Correct me if I’m wrong here, but historically those who’ve sanctioned and supported domestic rebellion against the United States government have not been allowed a public platform in government to continue spreading their policy views to a wider audience. Jefferson Davis was indicted for treason following the Civil War with Congress even going so far as to impanel a jury for his prosecution, and he remained under indictment until President Andrew Johnson issued a general amnesty in 1868. Afterwards he remained popular in the defeated South, contributing to the deliberate falsification of the war’s origins that eventually became enshrined by the heirs of the Confederacy as the “Lost Cause.” But his participation in the legitimate U.S. machinery of government was understood to be forfeit.
And those who don’t actively incite insurrection but otherwise betray their country aren’t afforded any deference in matters of national security either. Aldrich Ames, the former CIA case officer who chose to work for the Soviet Union, disclosing the names of both U.S. officers and Russian sources and thus directly causing their deaths at the hands of the KGB, is not, as far as I am aware, regularly consulted on foreign policy matters by the State Department. John Anthony Walker Jr., who sold inside information about our country’s nuclear submarine capabilities to the Soviets, was not thereafter permitted to critique our nation’s naval tactics at meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Yet somehow the incoming Republican Congress—the majority of whom on Jan. 6, 2021, voted to illegally disenfranchise the majority of the American electorate; several of whom have voiced or lent their support to groups planning armed rebellion against our democratic government; and still more who have made common cause with those who violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6—seem to believe it still has some legitimate standing to criticize the current administration on matters of national security. For example, the newly elected Republican House majority has vowed to conduct investigative hearings about the process by which President Joe Biden ended our two-decade involvement in Afghanistan. Some of the very same voices involved in supporting and spreading Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that resulted in the Jan. 6 insurrection seem to believe that their criticism of President Biden’s manner of withdrawal of troops from the Afghanistan theater merits serious consideration by the American public. All of those harboring this astonishing misconception are, unsurprisingly, members of the Republican Party.
But they are grievously mistaken. By willfully aiding and abetting an attempted coup aimed at usurping a legitimately elected U.S. president—and thus attempting to overthrow a legitimately elected U.S. government—current Republicans have quite simply forfeited any standing they once may have had to criticize that president on any matter affecting this nation’s security. Not only have they forfeited that right, but any attempt by them to assert it—in staged, circus-like “hearings” or otherwise—should be met with the complete scorn it deserves.
What Republicans seem unable to collectively grasp, even at this point, is the sheer enormity of the treachery that their party committed on Jan. 6, 2021. Not only did the vast majority of them stand silently by while their party’s leader plotted and incited a violent uprising specifically engineered to thwart the peaceful transfer of power, but many of them were also directly involved in the plot itself. As the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attacks final report indicates, Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, for example, was instrumental in Trump’s attempt to subvert any action by the Department of Justice to forestall the planned coup through the appointment of a sympathetic seditious-minded lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, to the post of attorney general.
Perry, who purportedly sought a pardon from Trump after committing this act of treachery, appears to have been well aware that was he was doing was illegal. For someone with Perry’s military background, however, it was even worse than that. There is fundamentally little difference between an attempt to erase a legitimate, democratic U.S. election and participating in an armed assault against one’s country. To put it in terms that Perry—formerly a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard—might understand? He could scarcely have acted with greater disdain for his country had he crossed the DMZ into North Korea at the 38th parallel and trained his weapon on American troops.
And that’s the problem here: the lack of any acknowledgement—or even cognition—of just how profoundly and depravedly un-American Republicans’ actions on Jan. 6 actually were. A majority of the GOP caucus, 147 House Republicans in all (most of whom are still sitting members of Congress), stood up right after having been assaulted by a violent mob of thousands that their own leader had spurred on against them and voted to disenfranchise over 80 million American voters. Those 80 million Americans justifiably expected their supposedly “sacred” votes would be legitimately counted. Republicans unilaterally declared that no, they should not be counted, for no legitimate reason other than their desire to keep Donald Trump in power.
My parents were among the votes that these Republicans sought to disenfranchise. My father is a former Marine. The idea that a cadre of wingtip-clad fops in suits would try to erase the votes he served this country to protect is literally so appalling that it’s beyond his comprehension. It would be beyond comprehension for the same soldiers who fought and died against impossible defenses just to secure and retain a narrow strip of beach in Normandy, France. Those soldiers died to preserve the very institutions of our democracy that were so blithely and carelessly disregarded by Republicans, and so casually desecrated on Jan. 6.
No, this was no ordinary betrayal, no ordinary expression of disapproval. It was a wholehearted, concerted, and collective effort by Republicans to attack this country’s foundation, one that brooks no excuses or justifications. It is a stain on the Republican Party that will last for generations. Maybe they didn’t all realize it at the time, but that’s exactly what it was, and it should continue to haunt every single one of those Republicans who has since tried to evade it, justify it, or otherwise explain it away.
This may be hard for some Republicans to face. It was only a few short decades ago that Republicans painted themselves as the party of national security while simultaneously painting Democrats as “soft” on defense. Those were times when the media worked hand in hand with Republican administrations to instill the myth of Republican supremacy in all matters properly allotted to the provenance of the so-called "daddy" party. They were times when people like former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, surfing the serendipity of the horrific 9/11 attacks, could darkly warn liberals and others that they ought to "watch what they say," lest they run afoul of Republicans' innate, heartfelt patriotism.
But that time is past. It went away for good when Republicans hitched their star to Donald Trump. The real moment of cognitive dissonance came in 2017, when Republicans found themselves faced with a stark choice. They could accept the fact that the man they'd just made their president had solicited and accepted the assistance of Vladimir Putin to get himself elected, or they could compartmentalize, rationalize, and deny that fact into oblivion, in effect accepting such treachery as their "new normal." In reality, they didn't make this decision wholly by themselves; they clicked on their soothing Fox News for comfort and reassurance. But winking at the perfidies of Donald Trump was one thing; it was enlisting in full-throated support of an insurrection against American democracy, parroting the Big Lie, and continuing to foster the corrosive poison of election denial that served to really seal the deal.
For that reason, Republicans have disqualified themselves from “investigating,” “critiquing,” or “criticizing” this president on any matter regarding national security. How can a political party that has sought to destroy democracy be heard to criticize the very measures intended to preserve it? Republicans don’t like how the administration handled the Afghanistan withdrawal? Think they can criticize it? They just no longer have that right, or the moral authority to do so.
Sorry, Republicans, but you threw out your right to criticize this president on such matters when you tried to overthrow the U.S. government. Your protestations, your criticisms, your “investigations” fundamentally do not matter, because coming from you, they are less than worthless. As a thought experiment, just imagine if a Democratic president, supported by a Democratic Congress, had attempted to subvert an election in this way, by voting to disenfranchise a clear majority of Americans after a violent, failed coup. Would Republicans give them the time of day and allow them to air a collection of vindictive conspiracy-mongering allegations against a legitimately elected president, or about national security and military matters?
No, they’d be laughed out of the hearing room. As any Republicans—who have the temerity and sheer gall to criticize this administration on any matters involving the security of the American people—rightly should be.