WASHINGTON (Tribune News Service) — Rev up Barry Goldwater’s car. Put Mitch McConnell in 1974 Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott’s seat. Put Kevin McCarthy in 1974 House Minority Leader John Rhodes’ seat.
And put in Goldwater’s seat any of today’s famous Republican senators you can trust to remain patriotic and true-to-his/her-word for a full 24 hours. (Sadly, John McCain would tell you, this rules out his pal, Lindsey Graham).
Then put pedal to metal and drive today’s three Republican elders on the same route those 1974 GOP elders rode back on Aug. 7, 1974 — when they made their famous short drive to the Nixon White House.
In 1974, Richard Milhous Nixon’s presidency had just been shattered by the public disclosure of Nixon’s Smoking Gun Tape. We all read Nixon’s words as he criminally plotted the cover-up of the Watergate burglary and multiple crimes.
And on that day in the summer of ’74, Goldwater, Scott and Rhodes told Nixon he had lost his party’s support and faced unavoidable impeachment and conviction. “Hopeless,” Goldwater said. Nixon announced his resignation the next day.
In 2021, Donald John Trump’s presidency has just been shattered by the public airing of recent recordings and videos of Trump’s unhinged intimidation of Georgia election officials and incitement of mob insurrection against the U.S. Congress.
On Wednesday, we saw videos and live breaking news of criminal and treasonous conduct unlike anything our country has ever seen. At a huge Trump rally behind the White House, we saw Trump inciting insurrection by urging his mob of 20,000 to march to Congress where, for hours, they committed acts of treason, terror and murder.
The mob that had been chanting “Stop the Steal!” arrived at the white domed Capitol, broke through windows and doors, killed a cop with a fire extinguisher, sent lawmakers fleeing in fright, occupied the Senate and House chambers, toppled and carried off furniture, defaced property and decorated a door by scratching into the paint “Murder the Media.”
They snuffed out our planet’s beacon of democracy as a shocked world watched. Trump initially said and did nothing. After McCarthy privately urged Trump to issue a strong condemnation, the president released a shameful wink-wink, elbow-in-the-ribs video snippet: “We had an election that was stolen from us, but you have to go home now ... We love you. You’re very special.”
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for invoking the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to declare a president impaired and transfer their duties to the veep. But Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t want that.
So Pelosi is moving to rush a second Trump impeachment through the House. A Senate conviction still seems unlikely, but it’s no longer impossible.
McConnell and McCarthy have deplored Wednesday’s violence but haven’t forcefully condemned Trump’s role. In these final days of the disastrous Trump era, the Republican leaders have one last chance to salvage their shamed party.
For the first time in the last four years, McConnell, McCarthy & Co. must tell their president what they really think of his conduct: They must tell Trump he lost their confidence when he incited what became mob insurgency against Congress.
They must tell him he appears publicly to have dangerously lost touch with reality and that fellow Americans and world leaders no longer trust him to remain in command of the U.S. military, nor in possession of the U.S. nuclear codes and other national security powers. While officials assure that Trump can’t launch nukes in a fit of derangement, the world leaders now view Trump as potential danger to global security.
Republican congressional leaders must ask Trump to relinquish the powers of the U.S. presidency, as Nixon did. And if Trump refuses, the Republicans must in effect take the car keys from their severely impaired party pal. They must insist that Pence and what is left of Trump’s fleeing Cabinet members have to invoke the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.
But we must understand the realities of the clock, the calendar, the Constitution and the country. With less than two weeks remaining in his term of office, Trump should be welcomed to continue residing in the public housing that is our White House until his presidential term ends at noon on Jan. 20.
He can remain in the people’s mansion, with all the rights, privileges and comforts of one who occupies our presidency. But without the constitutional powers and duties of the office of the president.
Those presidential powers must be transferred to the vice president. Immediately. To ensure the safety of us all.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send emails to martin.schramgmail.com. © 2021 Tribune Content Agency.