From Esquire, by Jack Holmes:
One of the great early observations of the Trump phenomenon came via cartoon. On July 26, 2017, The New Yorker published Peter Kuper’s “The Five Stages of White House Employment,” in which some grinning schmuck in a MAGA hat is welcomed into an office via conveyor belt. He’s greeted by the then-president with a handshake and a smile to match. He takes off the hat and stands very seriously for a moment—just long enough for him to scoot his way into position to get stabbed in the back by that very same president. Then he’s conveyed out another doorway, knife lodged, into darkness.
It wasn’t perfect, considering Sean Spicer skipped right over to Dancing With The Stars rather than obscurity. But it was dead-on in terms of what the trajectory largely is for almost anyone who places himself in feudal service to Donald Trump. You will serve the king until it’s time to serve him by going under the bus. As the years went by, people with a modicum of shame and sense began to catch onto this, and by the end, Trump was surrounded by a bunch of dipshit unemployables with no ethics or parallel future. One of them was Mike Pence, whose career was plunging into the toilet before Trump fished him out to serve as his running mate, and who had no choice but to eat shit, day after day and year after year, until he could get his reward of one day becoming president himself. Except and until, when it served Trump, it came time for Pence to go under the bus. His backstabbing, unlike the others, was very close to becoming an act of physical violence.
When Trump ran out of options to steal the election, he set his sights on the Electoral College certification on January 6. It would take place at the Capitol, with Pence presiding in his honorary role as President of the Senate. Trump decided, in a spasm of desperation and pathological self-interest, that Pence somehow had the power to throw out the election results and make him president for another term. When Pence rejected this on the basis that, uh, it was completely insane, Trump turned on him. It all culminated with the insurrectionary mob Trump summoned on January 6, and which he sent to the Capitol with clear intent. As the House impeachment managers demonstrated during the Senate trial Wednesday, the mob was very clear in its desire to get hold of Pence and, very likely, to kill him. The President of the United States let loose his street goons on his own vice president, and while the battle at the Capitol raged at fever pitch, and Pence was under literal siege, Trump continued to tweet his dissatisfaction with him. It’s hard to reach any conclusion other than that the president was willing to see his vice president die if that meant staying in power himself.
And Republican senators watched all of this, and all the shit that Pence ate over the previous four years, and all the other apparatchiks that did the bidding until it was time to get run over, and many of them are still planning to vote to acquit. They will not do so on the merits. No one is defending Trump’s behavior that day, or in the lead-up, which the House managers brilliantly demonstrated cannot be separated from the main event. No one is really saying he doesn’t bear responsibility. Some will look for the procedural cop-outs and other bullshit. But these senators watched the presentations, which detailed just how close they all likely came to death that day. They saw the obvious murderous intent harbored by some in the crowd. They know that Donald Trump would have seen them die if he thought it was to his benefit. He wouldn’t have thought twice about it. We are still waiting on a thorough examination of what he was up to through all of this, but one thing we do know is he wasn’t moving heaven and earth to put a stop to the attack on the Capitol and the republic.
And they are planning to acquit him. Not all of them, as Lisa Murkowski demonstrated during the Wednesday dinner break. Surely Mitt Romney will vote to convict, now that we all know, as he long has, that Officer Eugene Goodman saved his life in what became a matter of seconds and feet. Many others, though, will choose to forsake the police officers who very likely saved their lives, too. They will betray that sacrifice. And it will all be in service to a man they know full well would just as soon destroy them as he would have his own vice president. It’s a powerful statement on how they view the Republican base—as hopelessly in thrall to Trump, and unreachable by reason. And it’s a powerful indictment of their bottomless ambition. The will to power, it seems, looms larger than the will to survival. Or maybe they’re just that terrified about what he has cultivated in their own base. Or maybe they’ve already convinced themselves that they are no longer in danger. And how about the rest of us?