The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 8

From a historical perspective, last week’s events rank up there with the 9/11 attacks and the 1814 burning of the Capitol by British troops for the sense of existential crisis and tumult they wrought on the American psyche. What the nation witnessed live on television Wednesday was an American president rallying his followers outside the White House to march on Capitol Hill while his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, urged them to convene a “trial by combat.” President Donald Trump’s storm troopers dutifully complied.

Inside the Capitol, Senators Josh Hawley of Missouri and Ted Cruz of Texas led a Republican attempt to block certification of a legitimate presidential election so Trump could remain in power despite having lost the Nov. 3 election. The two senators, again on national television, joined forces with the president to promote a list of lies and deliberate distortions. They helped whip up the hysteria among Trump’s supporters by lending credence to his assertions that the election was stolen. Thus motivated by Hawley and Cruz, and commanded by Trump and Giuliani, hundreds scaled the walls of the Capitol, bashed in windows, forced open doors, and began their rampage while Vice President Mike Pence and Senate and House members ran for cover. Five people died, including a Capitol police officer.

What America witnessed was the attempted destruction of democracy, with Missouri’s junior senator helping lead the way — at the very moment he was issuing an appeal for campaign donations. His earliest sponsor and mentor, former Sen. Jack Danforth of Missouri, now says he regrets ever having backed Hawley. One of the senator’s biggest donors, businessman David Humphreys, says Hawley should face Senate censure. A Republican colleague, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, questioned the “perverse incentives” driving Hawley and told National Public Radio that soliciting donations during a Senate session was “disgusting.” Publisher Simon & Schuster canceled a book deal with Hawley, citing “his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

This newspaper stands by our call for Hawley to resign. The damage he inflicted on American democracy won’t be easily repaired. Missourians can no longer afford to keep in power a senator who demonstrates not the faintest understanding of what democracy actually means. For him, it is merely a tool for him to collect donations and climb the political ladder, perhaps to be installed in the same Oval Office where his mentor in megalomania now sits. Just as Trump must be held accountable by Congress for his actions, so must Hawley and Cruz.

But Hawley is already fighting back as if he’s the one who was wronged. He called Simon & Schuster’s action “Orwellian” because he was “representing my constituents” by leading the Senate debate on “voter integrity, which they (his constituents?) have now decided to redefine as sedition.” He called the publisher’s action a “direct assault on the First Amendment,” which is as patently absurd as his claims to be representing his constituents and fighting for voter integrity. Simon & Schuster runs a business. It canceled a business deal. Hawley, who claims to be a constitutional scholar, knows fully well that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the First Amendment. His incompetence is now on full display. Do his constituents now have to worry that he is becoming unhinged under pressure, exactly as Trump has?

Trump’s removal from the presidency before Inauguration Day is not just a matter of principle but of national security. That he is a menace to American democratic governance is no longer in question. He employed the full powers of his office to direct a deadly assault on Congress. The evidence in this case is irrefutable, and Republican moderates in Congress should have no problem joining their Democratic colleagues in swiftly approving articles of impeachment — making him the only president in history to be impeached twice.

Two of his most loyal Cabinet members, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, resigned over Trump’s incitement of violence. “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me,” DeVos said in her resignation letter. Chao’s withdrawal is doubly significant because she’s the wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose life was endangered during the assault.

That Trump is of dubious mental stability also is no longer debatable. Senior aides say he is obsessed with the Nov. 3 election. The attack prompted Twitter and Facebook to block Trump’s accounts. Shortly after Trump’s Twitter account was reinstated, he launched into yet another tirade about how the “75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me … will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” Trump has expressed not one whit of remorse for the damage he inflicted.

His incitement of a deadly insurrection was criminal and must be prosecuted. Even Sen. Cruz referred in a tweet to the Capitol Hill attackers as “despicable terrorists.” Those words have serious legal implications. Under anti-terrorism statutes, the United States in 2011 launched a precision airstrike with a Hellfire missile to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in southeast Yemen. No evidence surfaced publicly that Awlaki was ever directly involved in a terrorist attack. His alleged crime was using words to incite others to commit acts of terrorism.

Words matter. And it was Trump’s words that inspired what Cruz describes as an attack by “despicable terrorists” on the Capitol. Trump waited more than three hours after the attack to urge the terrorists to withdraw. By then, their deadly damage was done. Trump also delayed and ignored urgent pleas from members of Congress to deploy the National Guard — all because he clearly agreed with what the insurrectionists were doing.

This is the behavior of a madman. Most troubling is the fact that this madman retains full control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. He must be removed from office before his worst impulses take over and he unleashes Armageddon in the name of being “disrespected or treated unfairly in any way.”

If Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet won’t take action under the 25th Amendment, Congress must initiate impeachment proceedings. The exercise might not succeed, but at least it would tie his hands for the remaining 10 days in the hope that Pence and Trump’s advisers can keep his fingers as far away as possible from the nuclear launch codes.


The St. Joseph News-Press, Jan. 8

Donald Trump was right about one thing. Greatness still eludes us.

As scenes of chaos unfolded in our nation’s capital Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger told NBC News that when angry mobs storm government buildings, the CIA often takes it as a sign to get American citizens out of a particular country. She would know. She’s a former U.S. intelligence officer.

What we witnessed Wednesday was not an image befitting the greatest democracy on earth, but something you’d see in a third-world nation with a tin-pot dictator.

This is what it comes down to, after four years of bullying, vilifying, conspiracy theories and stirring up the base. The Capitol on lockdown. A constitutionally mandated meeting disrupted. Tear gas in the air. A Confederate flag waiving outside the Senate chambers. Protesters rifling through lawmakers’ offices, standing on the Senate dais and walking off with souvenirs. Elected representatives cowering in fear.

Apologists will point to BLM protests at U.S. cities this summer or what happened at Josh Hawley’s house the other night. Hogwash. Those acts of disorder and intimidation are shameful and should be strongly opposed in no uncertain terms, but this is something completely different. This incursion at the U.S. Capitol strikes at the heart of American democracy and shows an appalling disregard for this nation’s institutions, traditions and the peaceful transfer of power.

This must be repudiated, unequivocally, by all Americans and political leaders, regardless of party affiliation or views on the election results. Trump, who earlier in the day vowed to never back down and led his supporters in a profanity-filled chant, must take responsibility for his central role in providing the fuel that sparked this mayhem.

If he doesn’t, then other leaders need to step up to the plate. Sen. Hawley, photographed giving a raised fist to protesters prior to the mob assault, should do his part to calm rather than roil the waters. All Americans must ask if fealty to one man is as important as adherence to a higher ideal. There are 330 million people in this country. Perhaps there’s someone else out there that can keep our taxes low?

After this dark day in U.S. history, one of the most eloquent statements came from George W. Bush.

“To those who are disappointed in the results of the election: Our country is more important than the politics of the moment,” he said. “Let the officials elected by the people fulfill their duties and represent our voices in peace and safety.”

Bush was president during another dark time in our nation’s history: the 9/11 attacks. That was worse, in terms of destruction and lives lost, but Jan. 6 breaks our hearts for another reason.

We did this to ourselves.


The Joplin Globe, Jan. 10

Lawmakers who have returned this week to Jefferson City face no shortage of challenges. Everything swings on the state’s ability to bring COVID-19 under control as quickly as possible.

We urge lawmakers to take whatever steps they can to expedite distribution of and access to the vaccines, and that includes a measure that would permit dentists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations according to state rules. State Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin, wants to provide some liability protection for health care operations as well as businesses that switched manufacturing in order to make products related to the pandemic, such as hand sanitizer. His proposal makes sense on the surface, although the devil will be in the details as they are hammered out by lawmakers. It’s worth discussing, but we’ll reserve judgment for now.

Some lawmakers this year have proposed limiting the ability of local officials to close businesses, require masks or issue other health-related orders. That’s best left to local control, and we don’t think there’s a role for lawmakers or a need to get involved.

Funding for K-12 and higher education must remain a priority, despite the projected $400 million drop in general revenue. Health care, too, is front and center, with additional costs because Missouri voters expanded Medicaid last summer. The state has options for raising revenue — Missouri’s cigarette tax is low-hanging fruit. The tax of 17 cents per pack is not only the lowest in the country but imposes additional burdens in the form of higher health care costs. In other words, this low tax is costing us money. We could go up by $1.60 a pack and still be below the national average. As we have argued before, there waits hundreds of millions of dollars that could be used for health care and education.

Highways and bridges, too, must also be addressed. Here again, Missouri has options. While we have the seventh-largest highway system in the nation, we also have one of the lowest gas taxes at just 17 cents per gallon. Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, wants to put a proposal before voters boosting the gas tax by 2 cents per year, for five years, taking it to 27 cents. That would still be below the national average. This is an increase Republicans could get behind, as gas tax increases have been endorsed by Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

By the way, one study concluded Missouri is losing $8 billion annually because of rough roads, fuel waste caused by congestion, and traffic accidents; for Southwest Missouri, the study put the cost at $1,500 annually per driver. Another instance of a low tax actually costing us money.

All we ask is that some percentage of that additional transportation revenue, should it be approved, be committed to providing matching grants for communities and organizations that want to develop trails, prioritizing the 140-mile Rock Island opportunity that awaits on the south side of the Missouri River.