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Today in Dumb Op-Eds: Pardon Me?

Just about every major outlet that covers politics has one or two or three token right-wingers. Some of them, like Henry Olsen at The Washington Post or Bret Stephens at The New York Times, sometimes have something interesting to say. Others are knee-jerk reactionaries whose pieces are invariably a waste of space, and often appear to be lifted directly from the list of talking points that the RNC circulates among GOP politicians and pundits each week.

Two of the very worst of the latter group are Marc Thiessen, who publishes his blather in the Post, and Rich Lowry, who edits National Review and also spews out nonsense for Politico. And yesterday, they both managed to produce the same basic op-ed. Thiessen's was headlined "Biden should pardon Trump. Really." And Lowry's was headlined "A Trump Pardon Could Drain Poison from the System."

We cannot know if these two men were just rehashing the RNC's weekly list, or if they arrived at the same place independently. Probably the latter, if only because we doubt the RNC is to the point of admitting that Trump might be in trouble. In any case, both Thiessen and Lowry make the same argument. From the Thiessen piece:

In pardoning Trump, Biden would be a true statesman. Sparing the country the ordeal of a trial would go a long way toward repairing the nation's frayed political fabric. He would display the kind of leadership that has been missing in Washington. And he would drive Trump crazy. With one action, Biden would eliminate the narrative of a "deep-state" conspiracy that is helping to fuel Trump's political comeback.

And from the Lowry piece:

What we should want to avoid is a pattern of legal retribution and counter-retribution. That would distort our legal process beyond anything that's happened to this point, further subordinating it to politics and undermining public trust in it. Perhaps this prosecutorial tribal warfare has already been unleashed, but a Trump pardon has a chance of sapping some of the poison out of the system.

It is not surprising that this is the argument they make, because it's really the only argument they can make. They can't exactly claim Trump is innocent, and that these charges are all trumped up (no pun intended), because the evidence is rather damning.

Of course, this argument conveniently overlooks two important things. First, it is a gross example of bothsidesism, rooted in the notion that Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of weaponizing the political system and equally guilty of injecting poison into American politics. There can be no doubt that Democrats bear some of the blame here, but we're not talking 50/50, or anything close to it. Maybe 70/30 for the Republicans (and, in particular, the Trumpublicans). Maybe 80/20.

The other problem is that criminal convictions serve several purposes, and one of the most important of those is to send a message to future would-be wrongdoers. There's really very little question that the pardon of Richard Nixon was partly responsible for teaching Trump that he could get away with anything. After all, The Donald literally deployed Tricky Dick's famous line "If the president does it, it's not illegal." Trump also had Nixon fanboy Roger Stone whispering in his ear on a regular basis. If Trump were to be pardoned, it would not only affirm that presidents are above the law, it would also send the message that national security is really no big deal.

In short, even if we put politics aside (and Joe Biden would infuriate Democrats if he let Trump off the hook), there's no way a pardon is forthcoming from this White House. And surely, Thiessen and Lowry know that. Truth be told, as we read these two pieces, there was a single word that kept popping into our minds: bargaining. Some Republicans, including Trump himself, are denying he did anything wrong. Still others, like Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his band of merry FCers, are venting their anger with the DoJ. Thiessen and Lowry are bargaining. Some Republicans, like Frank Luntz, are depressed, lamenting that the 2024 presidential election is probably a lost cause. And a few Republicans, like Bill Barr, accept that Trump blew it big-time, and that he's likely to be convicted.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Those are the five stages of grief. Is the Republican Party processing this in such a way that we'll eventually see some significant amount of acceptance? Stranger things have happened. (Z)

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