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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 1/8/21

Good morning! Can we breathe yet? I was trying to think of the proverbial “picture that speaks 1000 words.” What picture encapsulates the cancerous and dysfunctional administration best? The above is a legitimate candidate for that honor. You may recall it. There was a hurricane heading toward the Southeastern coast. Notwithstanding the predictions of experts, the President maintained the hurricane was headed toward Alabama (it wasn’t). The picture foreshadowed what was to come over the ensuing years:

  • If he says it’s so it must be so. This was one of the first times, but by no means was it the last, when it was decided that the Dear Leader is always right.

  • There wasn’t an adult willing to stop him. The president’s advisors could not stand up to him. Leadership, as we all know, requires the humility to retain the best advisors to provide counsel and to point out when the leader is wrong. The President surrounded himself with sycophants and when they stood up they would be fired. One key to the despots’ playbook: the stifling of dissent in the corridors of power.

  • Willingness to do anything—regardless how ridiculous—to curry favor. One of his enablers drew this clumsy extension of the hurricane’s cone “by Sharpie.” His enabler understood that one cannot tell the Dear Leader he is wrong and one should do everything possible to show that the leader is right.

  • Compliance must be absolute, in all things great and trivial. One must fight all dissent. This was a matter of little import. If he misspoke, so what? But even the most trivial thing—the most human error—the slip of the tongue—must be explained away because the Dear Leader can’t possibly be in error.

  • He must be pandered to—like a petulant child. We’ve heard a lot about his tantrums and, of late, his complete lack of balance. Rather than be confronted, he is coddled. Here, honey, how about this toy? Are you happy now? Want an Oreo? Rarely does this sort of parenting work.

  • The counterfactual can be made to be real and SCIENCE BE DAMNED. This was an early example of how easily the public’s view of the facts could be manipulated. Notwithstanding scientists’ understanding of meteorology, notwithstanding the history of recorded hurricane behavior, notwithstanding computer modeling, this illustration was modified—in plain view of the press and the public. And yet it was adopted as factual by supporters willing to be manipulated. The Trumpists learned from this that it would be easy to manipulate the public in the future.


Josh Hawley appeared as a bright object on the national stage--young, good looking and ambitious. He willingly picked up the mantle of “savior of elections.” And just as quickly as a comet appears brightly in the night sky, it completes its circumnavigation of the Earth, speeding back out into the dark firmament, not to be seen again for decades (let's hope). His hometown newspaper, the Kansas City Star, says has “has blood on his hands” for helping foment the hostility that resulted in Wednesday's violence, based upon unfounded allegations of election fraud. He will forever be seen in the mind’s eye raising his fist to the rioters, in celebration and victory. He engaged in a completely unfounded claim that the Congress met on Wednesday not to merely receive the Electoral votes certified by the states, but to stand in judgment of their elections and potentially modify the outcome of those elections. He claimed he objected to Pennsylvania’s electors based upon the fact there was not a court in Pennsylania to resolve the objection and, therefore, the Senate had to take it on. This is simply untrue. He’s a liar. There, I said it. It’s time we call things out for what they are. The Pennsylvania election officials have spoken. The courts have spoken. Repeatedly. The Supreme Court has spoken. Hawley’s objection is the stuff of Grand Guignol theatre.


Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz were educated in the finest Ivy League institutions of higher learning. They wear this badge proudly as a validation of their brilliance and accomplishment. Hawley clerked for the Supreme Court. They both took the fundamentally same Constitutional Law courses as the rest of us who have been admitted to the bar. They are wrong on the law and they know it. What these two anti-American dissemblers have failed to appreciate is that the degrees conferred upon them were not mere accolades to be added to their resumes; with those degrees comes responsibility. They have shamed the institutions they attended and the sacred responsibilities that these degrees demand. They may have gone to Harvard, Yale or Stanford, but they learned nothing.


The process Congress went through on Wednesday was to perform the administrative act of accepting the electors delivered to the Congress by the States. The disingenuous Republicans invoke the election of 1876 as justification for their craven actions. Either they do not know their history or they willingly choose to ignore it and lie to their supporters who crave justification for their illegalities.

1876 was completely different. Apologies for abbreviating the entirety of the sordid story but the simple key distinction is this… Congress was presented in 1876 with multiple slates of electors FROM THE STATES. In that election, legislatures sent a slate while governors sent competing slates. It was a mess, without the states able to deliver a definitive slate to Congress. Because of that, decisions had to be made about which slate to accept. The facts are completely different from those of today and the precedent is completely ludicrous. If you stayed up late Wednesday night you heard the Vice-President announce that one slate of electors at a time, confirming that a certificate was received, that it appeared to be in order and that it was the only one submitted. At that point, the slate was deemed accepted unless objected to. This time, the Republicans decided objection to an undisputed state action (remember that states determine the means and methods of their own elections) would be okay—based upon baseless claims of fraud.

As a postscript, Rutherford Hayes’s electors were finally accepted because Hayes consented to the end of Reconstruction. It was a dark day in American history. Had he instead refused, the entire history of Jim Crow might have been different.

People talk about the insurrection outside the Capitol that eventually broke in. But we need to focus on the insurrection taking place inside the Capitol. The certification of the electoral vote is a ministerial act. ONLY if there are competing electors does Congress interfere. Here, the physical insurrection outside was horrible but the insurrection against the Constitution inside the House chamber arguably was worse. Hawley, Cruz, et al. were completely out of line performing political theatre to feed grist to the mill of the hard-right.

Much as Halley’s Comet, which appears every 76 years and then flings back out in space, Josh Hawley’s comet had a brief few moments of light and now will wane, not to be heard from again. Inshallah.


I have read several Trump-apologists diminishing the rioting of Wednesday night as a “largely peaceful protest that got out of hand through the actions of the few.” They liken it to the Black Lives Matter protests and the Vietnam protests. Oh my… Here are a few things that were different:

  • In the prior instances they were actually protesting something important. Protesting police brutality and the murdering of defenseless Black people in the custody of the police qualifies as a legitimate beef where I come from. So does disputing a war that history has shown us to have been futile and pursued by leaders who knew of its futility. Here, people were complaining that their guy didn’t win an election and it wasn’t fair…without proof…

  • The Black Lives Matter protests actually were peaceful. Hundreds took place. Yes, looting and vandalism occurred at some and that’s bad. But it really was a few and generally toward the end of an otherwise peaceful rally.

  • The objective of the summer's rallies was not the destruction of property; here it was the primary objective.

  • The police were actively involved in quelling the other protests. Here, they stood idly by.

  • Here the Presidents and his allies were fomenting violence and insurrection. And they even warned us…

  • Here the symbols of democracy and the very acts of our democracy were attacked.

There is nothing similar about this summer's protests and this shameful riot. POLICE DE-ESCALATION AND BLACK LIVES The police stood down and allowed the venting of anger in the insurrectionist activities of Wednesday. On the one hand, I’m pleased that the police didn’t escalate. It proves that they are capable of doing so. But their de-escalation was in the presence of white protesters, protesting nothing of ideological importance—not civil rights, against a war, or in support of legislation. When the president wanted to have a photo opportunity in front of a church with a bible, peaceful protesters outside the White House were clubbed and gassed. They were protesting about police brutality and asking for criminal justice reform. These people on Wednesday were protesting for the victory of their candidate, notwithstanding the facts. There was NO legitimate protest taking place. Lauren reminded me this morning that the Rev. Raphael Warnock (now Senator) was arrested by Capitol Police s few years ago for praying in the rotunda of the Capitol to protest efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Seems like different responses to me… COMPLETE POLICE FAILURE Only fifty-two arrests. Four deaths. Why weren’t they prepared? They were warned, after all. Where were the paddy-wagons to pull in all these protesters and arrest them? Why so few arrests? They had plenty of notice. They had plenty of warning. They took selfies with the rioters. They opened the gates. They stood by. The national guard wasn’t called until neighboring states did so. The President preferred to watch. Time for D.C. to be a State. Time for a commission to figure out how this could have happened. More on these topics next week… Warmly, Glenn

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