"We do not negotiate with terrorists," has seemed like an almost quaint phrase for most of my life because in all that time, the terrorists we were most concerned about did not seem much interested in negotiating. They did not really take hostages like their counterparts in the 1980s, demanding narrow concessions like the release of political prisoners. It was hard to see the phrase itself as much more than a macho calling card, an anachronism. Thanks to this alarming week in American history, however, it's starting to make a lot of practical sense.
It's not that Brian Kilmeade, co-star of the United States president's favorite television show, is a terrorist or has even directly condoned terroristic action. But this morning on Fox & Friends, he laid out the absurd logic of terrorism. After the president incited his supporters to engage in an insurrection at the United States Capitol last week to stop the Congress certifying that he will soon leave office, it was abundantly clear he must be removed from office at the earliest opportunity. Having failed to convince a majority of the American people he should stay in power, he attempted to entrench himself by force. He must face consequences, and so must his foot soldiers who attacked the national legislature. Otherwise, the message will be that you can attempt to subvert American democracy at your leisure. But that's not what Kilmeade is concerned about.
Like the Republican members of Congress now calling for "unity" after yelling for months that Joe Biden's election win was illegitimate due to massive fraud for which they failed to provide a shred of court-admissible evidence, Kilmeade is demanding a form of "unity" wherein the president and his fans vandalize the republic and everyone else agrees to let them off scot-free. The president and his allies get to pump air into The Big Lie day after day—attempting to erase the votes of millions of their fellow citizens in the process—and then we all Come Together and Look Forward, Not Back. Notice that no one is even pretending that Donald Trump, who is still currently the President of the United States, should or would ever be the one to "bring the country together." The notion strikes even his defenders as ridiculous, because they know full well he is the one splintering the republic. But more than all that, Kilmeade suggested on Tuesday morning that if members of Congress do not acquiesce to these demands for Impunity Through Unity, some of the president's supporters will respond with violence.
Brian Kilmeade again says Dems shouldn't pursue impeachment because Republicans are threatening mass violence
"We see what's happening around this country, how 50 state houses are being threatened on Inauguration Day, this is the last thing you want to do" pic.twitter.com/LS1DOfEWkR
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) January 12, 2021
We see what's happening around the world, how 50 American embassies are being threatened by al Qaeda. But we're going to stay in Afghanistan?
Kilmeade is referencing the FBI bulletin, obtained Monday by ABC News, which warned that "armed protests are being planned at all 50 state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January." (It's not clear what an armed protest is, but it's useful to think about how all these same people would react if Black people engaged in it. Considering many in the Unity Brigade broadly dismissed this summer's Black Lives Matter protests as "riots," it's not hard to imagine. In fact, you don't need to imagine at all.) According to the FBI, one group is specifically calling for "storming" state and federal buildings—again. Members of Congress received a briefing Monday night in which they were informed of multiple ongoing plots centered on the nation's capital, including one where they could be targeted for assassination. NBC News reports federal lawmakers were reminded that "the purchase of a bulletproof vest is a reimbursable expense." And then there's Brian Kilmeade, drawing a clear line between cause and effect: if you impose consequences on the president for inciting an insurrection, his fans will attempt further violence.
The absurdity of all this is that there is no evidence these groups will, in the president's words, stand back and stand by—sorry, stand down—if Democrats agree to shirk their duty to defend the American Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Why would they stop? They're getting closer to what they want with minimal consequences. Which points to why you don't negotiate with people who use violence to achieve political outcomes. They aren't negotiating, they are threatening you. Anything you give them will provide at most a momentary respite until they decide they want something again. The individuals who physically stormed the Capitol are slowly being arrested and charged, though so far for relatively minor offenses. The president and other political leaders who incited this attack on the republic must similarly face consequences. In our constitutional system, the remedy is impeachment. No threats of violence can be allowed to stop the process of law.
Get unlimited access to all of Esquire’s political coverage.
You Might Also Like