President Donald Trump’s incitement of a mob attack on the Capitol is reason enough for him to be forced from office before Jan. 20 — whether via the 25th Amendment, another impeachment or some other peaceful means.
Yet, even as Americans grapple with horrific images of invaders storming our seat of government, there is another urgent reason to ensure Trump is held accountable.
The scenes of pillage at the Capitol have frightened our allies, and delighted our adversaries. The former fear for the survival of U.S. democracy. The latter see Trump’s madness as proof America is on the rocks, which makes them more eager to test us.
Unless Trump pays a steep price for his sedition — one that bars him from future elective office — America’s role as leader of “the free world” will become a joke.
It is impossible to overstate the global shock waves caused by Trump’s refusal to concede defeat and his role in the assault on Congress. To watch a U.S. president behave like a despot in a banana republic turns the world on its head.
It is painful to read the tweets and statements from our allies. Many European leaders bluntly blame Trump for the attack on the Capitol, some in extremely undiplomatic language.
Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, told the BBC that Trump’s comments “directly led” to his supporters storming Congress. Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland, said Trump was guilty of “inciting insurrection” in his own country (she has barred the president from his Turnberry golf resort during the pandemic).
Germany’s Angela Merkel was more blunt still, saying she was “furious” over the scenes at the Capitol and regretted that “President Trump has still not admitted defeat” since November. Her country’s president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, condemned the “armed mob incited by an incumbent president.”
One after another, Western leaders pleaded for a peaceful and orderly transfer of power in Washington, symptomatic of their worry that U.S. democracy really is breaking down.
And some, like French President Emmanuel Macron, worried about the impact of Trump’s behavior on respect for the very idea of democracy (now under direct challenge from Russia and China, who are promoting their authoritarian models and denigrating democratic systems as outdated). “When, in one of the world’s oldest democracies, supporters of an outgoing president take up arms to challenge the legitimate results of an election, a universal idea — that of ‘one person, one vote’ — is undermined,” Macron said.
Most disturbing, however, is the ammunition Trump has handed America’s adversaries. China and Russia are gleefully pushing photos of the Trump-fueled attack as evidence of U.S. decline.
Chinese propaganda is using the photos to castigate U.S. legislators for supporting young pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong (some of whom broke into the city’s legislature in 2019, but were careful not to make any mess).
Russia is citing the riots to criticize Washington’s support for pro-democracy uprisings in former Soviet states, known as “color revolutions.” “The boomerang of color revolutions, as we can see, is turning back on the United States,” said one Russian legislator.
And even Turkey, where leaders resent American criticism of growing repression, has gotten into the make-fun-of-America act. Its Foreign Ministry is issuing warnings to its citizens in the United States to be wary of further violence — warnings that echo State Department bulletins to U.S. citizens when they go to war-torn countries.
Venezuela, Iran, even a Fijian prime minister who led a coup in 2006, are all making fun of the United States.
Trump has become a global pariah, viewed as an asset and punching bag by those who seek America’s demise.
If the president leaves office scot-free and retains control of the Trump GOP, with a lock on the 2024 nomination, the cost to the country will be devastating. Free to spew his lies about an illegitimate Biden presidency and inflame his base, Trump will weaken the country at a time when COVID-19 and the China challenge require a unified pushback. Republicans can no longer pretend the situation will remain peaceful.
So, the time has come for Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to preserve U.S. democracy — along with the reputation and national security of the country in a crucial decade. Republican legislators must consider the same, if Speaker Nancy Pelosi moves forward with a second impeachment.
If neither approach flies, then a delegation of top GOP political leaders, businesspeople, and governors, present and past, should confront Trump in the White House, making clear he must step down and they will oppose his further role in Republican politics.
If all of the above is a pipe dream, we can only hope Joe Biden is tough enough to keep the country afloat until Trump finally undoes himself.
Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the The Philadelphia Inquirerr, P.O. Box 8263, Philadelphia, Pa. 19101. Her email address is email@example.com.
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