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    Friday, August 12, 2022

    Moral zombies at the center of government

    A video from a deposition with Mike Flynn, former National Security Advisor during the Trump Administration, is played as Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds a hearing at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 28, 2022. (Anna Moneymaker/Pool via AP)

    Perhaps the most permanent image to come out of Tuesday's hearing into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was of the cleanshaven Chief of Staff Mark Meadows bustling about to help Donald Trump overthrow the United States government.

    What do you want, sir? Do you want me to call the limo or would you rather I facilitate the end of American democracy? I'm here to serve ... you, that is.

    What we saw are high-placed political figures standing aside as Trump sent armed mobs into the Capitol. One after another presented themselves as moral blanks-for-hire.

    There was that video of the deposed Gen. Michael Flynn looking shrunken and scared as he pleaded the Fifth over and over. He didn't have the intestinal goop to even say whether he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America.

    Or perhaps Flynn didn't really know how he felt about it, especially since Trump was not there to tell him what to think.

    Asked whether the violence on Jan. 6 was justified, Flynn needed time with his lawyer. He finally squeaked out a request for elaboration. Was this a moral question or a legal question? Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said, "Both." And so Flynn took the Fifth on both.

    Could this pathetic figure possibly be the same military officer who, in 2016, led Trump's mobs in aggressive chants to lock up Hillary Clinton? It seems he was tough only as long as Trump rented him a piece of his shadow. As the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it: "The coward only threatens when he's safe."

    What about those strange hybrids who bucked Trump's wishes without quite grasping the enormity of the crimes he wanted them to commit? You have the Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers who, under enormous pressure to undermine the results of the 2020 election, refused to invalidate his state's vote count favoring Joe Biden. For this brave act, Bowers rightly received a Profile in Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation.

    But then he said he'd vote for Trump again "simply because what he did the first time, before COVID, was so good for the country."

    This was an "Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" sort of comment. Or to use a more recent example, it was praising Italy's Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, for allegedly making the trains run on time.

    Maybe there were things Trump did that Bowers liked. Every president has done things I liked (or didn't like), Trump included.

    But every issue — immigration, abortion, health care, the list goes on — must come in a distant second, third or fourth place to the right of Americans to choose their own leaders. You'd think that fomenting insurrection against the elected government would be a disqualifier for a second term.

    Bowers didn't lack for character. His deficit seems to be intellectual.

    Meadows is another case, and he is scarier because he seems totally vacant. There's nothing there — just a primitive need to maintain a perception of power. Meadows reportedly knew that what was going on at the Capitol could have been cataclysmic but didn't want to upset the boss.

    It bears repeating that the witness setting off this cluster bomb of revelations was Meadows' 26-year-old aide. Cassidy Hutchinson was a conservative Republican like Cheney, committee member Adam Kinzinger, and any number of right-leaning heroes willing to stare down Trump and his threatening goons.

    "Do you believe in the peaceful transition of power?" should be easy to answer. But not so for the moral zombies who, to our astonishment, rose so high in American government.

    Froma Harrop's column is distributed by Creators Syndicate.

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