January 7, 2021. Again, I’m watching CNN. Today is the morning after the Trump supporters’ riot at the national capitol, when they broke windows, swarmed inside, and tramped through the offices of US senators stealing papers and laptops. One of the protestors, a woman, was shot and killed, apparently by police.
CNN, a.k.a. the Clinton Channel, is putting an extreme spin on this. It is not just a protest or even a riot, but an insurrection, and attempted coup, an act of treason, a “terrorist attack on the United States Capitol.” I agree with CNN that the rioters were wrong, and that the police should have beaten them back with tear gas and sticks. CNN’s language, though, bothers me. Terrorism is the use of extreme violence — bombing, kidnapping and murder — to intimidate political rivals. Insurrection is a violent uprising against established authority. A coup d’état is an illegal seizure of power. Treason is betraying one’s country in time of war.
This wasn’t any of that. This is not part of a war or an attempt to overthrow the government. Overthrowing the government would require purpose and organization, including support of the military and much of the intelligentsia and the news media. The demonstrators had none of that. Even calling their action an insurrection is stretching the facts. Really it was a protest that degenerated into low-level violence. What made it alarming was where it was done — that it was at the Capitol at the moment when the Senate was meeting to ratify the results of the national election; and that President Trump had fomented it. It was fair to blame the riot on him and to call it an insult to the nation’s traditions and law. But it should have been obvious to the news people that disrupting the Senate for an hour or two was not going to do anything. It was certainly not going to overturn a national election and stop Joe Biden from being inaugurated as president on January 20.
This is not part of a war or an attempt to overthrow the government. Overthrowing the government would require purpose and organization.
Compare CNN’s language in the riot of January 6 — its mock shock, as if this was the Bolsheviks storming the Winter Palace — with its gentle language the previous summer during the George Floyd riots. Back then, rioters were torching businesses all across the country. In Minneapolis they burned down a police station. In my hometown, Seattle, they took over a police station and a six-block territory and declared it to be independent of the United States. During the month-long existence of the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone,” four men in Seattle were shot and killed.
Did CNN label any of that as an insurrection? As treason? No; they repeatedly called it “mostly peaceful demonstrations,” emphasizing over and over the protesters’ heartfelt beliefs and admirable political purposes. CNN pooh-poohed the role of antifa, which was real (at least in Seattle), and never called the demonstrators “domestic terrorists” or “far-left.” Never.
As I listen to CNN, it is doing another thing. It is quoting politicians calling for Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Trump from office. By quoting many people saying this and few people opposing it, essentially CNN is campaigning for this to be done.
The people who demand the use of the 25th Amendment should call it up and read it. Like the process of impeachment, it is a clumsy mechanism. It allows the vice president (who was chosen by the president) to take power with the support of either a majority of the cabinet (whose members were chosen by the president) “or of such other body as Congress may by law provide.” Congress could have provided such a law in advance, but it never has, and to do it now would require the signature of Donald Trump, unless each house had a two-thirds majority to override his veto.
By quoting many people saying this and few people opposing it, essentially CNN is campaigning for the 25th Amendment to be invoked.
Then, after the vice president takes over, if the president objects, which Trump no doubt would, Congress would be called to vote. To stay in power, the vice president would need two-thirds majorities in both houses.
Imagine going through all that now, in the last two weeks of a president’s term. I did note that CNN interviewed John Bolton, former assistant to the president for national security. I am no fan of Bolton, but I did agree with him when he said that the 25th Amendment would open doors that would better be left closed and that the first thought should be, “Do no harm.”
CNN loves to fan the fire, at least when the flames threaten the people it doesn’t like. It’s an irresponsible way to run a news network.