A Star Descendant

Josh “Power to the Mob” Hawley. Photo by Francis Chung.

Personal responsibility is hard. Stepping up and owning mistakes must go completely against human nature, given how many of us (you all, I mean — I’m pretty sure I’m perfect) try to duck even the least egregious of actions.

As a business owner, I’m well versed in the “I dunno” and “It wasn’t me” responses for the most mild of questions: “Who left the bathroom light on?” “How did this screen break?” These aren’t even particularly accusatory situations, although I do get tired of turning off bathroom lights.

I see this happen a lot with parents, too: no child in the room did whatever minor thing could only have been done by some child or children in the room. So obviously this self-protection starts early.

One could argue that it’s a required political skill: claim credit whenever possible, disavow responsibility when expedient. Or is that cynical? Even if events such as Wednesday’s defilement of democracy only serve to further that cynicism. It turns out that the same people who don’t leave bathroom lights on and never break screens are in charge of our country. “I dunno” and “It wasn’t me” are front and center as the entire world reels from the sight of lawless disorder in the cradle of American democracy.

I have a friend who works for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the District of Columbia. Prior to the pandemic he worked from home about half the time; since the pandemic he’s been there full-time. But just before Wednesday, his entire bureau was instructed to stay well away from the office. Stay home, stay safe was the edict — ahead of any of the day’s events. If the CFPB could foretell the possibility of danger, why couldn’t those in charge of safety?

The answer, of course, is that they could, but orders from the very top rendered the National Guard inert. Why the Capitol Police bungled their job so badly remains to be investigated, although the police chief — someone who apparently normally engenders a lot of respect from a broad spectrum — has resigned. And I did not hear until late yesterday, in a single sentence, that the force sustained numerous casualties in Wednesday’s melee, including now a fatality.

But while there’s been plenty of deserved piling on for the instigator-in-chief and his immediate moronic minions, his sons and the ever-bumbling Guiliani, there seems to be little to no self-awareness in the hall of congress for any culpability there, as though four years of enabling complete ineptitude and outright fabrication had no bearing on Wednesday’s riotous takeover of the Capitol. I dunno. Wasn’t me.

It took the loss of Senate control with the Georgia run-off for several to realize the damage their sycophancy has caused to the Republican party, even if none of them yet see themselves as culpable. But they changed their tune, and tone, just ahead of Wednesday. Others realized it in the hours they spent huddling in lockdown in secured locations of their own work building. But it’s also clear that some just aren’t going to get it at all.

Even as they watch where naked pandering takes us as a country (“Stand back and stand by,” “be wild” “Let’s march to the Capitol, even though by ‘us’ I mean ‘you’ while I will retreat to the safety of my TV and Twitter account”), some men — at least two — still have more ambition than sense.

Ted Cruz was a hopeless case from the outset. There really just isn’t anything you can say about someone who turns slander of himself and his family into slavish devotion to the slanderer and his white supremacist cult, particularly when your name, Rafael Edward Cruz, doesn’t sound like a winner in white supremacist circles.

But Josh Hawley. He was a rising star of the Republican party — one who is now going to flame out much earlier in his career than he intended, looking around for others to blame even as I Dunno and Wasn’t Me turn sharply inward.

The first substantive thing I heard of ambitious Seditious Hawley came back in April, when he was suggesting, as was Democrat Pramila Jayapal of the House, that the government pay some large percentage of people’s wages to keep them in their jobs even as everything shut down. It was the European model, and it would have been a far simpler solution than the convoluted options congress eventually came up with.

Other than that, I didn’t know a whole lot about the young (or middle-aged) man from Missouri. I still don’t, but now I no longer want to, because anyone whose ambition is writ so large and so obviously, all his calculations focused exclusively on his own ends no matter the means . . . well, we just lived through four years of that, and that was the longest decade of my life.

A photographer captured Josh Hawley fist-pumping and ginning up the people who shortly thereafter would invade the Capitol, and apparently while he was under lockdown, he and the unctuous [that’s for you, Pete!] Ted Cruz sent out solicitations for campaign donations.

And instead of emerging from lockdown a more somber, statesman sort, he persisted in his objection to the Electoral College votes presented to congress. There is a great deal of dispute and debate as to whether the man who nearly ruined a nation under his watch really thinks the election was stolen from him, but there’s no doubt: Josh Hawley knows it was a free and fair election, but figured it was in his best interest to continue to hype the falsehood even after people were injured and even killed — even after the very halls of democracy were breached by a lawless mob whose votes he seems to value above all others.

Here’s the thing, though, craven young/middle-aged Hawley: it was not in your best interest. When Generals Mattis and Kelly, who stood silent far longer than they should have (wasn’t me), denounce the president as the quisling he is, and even the most president-apologetic columnists (and newspapers like the Wall Street Journal) find massive fault (although none of their own) in the unpresidential events of Wednesday, you should understand it is long past time to hop off that bus.

But Hawley went back in and voted against a free and fair election, as if that will make America great again. He did decry the violence, mere hours after he himself encouraged these demented people, but it seems too little too late: his publisher has dropped his book deal. His state newspapers find him to be at fault. More to the point, so do some of his donors. Ex-donors.

He is not, and never will be, the television huckster who can charm singles out of the flat wallets of the misguided among us, even if he was trying to cadge those dollars in the midst of an insurrection. Losing donors could be that fatal blow.

The Republican party has a lot of work to do, figuring out what it wants to be as it grows up in the wake of these last years that happened with no input from anyone other than the chump at the top (who still got rousing applause when he called into a gathering of the National Republican Committee Thursday morning, a committee whose chair is unopposed despite losing both houses of congress and the White House).

What it really needs to do is find someone willing to take that really difficult step up to personal responsibility, the person who will stand up and say, It was me, and now I need to try to fix this. I dunno — good luck with that.

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