The January 6 riot on the US Capitol was a cataclysm – incited by a President willing to lie for political gain and a political party willing to accommodate him out of fear of political retribution.
Nothing, apparently, has changed.
Karl: But – but, wait a minute, I mean, [Donald Trump] hasn’t taken responsibility. You heard Kevin McCarthy say – I mean, do you agree with what Kevin McCarthy said there, that the President must take responsibility, that the facts demand that he take responsibility for what happened on January 6?
Scalise: Well, first of all – now, I wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial about where I think the responsibility lays for January 6. And surely, there’s a lot of blame to go around.
But at the end of the day, the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, it was a disgrace. And they need to be held accountable. And in fact, over 180 have already been arrested. And I know the FBI’s working to root out every person who broke into the Capitol, who attacked police. There’s no place for that.
Um, “surely there’s a lot of blame to go around?”
Well, yes, there is. Trump, his enablers in Congress, conservative talk radio and TV, political professionals who seized on the stolen election lie to line their own pockets…..
But I don’t think that’s what Scalise means. In fact, he appears to be engaged in a “both-siderism” argument, the idea that bad people from all over the political spectrum were responsible for the damage done to the Capitol and the country on January 6.
In fact, as the interview wore on, Scalise went further down the “whataboutism” road.
“When you look at – look, Donald Trump has denounced what happened, and I think everybody should have been unequivocal in their denouncing of what happened, not only on January 6 but during the summer, when they were burning down cities, shooting cops, beating people in the streets,” he told Karl. “You – you saw … the left denouncing January 6, as we did. They didn’t denounce what happened during the summer.”
Worth noting here: While there was some violence at protests over racial in equity during the summer of 2020 it was a) not widespread and b) not an assault on the US Capitol while the vice president of the United States and members of Congress were inside it.
Also worth noting: Trump never denounced the violence on January 6. Quite the opposite.
“We love you. You’re very special,” Trump told rioters on that day.
Asked by Karl whether Joe Biden was the “legitimate” president, Scalise said this: “Look, Joe Biden’s the president. There were a few states that did not follow their state laws. That’s really the dispute that you’ve seen continue on.”
Which isn’t a simple “yes.”
What Scalise’s interview shows is that the internal politics of the House GOP conference – and the party’s broader base – simply leave no room for anyone to cross Trump. Still. Regardless of whether Scalise believes what he says about the election and the January 6 riot, he feels compelled to say those things because he knows that if he doesn’t toe the line, he can expect a leadership challenge, a censure from his state party and a likely primary challenge next year.
That fear of reprisal means that the GOP is still Donald Trump’s party, and will be until its elected leaders start putting principle over political calculation.