Twenty Days

The old year won’t be behind us for awhile, alas. I won’t feel that 2020 is really over until Joe Biden is inaugurated. We’ve got a dicey twenty days ahead. But let’s start on a happy note — Josh Hawley is not feeling the love today.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley on a Thursday morning conference call to explain his plans to object to the Electoral College vote next week, which sets up an awkward vote for Hawley’s fellow Senate Republicans while boosting the Missourian’s national profile.

But McConnell was met with silence. Hawley — unbeknownst to some on the call, which was attended by Senate Republicans — was not present. He later emailed GOP colleagues to outline his decision to oppose final certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.


It’s been clear McConnell did not want to force Senate Republicans to go on record voting for or against Trump, and now a freshman Senator has gone rogue and didn’t even bother to get on the conference call.

The backlash to Hawley’s announcement that he would challenge the EC vote has been swift and hard. Former CIA Director John Brennan called Hawley the “Most Craven, Unprincipled, & Corrupt Senator” in a video here. Former Republican columnist Jennifer Rubin wrote that Josh Hawley reminds us that the GOP is the sedition party.

What is particularly reprehensible about Hawley’s move is that, unlike some of the deluded House members who signed onto the lawsuit, he knows his complaint is groundless. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, the former attorney general of Missouri and a law professor at the University of Missouri School of Law. He clerked for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and subsequently wrote Supreme Court briefs. He knows that what he is doing is antithetical to the Constitution, his oath of office and his obligations as a lawyer. Yale should ask for its diploma back; the Missouri bar should move to take away his license. Georgia voters should send Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate to deprive Hawley of the gavel on any committee and his party of the majority.

Republican Senator Ben Sasse lumped Hawley together with “ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage.”

The senator, who has emerged as one of the more vocal critics of Trump in a party that is staunchly loyal to the president, warned that the effort amounts to pointing a “loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.”

“We ought to be better than that. If we normalize this, we’re going to turn American politics into a Hatfields and McCoys endless blood feud – a house hopelessly divided,” he said.

Former Republican speech writer Michael Gerson weirdly tries to portray Hawley as an innocent victim of corruption.

As a former clerk to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Hawley surely possesses a serious understanding of the constitutional order. He is, on personal acquaintance, a talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young man.

The problem with political decadence is not what it does to those who are already disordered. The primary problem is what it does to talented, knowledgeable, ambitious young leaders who can be warped toward a destructive influence.

As I wrote yesterday, Hawley has been nothing but an ambitious grandstander since he won his first election. He was a waste of space as a state attorney general, more interested in promoting his political career and getting his name in the news than in doing his job. In the Senate his votes have been reliably right wing. So, basically, nobody needs this guy. Although I understand he’s a big hit on Parler.

I’m making no predictions about the Georgia runoff elections on January 5. January 6 is the Electoral College certification, and that could be a mess. Hard-right factions are planning multiple protests in Washington DC that day.

Threats of violence, ploys to smuggle guns into the District and calls to set up an “armed encampment” on the Mall have proliferated in online chats about the Jan. 6 day of protest. The Proud Boys, members of armed right-wing groups, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists have pledged to attend.

Charming. We should also expect some fake “alternate” electors to show up with their fake Electoral College ballots and demand they be counted.

On New Year’s Eve, the DOJ asked a federal judge to deny emergency injunctive relief sought by fake pro-Trump electors and Rep. Gohmert. The plaintiffs sued VP Pence in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas earlier this week. They argued that Pence has the power to select “competing slates of Presidential Electors” (there aren’t any) and argued that the Electoral Count Act of 1887 (ECA) is unconstitutional.

The DOJ’s answer to the extreme proposition that VP Pence has the power to ignore electoral votes and hand President Donald Trump a second term was straightforward: You are suing the “wrong defendant.”

The DOJ thinks the suit should have been against the Senate and the House, not the Vice President, who has no power to decide who the winner of the election might be.

Rep. Gohmert and a cast of purported competing GOP electors in Arizona—a state Trump lost to Biden—responded to that on Friday by claiming the argument is “easily disposed” of because they are right and DOJ is wrong.

Oh, well that settles it, then. At least Pence has signaled he wants nothing to do with this and has asked a judge to dismiss the suit. As many have noted, he also plans to leave the country as soon as the Electoral College business is dispatched.

Assuming the nation survives January 6 intact, Trump will still be president for two more weeks. When that’s over, I might feel like celebrating.