curiously they stammer when you bring up the analogy to Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.)

The PGA has removed its 2022 tournament from the Trump golf course in New Jersey, which, again, it has a right to do.

These decisions can be understood in the context of defending their brands, which private companies would be remiss if they did not do.

He has been impeached for a second time though he has but a few days left in office. The January 6 riot was appalling, and it seems clear the President fueled the flames. Yet the proponents of a second impeachment stammer when asked about the riots last summer and the proponents of that violence.

We tend to disfavor revenge as a motivation, but that should not mean we disregard it as a contributor. It is a human emotion that is a factor in many decisions.

What We Have Learned About Donald Trump

We have had many years of exposure to the outgoing President from which we should surely have learned something. We have also had many years of exposure to other human beings from whom lessons should also have been learned.

Backing people into corners – especially people who have backed others into corners – is tempting, but rarely well advised. When escape is no longer possible, they tend to lash out, and the consequences of that can be even worse. You can’t really back a person too deep into a corner if you expect him to behave rationally.

The President faces personal financial challenges. He is said to owe $400 million and his long-time bank has refused to do further business with him. The banker herself has resigned. True, others might seize the moment to have him as a customer, but institutions with credit committees are unlikely to overlook his past treatment of lenders and of contracts generally.

Brinksmanship comes easily to President Trump. He is more comfortable with conflict and adversarial behavior than others and he uses his additional tolerance to his advantage.

The President likes the spotlight and, as children sometimes do, he makes no distinction between positive and negative attention. To be adored is best but to be criticized – no matter how strongly – is better than to be ignored.

Donald Trump is Not Without Cards to Play

Based on the experience of a childhood spent significantly in Austria in the 1950s, I am wary of creating martyrs. The Germans and Austrians seemed keenly aware of that possibility in the immediate post World War II years.

That experience strikes me as valuable especially if applied to countering the most extreme punitive suggestions. Personally, I would take only those actions against the President that led to a demonstrable future benefit, rather than merely seeking revenge.

Domestically, he received more than 70 million votes, the second most received by any candidate ever. People loyal to him remain in control of the Republican National Committee, state Republican parties and various other political enterprises.

The desire on the part of elected officials to avoid primary challengers gives the President and his supporters considerable pull in their preferred direction.

Domestic politics might muddle through and eventually find some level of accommodation in our duopoly, but there are international interests that might not.

After four years of the highest level of security briefings (and the prospect that they will continue after his Presidency ends), Donald Trump has learned a lot. What is to stop him from monetizing that information?

What if Vladimir Putin bailed him out in exchange for weeks and weeks of FSB briefings? That would seem to be a pretty low-cost purchase on their part.

He could renounce his citizenship, flee the country and go to live in Moscow or maybe in some more hospitable part of Russia, have all of his debts repaid and simply turn his back on all aspects of his prior life, though it would surely require considerable advance research into the status of extradition treaties with various countries.

I suppose the next question would be what about his family? He seems to care about them. Could all of them defect to someplace else and do reasonably well in a less hostile environment? I suppose it might be some leverage over him if they could not? Would they stick together, or would they become fractious?

A Case for Settling

Is there a deal to be struck that would alleviate some of his potential pain in exchange for his exit from public life? To say nothing of our national security interests.

“Impeachment lite” could be used to preclude Donald Trump from ever again holding federal office. That is useful if he plans to run in 2024. Kicking a person out of office who has already left seems to cross the line into revenge.

He is a negotiator and lives happily on the brink. This would be the ultimate in brinksmanship. His life for his country.

If this case gets settled, I won’t be objecting. And I hope there are people thinking carefully about it.


55 Responses to “Some Cases Should be Settled”

Neil smith, January 17, 2021 at 8:01 pm said:

Haven, very interesting article. I think The Donald would negotiate a deal in which he would sacrifice himself for the sake of his children’s future plans in politics. Trump 2.0 (Ivanka) could be more palatable to a wider voter group.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:25 am said:

Neil, it seems like that would be a reasonable component of any settlement discussions.


Don, January 17, 2021 at 8:24 pm said:

Not sure there are many men of vision or perspective on either side. If there are, the press wont have much to do with them, which is a big part of our problem. Let’s not wait for this:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:28 am said:

Apart from those who profit from political division, it is hard to imagine why people would not want to see problems solved instead of lingering endlessly. The existing motivations guide politics to the edges rather than toward answers.


Sellers, January 17, 2021 at 9:41 pm said:

??? Regardless, revenge is a terrible idea. Like you said, right or wrong 70 million American citizens voted for him, most because they liked his agenda more than they abhorred his persona.. Why alienate them? Just to increase the pain they already feel at the loss of both the Executive and Legislative branches when prior to the pandemic victory seemed assured? Unless, of course, the plan is to permanently “cancel” them as well as Trump (which is entirely believable). Trump, meanwhile, is ultimately just one man who will have an almost impossible task ahead of him if he wants to rebuild his credibility and continue in politics, at least in my estimation.

The entire situation in the US today already smacks of Orwell’s 1984. Why exacerbate that situation unless that is exactly your ultimate goal, which to Conservatives is, again, entirely believable.

I suspect that the cancellation of Trump and his allies, close and not so close, will continue apace and even accelerate. Revenge is sweet, at least until It’s not.

Did you see that FB “cancelled” Ron Paul? Now that’s a head-scratcher and cannot be a good sign. Well, if you’re a big fan of big government, as FB seems to be, maybe not such a head-scratcher after all. These Social Media companies may have the legal protection to ban clients, though that seems to put non-discrimination laws on thin ice, but is it morally defensible? Or doesn’t that matter any more than it matted in Orwell’s vision of distopia?


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:32 am said:

“Liked his agenda more than they abhorred his persona” is a good point. For some reason, demonizing voters is part of political strategy.another good point is the idea of “victory snatched away.” That definitely makes defeat harder to accept.


Peter W. Bragdon, January 17, 2021 at 10:32 pm said:

On target, Haven. We need to stay on the high road — cannot make a martyr out of Trump — that route will just increase his following.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:33 am said:

History would point us in just that direction.


Bob, January 17, 2021 at 10:59 pm said:

Haven, you may not be surprised that there is a different view. Yes, revenge is part of prosecuting criminals, but there are many solemn judges, DOJ career investigators, even cops who think — even with thoughtful consideration — that it is also important that the citizenry see consequences and some reinforcement of difference between right and wrong. Mr. Trump’s campaign to reverse our election processes and Constitution with fraudulent claims, reaching its final climax by inviting an unruly crowd to DC and directing them to attack the Congress, is insurrection, and incidentally 5 people died. (No even-handed comparison to BLM or Antifa: no one in Portland gave reconnaissance tours and advance plans to rioters in the nations’s sacred Capitol, a gallows planned and constructed with rope, much trying to find Pence and Pelosi by name, arriving with zip ties, pipe bombs in political HQs, and mostly importantly, destroying US democracy itself). Listen to Trump’s Ellipse speech in full and decide whether he was purposely inciting insurrection violence. Some folks are now suddenly talking about unity and healing. But we know from many, such as Mandela, that healing requires a prerequisite cycle of confession and absolution. Not likely from Trump/Hawley/Cruz/Giuliani. But there are real sprouts of spring growth in some Republicans, who are now actually admitting that the entire campaign since the election was a hoax, and the even Republican voters need to hear the truth. Yes, the election was almost 50-50, but now the polls show that Republicans don’t want Trump to be a future figure, and only about 25% of Republicans are saying the the Capitol events were justifiable … maybe 13% of Americans. Probably will get worse when we go through the pardons in the next days, since pardons must specify what crimes by the kids and others are cited. Even I don’t go so far as to suggest the Guy Fawkes punishment, but it’s useful to suppress the already waning Donald Trump and allow other Republicans to publicly begin to tell the truth and build a constructive Party.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:39 am said:

Some comments on these stories are emailed to me directly, presumably because the writer wants me to know his thoughts but not share them with others. One such email took the exact opposite approach to Trump’s speech. In neither case (yours or his), was I a bit surprised by the response. We are all far more susceptible to our “priors” than we think we are. A reoriented Republican party would be high on my list. I am not sure just who capitalists and populists thrive in partnership.


Tim Warburton, January 18, 2021 at 12:06 pm said:

I have just read the ellipse speech from beginning to end. I ask, honestly which sentences, which phrases, say or in any way incite an attack on the Congress. One sentences states: ” I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.”
I read his speech which as usual is a self glorification rant, I don’t see the allusion to a call for insurrection. I read the litany of complaints about states not following the laws of the Legislature. But I don’t see the call for insurrection. I hear the call for if Pence “does the right thing”.
I have been having difficulty with this days. I’d love to know which phrases you believe he should be hung with.
The copy of the speech I am reading is this one:


Bob, January 19, 2021 at 12:00 am said:

Golly, re the Ellipse speech, it was up there with Julius Caesar’s Mark Antony. Most of speech was whipping up anger about how the election was taken from him, and therefore them … “illegitimate, fraud, rigged, stolen, disgrace, brazen, outrageous, corrupt”. He repeats lies again and again which were unfounded in the dozens of courts, with little sworn evidence. So of course righteous Patriots should be very, very angry. Angry. “People are not going to take it any longer”. “I’m not going to let it happen”. “Cannot let it happen”.
Right now, “if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election. All he has to do”. “We must stop this deal”.
“We’re just not going to let that happen”. [Of course, as Pence confirmed, he had no such Constitutional authority.
So Trump was contravening the Constitution and laws.] So then a call to action, DO the right thing: ” “protect our country, protect our constitution”. “We’re going to have somebody in there”. [Otherwise}, “our country will be destroyed, and we’re not going to stand for that”. “need to take back our country”.
He was not advocating in general, he was inciting.


Tim Warburton, January 19, 2021 at 1:08 pm said:

Thanks for this.
I appreciate better the sentences to which you refer.
If one had reason to think the election was indeed fraudulent in various aspects – what would be the right way to resolve the issue(s)? For example, Judges overruling the legislature’s plain language in Pennsylvania?
What is the excuse for a Secretary of State extending deadlines in contravention to the Legislature’s clear rules?
I ask sincerely since these cases are raised yet plain language for anyone to read is rolled over by extraordinary reasoning and from where I sit appears unconstitutional.


bob, January 19, 2021 at 3:33 pm said:

In this exchange, it’s hard for my words to quibble with those of Sen. McConnell (today’s WSJ):
‘Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said that President Trump provoked the mob that attacked the Capitol earlier this month. “This mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the President and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday’.

Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 11:22 am said:

Is it appropriate to take the ellipse speech as something freestanding or should it be considered as a part of an overall line of communication extending back at least to election day?


Rufus Botzow, January 18, 2021 at 12:53 am said:

I rather think Trump has pretty much cooked his own goose, and there is not so much needs doing. Intelligence briefings, however, he must not have, and it would certainly be best for all were he prevented from running in 2024.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:42 am said:

The incoming President determines whether future intelligence briefings will happen, but there remains the issue of knowledge gained from prior briefings. Interestingly, it might well be in the interest of the Democrats to encourage him to run in 2024 because he might be so disruptive to the Republican selection process.


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 12:21 pm said:

I do remain curious about what information he will take away with him and how that will be protected.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:43 am said:

kindly direct such thoughts to my wife.


Temple Grassi, January 18, 2021 at 6:20 am said:

Monday Jan 18
Here in DC we feel the tension rising as The Inauguration draws nearer. Security is tightening! We are holding our breath and double locking our doors!🤞😷


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:43 am said:

and most assuredly not planning to be anywhere near the live events


Steve Hufford, January 18, 2021 at 7:05 am said:

I am hopeful our legislature will legally ban him from any future position of trust within the US federal government. That accomplished, I am also hopeful that the wheels of the Gods will grind small in his case, and that his lifetime of manipulating ‘the system’ in his favor will have its just rewards: bankruptcy, brand failure, dishonor, and perhaps imprisonment. At the same time, I am aware that I have switched from four LONG years of “doom scrolling” (reading about his latest self-dealing action or abhorrent statement) to “revenge scrolling” (as the manifold lawsuits proceed, and his presidential immunity disappears along with his many acquaintances who only allied with him for proximity to power). So, I will try to revenge-scroll less. It will be a blessing to feel free to ignore this smallest of ‘big men’.


Steve Hufford, January 18, 2021 at 9:52 am said:

Sorry, forgot to mention one thing: thanks for another interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking piece!


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:53 am said:

Thanks Steve, it provoked the desired responses from both sides.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:46 am said:

I am far from surprised that your feelings exist, as they do for many others. Quite understandable


Tim Warburton, January 18, 2021 at 7:10 am said:

My sense is this is much ado about nothing. Trump will leave. Some will be sad, most glad that this petty little man that know one in New York liked or wanted to do business with is gone. For all the potential good he did, his childish theatrics and his ability to alienate most around him stands forth for all to see. The fact that many voted for him had far more to do with voting against the left and its seeming hegemony.
There is more anger to come. It is not about Trump. He was just the place holder. The deep divide in the country are valid and with merit. The groups seeking a unified world and free trade blythely (or innocently or stupidly) over looked the reasons why the the US was where it was and stupidly (there that word again) gave key word gave it away. The resulting disenfranchisement is plain for all to see. The combination of politically incorrect speech and double talk or gobblety gook has driven average people wild (crazy). A huge professsion has grown to translate these strange new languages. They are called accountants and lawyers. Then we have environementalists and do gooders who somehow have gotten themselves a bad name through various alarmist overreactions. The list goes on.
The point is that there are many more arguments to have and settle. The agenda has yet to be defined. Pelosi and Biden and Schumer have their list, but it will be found lacking. That will take at least 5-7 years.
As to a couple of minor points:
My father said over and over to me : “Never corner a rat”
Haven’s uncle Claiborne said to me “the important thing is that they spell your name correctly”.


Tim Warburton, January 18, 2021 at 7:16 am said:

I apologize for the grammatical errors. Doing this stuff on a phone is a mistake. And on this list, I don’t want to leave out the evangelists.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:52 am said:

at least you commented at all — twice. Thanks


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:49 am said:

It seems that attention getting is the enemy of problem solving.


Richard Meyer, January 18, 2021 at 7:14 am said:

“ Trump has learned a lot”????


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:52 am said:

“After four years of the highest level of security briefings (and the prospect that they will continue after his Presidency ends), Donald Trump has learned a lot. What is to stop him from monetizing that information?”

Even though he famously paid very little attention, four years of daily briefings must surely have rubbed off somehow. That leaves aside all the rest of his daily activities.


Tim Warburton, January 18, 2021 at 12:15 pm said:

This worthy of concern. One now, that it has been said, might wonder what Clinton was really selling all these years from the Clinton Foundation? I assume there are laws against sharing of such information regardless of former position.
So If Trump were to lose everything and be looking for a way out, what could he sell to either China or Russia that they don’t already know about? Unlikely that anyone here would know.. but its a good question.
Goes back to “Don’t Corner a Rat”.
But If I were the prosecutor for the Southern District of NY and could lock him up; potentially causing this exchange?
One would hope someone in the Department of Justice would know how to smooth it out.
There presumably are plenty of good trades to be made.
How about Removal of the Secret Service detail – No more protection?


Stephen Sears, January 18, 2021 at 10:02 am said:

Great and thoughtful post. I am not a fan of vanquishing and humiliating countries to the point where they feel they have nothing to lose if they act extremely. I imagine your experience in Austria would have been quite different if the US and NATO allies never implemented the Marshall Plan.

I understand the emotional reaction to Trump and people wanting to squelch his voice and eradicate his term from the history books in order to “go back to the good old days.” His behavior has frequently been outrageous and unbecoming. But to millions of citizens who support Trump, there never were any good old days.

As was said, Trump got over 70 million votes. And if one analyzes county maps, his support covered a huge swath of the country. In many of his supporters’ eyes, belittling and humiliating Trump is akin to belittling and humiliating them. Continuing down the path of humiliation and silencing is just throwing gasoline on the fire.

Personally, I wish that all further talk of impeachment, criminal investigations and further backlash against Trump and his loyalists would stop. A lot of hatchets will have to be buried, but we have done this before. Ford pardoned Nixon. President Johnson pardoned Confederate soldiers (except for RE Lee who was ironically also pardoned by Gerald Ford). And of course our most enthusiastic ally, the UK, is the one country that actually shot a cannon at our White House.

If the newly installed powers that be continue down their path of expunging and demonizing all things Trump, then don’t expect tensions to ease anytime soon. And with history teaching us time and again, they would only have themselves to blame.


Haven Pell, January 18, 2021 at 10:57 am said:

Stephen, you and I both know a direct descendent of the leader of the attack that fired that cannon.

It would be useful if those who might disagree with you heard your words and considered them in the context of the political roles being reversed.

Would they make your arguments if one of theirs were in the cross hairs?


Stephen Sears, January 18, 2021 at 11:22 am said:


Your suggestion about the shoe on the other foot is a very good one.


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 11:14 am said:

I often try to use it to flag partisanship, but excuses are frequently made. I have never had anyone say, “0h my gosh you are right.”


Meg Dodge, January 18, 2021 at 11:55 am said:

I am struck by the analogy to Orwell’s “1984.” As the parent of 4 teenagers, I have proofread and edited as many essays on “1984” in the past 4 years. I also recall reading the book and drawing real-life parallels to it when writing my own essay. In the 1980’s, I used historical events to illustrate my point. Each of our four children has pulled more and more from current events for their essay, with our youngest incorporating personal experiences. The same goes for their essays on “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Invisible Man” and other great novels.
Revenge or not? Adults, remember that the children are watching. Grow-up! With polarized media, spewing spin instead of reporting facts and social media algorithms deftly delivering to them more of what they already believe, our children don’t have to consider disparate thoughts as they scroll their TikTok feeds. Journalism is dead and has been replaced by constant editorializing. News organizations have twisted their constitutional rights to free speech and freedom to the press to justify misleading us and telling outright lies. 24-hour hews organizations, in a rush to break stories, neglect to fact-check. Grass roots, local, investigative reporters, who once broke the most significant stories of their times, don’t exist anymore. Our civics classes taught us that freedom of the press is essential to democracy and we studied propaganda campaigns, waged by enemy nations, to divide their people and develop extremist factions. Those lessons were meant to prevent us from repeating history, not as instruction manuals.
Abhorrent behavior on the part of elected officials, journalists, social media empires, parents, friends and neighbors are all on display for our young people as they develop their view of our nation. Conservatives have co-opted patriotism relegating liberals to complain about the ills of democracy and emphatically state that “the USA is not the greatest Nation on earth, not even close.”
Here in Nebraska, traditionally a very red state, we have always taken a kinder approach to what divides us, but young people are fed-up with politician’s prioritizing sound bites over action, parties over principles and revenge over legislation. They are abandoning conservatism, racing past liberalism and espousing socialism and an end to capitalism. Those who still listen to their parents, and remain conservative, are ostracized by their peers. Friend groups break apart based on politics.
Locked in their homes during this pandemic, unable to interact with the world in-person, our children are watching us. What are we teaching them? How will this impact the next generation? Will any of them still believe in the American Dream? Will they be able to listen to each other and engage in reasonable and productive discourse?
America is finally reckoning with the injustices of our past and present and, potentially, ready to make meaningful changes to our laws, practices and ideals. Will we form a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all? Or, will our young people abandon this great experiment in democracy?


Tim Warburton, January 18, 2021 at 3:09 pm said:

Couldn’t you have spread these truths out over a few days..
Hard to handle so much all at once!! Yikes… !!!


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 11:20 am said:

What a thoughtful comment, Meg. Thank you for taking the time. I was especially taken by the evolution from historical events to support your essay to current events and personal experiences for your children’s. Your “to-do list” of things to fix closely matches mine.


Barrett Seaman, January 18, 2021 at 3:44 pm said:

Your solution—prudent, pragmatic, reasonable, politically centrist—will no doubt appeal to what I perceive to be your audience (including myself). A quick, efficient vote of Censure will send a message to Trump and Trumpists alike that an act intended to manipulate a large block of citizens who feel aggrieved and betrayed by the electoral process, who feel they have been misled, is wrong and needs to be corrected. But is that enough?

Crime and punishment are both relative concepts. For the past four years, we have been subject to a pattern of responding to allegations of malfeasance by Donald Trump with allegations of equal or worse malfeasance by his opponents. We even came up with a term for it: Whataboutism. Trump did a), yes, but what about Obama/Biden/whoever, who did b)?

To his credit, The Pundificator has not spent time burrowing down the rabbit hole of Whataboutism, but I was struck by one particular passage in your post:

“The January 6 riot was appalling, and it seems clear the President fueled the flames. Yet the proponents of a second impeachment stammer when asked about the riots last summer and the proponents of that violence.”

Rather than stammer, let me say this: My impression of the riots last summer is that, while they were sparked by a sense of grievance akin to what Trump supporters no doubt feel, they were by and large spontaneous and populated for the most part by idealistic, multi-racial young people. No doubt there were opportunists with ill intent on the fringes—particularly in Minneapolis and Portland, but for the most part, they were peaceful—until the police and in some cases paramilitary types responded with massive force.

The Lafayette Square melee in particular saw a chilling use of state power at every level, with combat-equipped police, National Guardsmen, government helicopters flying low overhead—all to allow Trump to walk over to St. John’s Church and hold up a Bible for photographers. In Portland, there were reports of mysterious paramilitary types, reminiscent of Vladimir Putin’s little green men in Crimea and Ukraine, performing counter-insurgency operations against the protesters. If there was violence last summer, the blame falls in both directions, but in my view, it was exacerbated by government forces.

By contrast, January 6 was anything but spontaneous. It was planned in advance and encouraged by Trump. If the First Amendment’s limits are defined as someone shouting fire in a crowded theater, then Donald Trump shouted fire that morning as he sent his army into battle. And because of his longstanding use of social media, mostly Twitter, to control his message, the theater in this case was the whole cyber-universe, capable of responding instantaneously, which it did. He had recruited his army, enflamed their sense of grievance (really his own), summoned them to the capital and sent them into battle for his own personal gain. Henry V could not have asked for a more willing contingent of supporters at Agincourt on St. Crispin’s Day.

Ironically, because of the bad publicity stemming from their over-use of force in those summer confrontations—and despite intelligence pointing towards a substantial, well-organized and probably armed group of protesters, law enforcement leaders apparently decided to minimize their visibility on January 6. The result was the shameful debacle we all witnessed. One can only wonder how pitched the battle would have been if the police were better prepared. The hordes may not have breached the Capitol, but not for lack of intent.

However reasonable Censure might feel as a compromise, I think it sweeps the severity of Trump’s crime under the rug. If our form of government is defined by the peaceful transfer of power by the vote of the people, then Donald Trump tried to overthrow the government and is therefore guilty of treason. For that, Censure is a wholly inadequate response. I would argue that impeachment is a compromise but one that would have the practical benefit of preventing this man from ever running for federal office again.

I recognize the counterargument that any attempt to punish Trump will only further inflame his “base” and keep Trump and Trumpism alive politically. Here, I will take Winston Churchill as my guide: it would be appeasement to drop the charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” I believe Trump was emboldened enough by his first acquittal. To back down again would only further his sense of being above the law. And as for the horde of Proud Boys, Bugaloos, Three Percenters and other guardians of the Constitution out there, sooner or later they are going to have to learn to live in a civilized and orderly democracy. As pro-First Amendment as I am, I believe that banning their leader from Twitter and other social media amplifiers is warranted as the only means to put brakes on the giant feedback loop that continues to fuel The Big Lie.

More importantly, at some point, Trump’s minions are going to have to accept that they bought The Big Lie. Scores of judges, some appointed by Trump himself, dismissed the allegations of fraud, as did numerous state election officials, many of them Republicans, as did Trump’s own recently departed Attorney General. Eventually, the “base” will have to admit they were duped. The process of impeachment is the best way to offer at least the hope that we can take a few steps down the road towards acceptance.


Tim Warburton, January 19, 2021 at 9:40 am said:

Well written and well stated, but can we really be a little bit for the First amendment and when something is said we don’t like then we can shut it down. “As pro-First Amendment as I am, I believe that banning their leader from Twitter and other social media amplifiers is warranted as the only means to put brakes on the giant feedback loop that continues to fuel The Big Lie.”
Let’s be sure to put the brakes on thoughts we don’t like.
The issue is not first amendment at this point is it?
Is not the debate more of whether the private company Twitter has a right to do what it wants.
Would the Right be wiser to build its own “Amazon Web Services” and allow such messaging as it wants?
Parler is back up.
Will we not see how they do?

As for the “severity of Trump’s crime” – Here, I wonder just what that crime is, and as noted elsewhere, the people who disliked him have sought to discredit it him, but is there not a reasonable argument to be made for the positions he opined upon that so many hearkened to?
Why did this groundswell rise?
Where was it from?
Should we not consider the fact that so many of our fellow citizens were looking for something different from the people presented to them in the 2016 election?
Didn’t business want to get moving again after 8 years of restrictive regulation?
Weren’t people tired of the immigration Double Standard (Congress’s making)

As for the Layfayette Square thing- This was not a good look and arguably stupid politically. Yet consider the moment when 16 cities were in various forms of anarchy and looting (peaceful marches). One might conclude that the action was in fact prudent. But Stupid is as stupid does.
Anyone who has served in the military knows the absolute power of the Government of the United States, and also knows that many Presidents have used that power in various ways to self glorify.

At some point, I ask only, how is it that my political party somehow has the only firm grasp on lawful and legal exercise of righteousness?

The parties have been playing a nasty game since Bush 1 (Lee Atwater) with a winner take all attitude. It has become uglier and uglier. Law exercised for the pursuit of my political enemies. Is this wise?

Maybe Will Rogers had it right: A president just can’t make much showing against congress. They lay awake nights, thinking up things to be against the president on.


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 11:45 am said:

Thank you for taking the time to share the thoughtfulness of your reasoning with us, Barry. It is not hard to recognize the results of decades of experience at Time Magazine.

I have a difficult time with the idea that demonstrations happen spontaneously. There are too many permits, crowd control barriers and port-a-potties needed, and none of these appear from nowhere. Leave aside the logistics of getting big crowds in place.

Robert O’Harrow wrote a detailed piece in yesterday’s WaPo on the logistics behind January 6. I am glad he did and emailed him as follows: Robert, I have just finished reading your story about the January 6 riot organizers.

I think this is a worthy topic and I hope you will continue to pursue your reporting on the organization of demonstrations, especially those that turn into riots.

I would hope that The Washington Post would deem it just as important to provide stories about the organization of demonstrations by the left as it does stories such as yours.

I do not profess to perfect recall but I don’t remember any similar stories about the rioting last summer.

I accept the idea that organizers of demonstrations prefer the spontaneity narrative, but demonstrations that turn violent cause substantial harm and I am not clear on the reason that the organizers should escape responsibility.


graeme bradfield, January 19, 2021 at 4:52 am said:

a little bleat from the Antipodes
Steve Hufford as usual speaks anthropologic sense in that we sense the USA needs to put some objective process that is underlied with your normally quite similar to our justice system and treats all citizens with equality.
my reading of Trumps historical back ground cannot help but conclude he was ill equipped for statesmanlike demeanor or level thinking……..Obamas term showed your system could have a great man but stymie him with a flawed system such that many great opportunities were lost in politicking manoeuvres…..he accepted it with unbelievable grace…..what now has to happen is for the legal process to role forward and the misdemeanours be fleshed out and it is only once they are on the table that it is possible to see if there is a deal that once struck does less harm than the alternative……remember there is still the New York tax subpoena which will continue to grind slowly but surely …also remember a legacy of Trump’s businesses is a litany of debt and sacked employees …..he has pretty much treated your governmental system as his own company and plundered it on the world stage in full view and the process your country holds so dear and is its backbone needs to be applied simply and resolutely so that overseas countries of which we are but a little one can see the value of a real democracy and that in the end it is a principle we can hold dear,trust and know it will endure…..a deal can be struck but it must be transparent and open as to its pros and cons…..and after all the avenues are fleshed out …..


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 11:47 am said:

Graeme, thank you for a perspective on how it appears from overseas.


Chris Ronaldson, January 19, 2021 at 11:42 am said:

Dear Haven,

I have read your Pundificator article with interest and am responding with a view from overseas:

It may be hard for US citizens to understand fully the damage done by Trump to the image that the rest of the world has of your country. I can see that his appeals to nationalism (Make America Great Again) and his promises of jobs in industries under threat have won him significant support, but from the outside all we observe are the constant streams of obvious lies, self-serving statements and damage to international institutions. America’s reputation as the moral and economic leader of the free world is in tatters. Trump ranked below Bolsanaro as a world leader and far more dangerous because of the power that he wielded. Awful man that Putin is, he probably does have reason to believe that without him the oligarchs would take over and ruin Russia, but all Trump cares about is Trump.

I agree that there is little point in exacting revenge, even though Trump has done enormous harm by refusing cooperation with the incoming administration. Is there really no way that Biden can use his time in office to ensure that only worthy candidates can stand for President in the future?

Good luck, Chris


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 12:02 pm said:

Thank you for your comment, Chris.

I am no fan of political parties as they seem to do little other that serve themselves at the expense of their followers. There would, however, be a worthy role for the parties (and probably helpful to their brands) if they would commit that any candidate who carried their banner would be qualified to do the job for which he is running. I have found no other filter to keep the unqualified from rabble rousing their way into important positions.

If I got to remake the Republican Party, such a commitment would be high on my list of changes. Once in place, the Democrats would be forced to follow.

The measure is qualified to do the job, not merely qualified to get it.


Tim Warburton, January 19, 2021 at 12:58 pm said:

It will be most certainly very interesting to see the definition of “qualified”.
Does it mean being a former Governor, Senator, House member, Public figure, skilled businessman, CEO, Popular TV personality? Having run an organization of more than 10,000 employees? Foreign affairs experience, Great Doctor, Twitter Inventor.. etc.
Oh the list does go on doesn’t it?
Yet the Constitution is clear Any Natural Born citizen is eligible:
“No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.”

One could go on to say that if the Article II Section 1 had never been amended the selection process might have remained in good hands:
To Wit:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.

The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.”


Haven Pell, January 19, 2021 at 3:24 pm said:

The parties are a duopoly and they control a major resource in every state — the ballot lines. Try running as an independent. Since nobody seems to be able to crack the duopoly nut, does it really seem so extreme to suggest that each party — if only for competitive reasons — commit to fielding qualified candidates? Sure the Constitution says any natural born citizen can run but it doesn’t mean a private organization (the parties are not public utilities) has to nominate him.

Let each party decide how to determine who is qualified. We can see who does it best. But the key is qualified to “do” the job not “get” it.

It used to happen that way before our generation went crazy about back room deals and decided on more primaries. Oops.


Neil smith, January 19, 2021 at 10:53 pm said:

On the point of “qualification” isn’t the whole point of a Democracy to have the people be free to choose who they please, without qualification.
Having said that, the predictive programming for Trump has been going on for thirty years, I recall many interviews with Trump commenting on a major event, and the interview would always end with the interviewer asking Trump, so are you going to run for office, or, do you think you will run for President one day? Strange to think that 70 million people pinned there hopes and dreams on an Politically unqualified Billionaire game show host . All just part of the Circus!

Haven Pell, January 20, 2021 at 9:49 am said:

Neil, there is much to dislike about the image of some elite panel of worthies saying this or that candidate is or is not qualified to do the job. The idea is perhaps a feeble effort to encourage some focus on the ability to do the job rather than merely the ability to get it. If the two political parties are going to present themselves as simply reactive to whatever the popular will might be at the moment, what purpose are they really serving? If a candidate were said to be not qualified, but the voters elected him anyway, so be it. Whatever skills it takes to be a President, Congressman or Senator, I would like to see us selecting from the top quintile of the population as measured by those skills. That would give us more than 60 million people to choose from. As we do it today, I think we are choosing from the middle quintile or worse.

Tyler Hathaway, January 28, 2021 at 9:57 pm said:

With regard to the change from “back room deals” to primaries for the selection of “best” candidates, I read a WSJ article a few years ago that I found quite interesting. It concludes with this:
“Political parties aren’t branches of government. They have every right and reason to organize for success in general elections. Until very recently, most conventions in American history were brokered. Some of these were contentious, even rancorous, producing results that in historical terms — Lincoln, Eisenhower, James Knox Polk, Adlai Stevenson — were impressive. It isn’t unreasonable to believe that a party’s leadership has in mind the best interests of the party, and the country.
Have Republicans lately wondered why people who ought to run for president don’t, and why people who shouldn’t run for president jump right in? Read 1970’s Mandate for Reform. In a half-century we’ve gone from a shrewd, top-down selection process to a traveling carnival of the lowest common denominator.”

Haven Pell, January 29, 2021 at 8:40 am said:

All in pursuit of the appearance of democracy. We are choosing a person to do an important job. Yet we seem to care not at all about whether he or she would be good at it.

Tim Warburton, January 30, 2021 at 3:58 pm said:

It is hard not to, at a minimum, note that most intelligent people simply do not want to live with the level of scrutiny now attached to these jobs. Hence a certain mediocrity naturally rises to see themselves as “heralded”. The modern Presidency it seems requires a person well at ease under the glare of constant attention. One could say that Obama did handle that aspect of the job quite well, some of his policies obviously raised questions that we will now get to deal with again.


Haven Pell, January 31, 2021 at 4:12 pm said:

That is a definite drawback and it could well encourage a different group of people to seek the jobs.


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