When you do not have a good case supporting taking an action, one tried-and-true strategy of persuasion is to pile up a mountain of trivial and ridiculous assertions and point to it as proof that you are right. If someone diligently digs through the mountain, he will find that there is nothing of substance there. But, many people will just see a mountain of accusations and figure there must be truth behind the assertion.
That deceitful persuasion strategy appears to be at play in the resolution (H.Res. 21) the United States House of Representatives voted to approve Tuesday evening. Through the resolution, the House calls on Vice President Mike Pence to use immediately executive branch procedure described in the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution to make Pence the acting president, removing President Donald Trump from presidential powers.
The resolution’s mountain of absurd and irrelevant statements supposedly supporting this monumental action of replacing Trump with Pence in exercising the presidential powers is presented in the resolution’s twelve “whereas” clauses. These “whereas” clauses are largely focused on what the resolution laughingly calls an “insurrectionary mob” that gained “illegal entry” into the Capitol. Sure, some people did force their way into the Capitol and do some damage on January 6. Others just walked right in open doors, some apparently opened by the police guarding the building. And many of the people who entered the Capitol acted like tourists, looking around, taking pictures, and even respecting ropes demarking authorized walkways. The situation was far from an insurrection or coup.
There was not widespread looting and destruction in the US Capitol as has occurred when groups of people have forced their way into capitols in other nations. There was also nothing like the looting and property destruction that has been taking place in group actions across America month after month. After a few hours, all the “insurrectionary mob” had left. Some were arrested. Most of them just strolled out. The House and Senate then promptly reconvened in their chambers.
Considering a few of the absurd entries in the resolution’s long list of supposed horrors that are included to instill fear in Americans and justify replacing Trump with Pence in the exercising of presidential powers illustrates how the resolution’s ignoble argument technique works.
In the resolution’s second “whereas” clause comes the statement that “… rioters were recorded chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence’ and ‘Where’s Nancy’ …” First, was this really rioters or just protestors? Remember, there were far more people who just participated in rallies that day and were involved in nothing that could rationally be called a riot. But, the House resolution rolls it all together into one big nasty, scary, and fantastical group.
Chants like these are not the politest but can pop up at gatherings of people of various political views — conservative, liberal, et cetera. The chants can be meant, like “Hang Mike Pence,” as hyperbole or as a statement of a punishment that should be undertaken after the proving of a capital crime in a court trial that respects due process. “Where’s Nancy” is far from threatening without providing some context that indicates the people saying it are taking action to physically harm someone — context not provided in the resolution. Remember the old “Where’s Waldo?” books that led children across America to dread leaving their homes? Me neither.
Trump is blamed in the resolution for these supposedly especially terrible chants because they are claimed to have occurred “… when President Donald J. Trump tweeted to his supporters that ‘Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country’ …”
Trump actually posted that at Twitter to be seen by anyone who might come across his tweet, not just his supporters, and definitely not just people in and around the Capitol. It seems in this tweet that Trump was expressing his negative judgment on Pence for, shortly before the tweet was posed, having failed to do what Trump had previously stated publicly Pence should have done — challenge some of the electoral votes Pence presented to Congress members in the Capitol.
Trump’s rebuking comment concerning Pence’s failure to do as Trump desired was natural and expected. Nonetheless, in the resolution it is painted as something particularly nefarious because, while posted shortly after Pence’s action, it also is claimed to have been posted while the singled-out chanting was occurring and “after the Capitol had been overrun and the Vice President was in hiding.” Was Pence in danger? I doubt it. The resolution provides no more detail on the matter.
Like Twitter’s argument on Friday for its permanent banning of Trump, the House in its resolution is trying to turn ordinary comments of Trump into nefarious communications based on the idea that some people somewhere may interpret the comments in a twisted fashion.
Trump emerges again in the sixth “whereas” clause. (“Whereas” clause one and “whereas” clauses three through five are all playing up the actions of the so-called insurrectionary mob in the capitol without any mention of Trump.) Here is the complete sixth “whereas” clause:
Whereas these insurrectionary protests were widely advertised and broadly encouraged by President Donald J. Trump, who repeatedly urged his millions of followers on Twitter and other social media outlets to come to Washington on January 6 to ‘Stop the Steal’ of the 2020 Presidential election and promised his activist followers that the protest on the Electoral College counting day would be ‘wild’;
See the switcheroo here? The “whereas” clause starts off by declaring that Trump did something dastardly: He “widely advertised and broadly encouraged” “these insurrectionary protests.” The suggestion is that all the lawbreaking, violence, property destruction, theft, and even death the resolution blames on people who entered the Capitol on January 6 was according to Trump’s plan. Yet, the “whereas” clause then fails to back that suggestion with any evidence.
The “whereas” clause merely recounts the fact that Trump encouraged his followers via social media websites to come to a rally taking place on January 6 in Washington, DC titled “Stop the Steal” (“Steal” here refers to the presidential election being stolen so that Joe Biden instead of Trump was declared the victor) and that the event would be “wild.” No surprise there. Trump wanted a lot of people to show up at his event, and he sold the event in typical Trump fashion. His own promotion efforts have been important for helping bring out big crowds for his 2016 and 2020 election campaign rallies as well. Trump succeeded again with a large rally occurring on June 6.
Trump is a salesman and has been for a long time. He sold the rally much like before he became president he sold Trump Steaks through a superlatives-stuffed endorsement. His being a salesman and using his salesman skills to promote a big turnout for his rally is reason to revoke Trump’s presidential power? Whatever.
The resolution goes on and on with more fearmongering about the “insurrectionary mob” and inflated and contrived horrors. Here and there Trump is mentioned for some unfounded blaming for it all. And the nonsense continues to flow through the rest of the resolution’s 12 “whereas” clauses.
One of the more ludicrous mentions in the resolution is in the penultimate “whereas” clause. There we are informed about a “Confederate battle flag” being “brandished” in the Capitol. Brandished? It’s a flag, not a gun, people. My best guess is the resolution is referring to the so-called Confederate Flag Guy who was captured in photos carrying a large Confederate battle flag on a pole in the Capitol on January 6. Note that in photos he was simply carrying the flag, not using it as a weapon or threatening people with it.
Photos of the “Confederate Flag Guy” can be seen on his own Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) wanted poster. Here are the details provided on the poster: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Washington Field Office is seeking the public’s assistance in identifying individuals who made unlawful entry into the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C.” That’s it? “Unlawful entry.” Did this guy get his own wanted poster just because he is carrying the flag? Plenty of other people being sought for “unlawful entry” are on group posters. For example, these ten people.
Maybe the FBI has some reason beyond the flag for placing extra emphasis on finding the “Confederate Flag Guy.” But, the 25th Amendment resolution just mentions a person having carried or, as the resolution ridiculously terms it, “brandished” a Confederate battle flag as if that itself is some horrible crime.
On any ordinary day, people are free to walk through the Capitol wearing clothing featuring the Confederate battle flag, so the supposedly special danger here is absurd. Are we supposed to think just carrying any flag is a problem? Other people in the Capitol around the same time were carrying large American flags on poles. There is no mention in the resolution about that.
What is commonly called the Confederate battle flag is more properly called the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. That army fought on the Confederate States of America side against the US in the 1860s. And who was a leader of that army? General Robert E. Lee.
A statue of Lee that had been on display, with congressional approval, in the Capitol since 1909 was removed from the Capitol in December. Yet, the very next month, this House resolution is asserting we should feel especially threatened by “Confederate Flag Guy” being in the Capitol. Ridiculous.
“Ridiculous” is a good summation of the entire 25th Amendment resolution.
Reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.