“Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.”
— THOMAS PAINE
September 2022

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Moral Leadership

Dear Mr. President,

Tonight’s “Soul of the Nation” speech was powerful and you delivered it well. Thanks for that. But something was missing, namely what you can and will do about it.

You are far more a man of action than some of your Democratic predecessors. You got us out of Afghanistan, for example, executed clumsily but without temporizing. Rather than allowing Russia to undertake indefensible conquest, as we did with Crimea, you fashioned a coalition the likes of which the world has never seen and at least so far we are keeping Ukraine alive.

But tonight, hearing you say you would not stand by and see democracy erode and be eliminated, my imagination went to Trump junior leering at a screen and taunting, “Yeah, so what will you do about it?” He actually has said the FBI search of Mar-A-Lago was a farce. And his father wraps himself in the flag and proclaims himself the worst treated American since Benedict Arnold.

The Attorney General is moving with deliberation, and no one wants to see him indict Donald Trump without having a solid case. But is there nothing that can be done? DOJ has indicted hundreds of January 6 insurrectionists, but not yet the leaders. White House personnel and Trump devotees have flouted Congressional subpoenas, some have testified before grand juries and have invoked the Fifth Amendment. Many Republican office holders and candidates for election are spouting falsehoods and conspiracy theories in advance of the midterm elections. In several states election deniers are standing for election to secretary of state or other election administration jobs with veiled or articulated promises to appoint electors as necessary for MAGA-endorsed candidates to win.

What is your plan for preventing a stolen election? Trump’s repeated charge that people are rigging legal process to “get” him is a projection of his own unbounded determination to win at all costs. So don’t stand by and let this just play out, tonight you promised not to. Tell us about your plan, and get one if all you have so far is high principle.

For example, the government has more than 300 assistant US attorneys and more than 7,000 special agents in the FBI. Announce that they and perhaps other people deputized for the purpose will be monitoring elections in polling places around the country to defeat obvious voter suppression ploys and allow people to drink water while on line waiting to vote. They would keep polls open consistent with the law and public announcements of precinct locations. They’d see that weapons within a reasonable distance from polling places were confiscated. Barbarians are truly at the gates, use the power of the federal government to keep the gates strong. President Kennedy and his Attorney General oversaw the desegregation of public universities despite howling opponents. Do the same. Keep ballot boxes and election machines safe from tampering.

Some criminal charges for sedition, perjury and obstruction, and possibly incitement seem, based on what we know so far, to be appropriate. Bring them, and before the midterms. There will be howls of politicization of criminal justice, and they will be heard whatever you do. The pot calls the kettle black. But isn’t it better to fight from ahead than behind, crying about election integrity after the vote is in? You’d look like a carbon copy of Trump then, and the public would tire even more about claims of dishonest government.

You are in better shape politically than you were six months ago, and you’re not seriously opposed for the moral leadership trophy. Please, please, continue to win it.

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