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Without the lies there would have been no Jan. 6 fiasco

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Dec. 7, 1941, isn’t the only day that will live in infamy, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt eloquently put it in his historic speech to a joint session of Congress one day after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Jan. 6, 2021, as far as many Americans are concerned, was another day of infamy, a horrible day in its own right.

And one year later, we can’t even agree on what to call what happened at the Capitol that day. Was it an insurrection? Domestic terrorism? Was it an attempted coup or simply a peaceful protest that got out of hand? Was it another day of infamy — or much ado about very little?

What we call it depends a lot on whether we’re on the “red team” or the “blue team,” whether we watch Fox or CNN. We can’t even agree on how the riot or insurrection or whatever we want to call it came about.   

Let’s compromise and simply call it what it was: a disgrace. And while we’re at it, let’s be clear: The cast of characters who stormed the Capitol, irresponsible and thoughtless as they were, were merely playing bit parts in that pathetic show — a show whose leading man was none other than Donald Trump, the man who also wrote the script.

For months before Jan. 6, 2021, Trump perpetuated the lie that the election was rigged. Then, for an hour he riled up his supporters with a fiery speech about the “stolen election.” The mob wouldn’t have been there in the first place if Trump hadn’t supplied them with dangerously false information. 

Liberals know this and are all too happy to remind everybody about Trump’s role in the fiasco that day. But too many Trump supporters — even now — pretend that what happened at the Capitol one year ago wasn’t his fault, that it was some kind of leftist plot. This doesn’t speak well for the red team.

Nothing you read from here going forward is intended to divert blame for what happened away from the bit players who stormed the Capitol, or from Trump himself. But nothing happens in a vacuum, especially when it comes to politics. Behavior — especially when it’s partisan — influences other behavior. One crazy theory often leads to another crazy theory, a political tit-for-tat.

So let’s go back to November 2016. Just days after Trump was elected president, Gallup conducted a poll that found almost one in four Americans (23 percent) who voted for Hillary Clinton did not believe Donald Trump was legitimately elected. And one week before he was sworn in, the late Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights icon from Georgia whose words often conveyed moral authority, was asked if he would try to establish a relationship with the president-elect. “It’s going to be very difficult,” he said. “I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.” In 2019, Hillary Clinton told CBS News, “I believe he [Trump] knows he’s an illegitimate president.” 

Liberals would have more credibility when they attack Trump for delegitimizing elections if they weren’t guilty of the same crime. Maybe if more prominent liberals had accepted the fact that Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton fair and square, there’d be fewer Republicans who so easily accept Trump’s phony story about how Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election.

And while we’re at it, let me remind my liberal friends that while they’re condemning Trump for concocting a story about a stolen election, they’re the same ones who champion Stacey Abrams, who, to this day, insists she would have won the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 except that Republicans, she claims, stole the election

As I say, one crazy theory often leads to another crazy theory, a kind of political tit-for-tat.

And now we have a poll from CBS News that chronicles how we feel about what happened one year ago on Jan. 6. 

There’s good news and bad news in the poll. The good news is that a vast majority of Americans disapprove of what happened that day — 83 percent. The bad news is that 17 percent — which translates to millions of Americans — approve of what happened at the Capitol.

Only 3 percent of Democrats “strongly approve” of what happened, and only 6 percent of Republicans strongly approve. That’s more good news. But while 81 percent of Democrats “strongly disapprove,” only 34 percent of Republicans strongly disapprove. That’s more bad news.

So what do we have to look forward to, one year later, besides more mindless partisanship? CBS News asked, “In future presidential elections, what do you expect?” Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that the losing side would concede peacefully — but 62 percent predicted violence.

We can’t agree on much anymore in the United States. We’re either on the red team or the blue team. Acknowledging that the other side may have a point is considered treason in some circles. But maybe we can leave our respective teams long enough to at least acknowledge this much:  that everyone who was responsible for what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, should be held accountable — and that includes the former president of the United States.

Could he be indicted by a Democratic Department of Justice for inciting a riot? If he were, might he be found guilty in a Washington courtroom? It’s possible, but do we really want to throw a former American president in prison for stupid, even reckless, things he said?  

I suspect that’s one more thing the two sides won’t agree on.   

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

Tags 2020 presidential election Donald Trump election stolen Hillary Clinton Jan 6 Capitol riot Joe Biden John Lewis Trump supporters

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