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No running away

Donald Trump soon will be gone, but we can’t give a pass to those who made his worst actions possible. May their duplicity stick to them like Velcro.

Supporters of President Donald Trump clash with the police before breaching the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Supporters of President Donald Trump clash with the police before breaching the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
AP Photos

They can’t run away from this.

Even before the mob surged through the Capitol on Wednesday, Republican leaders who had spent the last four years making excuses for Donald Trump finally were trying to shake him off, hoping in the last gasps of his administration to reclaim their honor.

Well, forget it.

There was Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, solemnly chastising Trump and others for falsely claiming the presidential election had been rigged. “If this election were overturned by mere allegations from the losing side,” he said in the Senate on Wednesday morning, “our democracy would enter a death spiral.”

Great, Mitch. Well said.

But one nice speech won’t spare you from the harsh judgment of history.

Where was McConnell for the last two months, and even before the Nov. 3 election, when Trump was pumping out his baseless lies about the validity of the election? Had McConnell and his party stood up to Trump then, there would have been no mob — and nobody would have died.

But there was in fact a mob, a kind of hapless insurrection, rushing up the steps of the Capitol even as McConnell was speaking. And once the mob had desecrated the most hallowed building of our civic religion — democracy — and the darkness at the heart of the Trump presidency could no longer be denied, dozens of other Trump enablers tried to flee their own complicity.

Too late.

They are shocked!

Long-time members of Trump’s cabinet quit. They were shocked — shocked! — by Trump’s misbehavior. As if only now they could fully see the man’s low character.

Betsy DeVos, secretary of education, resigned, saying there was “no mistaking” Trump’s responsibility for the violence. Elaine Chao, secretary of transportation, resigned, saying she was “deeply troubled.” Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former acting chief of staff and current special envoy to Northern Ireland, resigned, saying “I can’t do it. I can’t stay.” John Costello, one of the country’s most senior cybersecurity officials, resigned, saying the violence on Capitol Hill was his “breaking point.”

How noble of them all. How false their claims of conscience ring. As if there was “no mistaking” Trump’s venality for the last four years. As if their “breaking point” had not come far too late.

Sorry, but they can’t run away from this.

Trump will be gone in a little more than a week, but our nation can’t give a pass to those who made his worst actions and impulses possible. May their duplicity stick to them like Velcro.

Persisting in a lie

Let’s remember, and vote out of office at the first chance, those senators and representatives who voted to overturn the presidential election results even after the mob overran the Capitol. To persist in the lie that there were serious questions about voter fraud — the lie at the root of Wednesday’s craziness — was unconscionable.

The six Republican senators were Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Roger Marshall of Kansas, John Kennedy of Louisiana and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

“The president’s language and rhetoric often goes too far,” Cruz bemoaned after the riot that he had helped incite, trying to slip free from shame. “I disagree with it, and I have disagreed with the president’s language and rhetoric for the last four years.”

Got that? We’re supposed to just forget that Cruz spent the last four years cheerleading for Trump at his worst.

The 147 Republican representatives who voted to overturn the election results included two from Downstate Illinois: Mike Bost and Mary Miller.

Miller is the clueless person, we should mention, who delivered a speech last week in which she quoted Adolf Hitler.

“Hitler was right on one thing,” she said. “He said, whoever has the youth has the future.”

At least we hope she was just clueless.

Prosecute those who crashed Capitol

Accountability must continue, as well, by tracking down and filing criminal charges against every protester who crashed into the Capitol, shoving through gates, slugging cops and smashing windows. There were hundreds of them, some armed, and their faces are conveniently clear — for identification purposes — in photos and video.

But here, too, there is already an effort afoot to rewrite reality. To blame lefty infiltrators. To equate a raid on Congress to a campus sit-in. To claim the innocence of a tourist.

“I followed hundreds of others through an open set of doors to the Capitol building to see what was taking place inside,” one of those marauders, Bradley Rukstales, of suburban Inverness, said in a statement after his arrest. “My decision to enter the Capitol was wrong.”

Regrets are nice. But what’s your take? Should Rukstales walk free?

In the next several weeks, there will be a growing call for our nation to move on from all this — a new president, a new day. But Trump did not act alone in trying to subvert the results of an honest election.

To move on too quickly is to forsake our responsibility to our democracy.

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