President Joe Biden on Thursday gave probably the most forceful and assertive speech of his long political life. Gone was the pleading, folksy, queasy tone that usually permeates his public remarks. Instead, he went hard on the attack against Donald Trump, the person who most deserved to be called out for inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. This is the Joe Biden Americans voted for. If Biden can maintain this level of energy, passion and focus in his public remarks, he may well salvage his presidency and stop seeding the turf for yet another Trump presidential bid.
Biden laid out in explicit terms exactly why Trump bears full responsibility for the Capitol siege — and he was insistent in not mincing words, calling it what it was: an “insurrection.” Biden also raised the starkest of warnings, saying that there’s “a dagger at the throat of America” and adding: “We are in a battle for the soul of America.”
This was not hyperbole. The ongoing efforts by Trump and GOP congressional leaders to avoid talking about the insurrection while presenting tortured rationalizations for Trump’s support of it demand daily reminders that, no, all is not well. This nation’s democracy hangs by a thread because the GOP leadership refuses to prioritize defense of that democracy over their selfish partisan interests.
Biden made clear why such a distinction is necessary. The insurrectionists Trump directed to the Capitol “weren’t looking to uphold the will of the people. They were looking to deny the will of the people. … They weren’t looking to uphold a free and fair election. They were looking to overturn one. They weren’t looking to save the cause of America. They were looking to subvert the Constitution.”
There’s not a single word of that statement that Republican leaders can fault, because it’s the truth. So they responded by accusing Biden and the Democrats of turning the attack into a partisan issue. That’s rich.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who on Jan. 6 labeled the attackers as “criminals” and laid total responsibility for the attack at Trump’s feet, blamed Democrats on Thursday for making such a big deal about it.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, who denounced Trump on Jan. 6 and declared that he’d had “enough” of the president’s antics, now kneels again in total subservience at the Trump altar. He lashed out Thursday against Biden for what he called his “brazen politicization of January 6.”
Equally disheartening is the cowardly silence from Republicans like Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin, and the tacit defense of Trump’s coup attempt by Sen. Josh Hawley and Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville.
There is no gray area when it comes to Jan. 6. There’s right and there’s wrong. Any politician who fails to take an aggressive stand in defense of American democracy during this moment of peril has no business continuing in elective office.