The definition of insanity, the saying goes, is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. In that context, the notion that President Donald Trump has been chastened by the events of last Wednesday and poses no further threat to the republic in his final days in office sounds a little, well, crazy.
Yet that’s the position of Sen. Roy Blunt and other supposed grownups in the GOP room who say Trump should finish out his term without pressure for resignation or removal. Trump “touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again,” Missouri’s senior senator said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.
Talk about expecting a different result. In fact, every minute Trump retains power is another opportunity for him to finish the assault on America that he began with Wednesday’s conflagration on Capitol Hill.
At a fundamental level, the attack was one branch of America’s government attacking another — not metaphorically but literally. It was an unprecedented leveling of violence by a sitting president against Congress for the expressed purpose of preventing a peaceful transition of power. Trump lit the match by egging on his followers to march on the Capitol. Then he refused to forcefully push back as the mayhem unfolded, telling the insurrectionists: “We love you. You’re very special” in a video message. In the same message, he continued to promote the baseless lies about voter fraud that fueled the fire to start with.
So, no, he most certainly has not touched the hot stove and learned his lesson.
This president has demonstrated repeatedly he isn’t going to glean any lesson now beyond the lesson of what he can get away with. After Trump’s impeachment last year, some Senate Republicans justified their dereliction of duty in acquitting him with the fanciful idea that he’d learned his lesson. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, predicted back then.
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley has, justifiably, become a national political pariah for his central role in promoting Trump’s election lies and stoking unhinged anti-democracy anger. But Hawley’s nihilistic politics sit on the extreme. Of more concern is the position of putatively mainstream GOP leaders like Blunt, who, while not banging the drums like Hawley & Co., still seem to not get it.
Trump attempted a violent overthrow. He has expressed no regret, neither for the loss of life nor the damage to constitutional democracy. The House was more than justified to draw up a new article of impeachment Monday. To the extent that Blunt’s “hot-stove” analogy is relevant at all, it’s not a lesson for this unteachable president — but for Blunt himself, and for the others in his party who still claim to care about their oaths.