CNN’s Jake Tapper has been hitting the “sedition” angle on Electoral College challenges pretty hard even before the Capitol incursion last Wednesday.
On the Sunday before the challenge, Tapper labeled the lawmakers who sought to challenge the results the “sedition caucus” and saying none of those “plotting this disgraceful effort” would come on his show, according to Fox News.
I wonder why, giving he was explicitly accusing them of a crime — sedition, defined as “conspir[ing] to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States,” among other things, and subject to 20 years imprisonment — for using a legal process to challenge the electoral votes in several states based on accusations of voting irregularities.
Tapper continued to plumb this vein throughout the week-and-a-half since, arguably reaching his low point on Wednesday when Tapper questioned the patriotism of Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida — an Army veteran, Purple Heart recipient and double amputee — because he spoke out against Trump’s impeachment.
Mast’s response showed what we lose when we use words like “sedition” and “treason” — and why class and reason should be what we strive for.
“On Jan. 6, thousands broke the law by taking siege of our Capitol here with us inside,” Mast said during the proceedings, questioning whether there were witnesses to the charge of insurrection. “Has any one of those individuals who brought violence on this Capitol been brought here to answer whether they did that because of our president?”
After an extended period of silence: “It appears I will receive no answer. I will yield my time back to the gentleman from Ohio.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) not having the speech he thought he’d have. pic.twitter.com/n6JWgh3a4Y
— The Recount (@therecount) January 13, 2021
On CNN, Tapper began his response to Mast by hitting him personally.
“Congressman Brian Mast, a Republican from Florida — who lost his legs, by the way, fighting for democracy abroad, although I don’t know … about his commitment to it here in the United States,” Tapper said.
“Congressman Brian Mast… who lost his legs by the way fighting for democracy abroad, although I don’t know — about his commitment to it here in the United States” pic.twitter.com/GidrZHUzOe
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) January 13, 2021
Of all the Twitter takes, Tablet associate editor Noam Blum may have had the best one:
This is the equivalent of rage-tweeting something gross and maybe deleting it except he did it live on CNN. https://t.co/XfMK0jVvYb
— Noam Blum (@neontaster) January 13, 2021
“This is the equivalent of rage-tweeting something gross and maybe deleting it except he did it live on CNN,” Blum said.
Mast himself also weighed in, as was to be expected: “I lost two legs for @jaketapper’s right to say whatever the hell he wants, but that free speech also protects the Republicans he is so eager to condemn for asking Constitutional questions about the election,” he said.
I lost two legs for @jaketapper‘s right to say whatever the hell he wants, but that free speech also protects the Republicans he is so eager to condemn for asking Constitutional questions about the election. https://t.co/ViNrwz9cbU
— Rep. Brian Mast (@RepBrianMast) January 13, 2021
Tapper, apparently having learned apologies don’t sell these days, doubled down:
You’re a hero for your service and I’m grateful, as I’ve said before. And yes i question the commitment to democracy of anyone who spread election lies, signed onto that deranged TX AG lawsuit, and voted to commit sedition. You were not just asking questions.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 14, 2021
“You’re a hero for your service and I’m grateful, as I’ve said before,” Tapper responded. “And yes i question the commitment to democracy of anyone who spread election lies, signed onto that deranged TX AG lawsuit, and voted to commit sedition. You were not just asking questions.”
Ah, yes, there’s the old “sedition” feint. I was wondering when we’d see it. The “deranged TX AG lawsuit” to which Tapper refers to was a lawsuit by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s failed lawsuit regarding the results in four swing states based on irregularities, both legal and numerical.
Speaking on “Fox & Friends” Thursday, Mast called for civil discourse.
“The response is this: OK, the president told you to come to the people’s house, did he tell you to do it violently? Or did he tell you to go there and cheer people on, or what, but it’s worth getting to the bottom of before you rush to judgment and that’s the foundation of democracy,” Mast said.
“I’m going to say to Mr. Tapper the same thing that half of America is saying right now, hold me to a high standard — don’t hold me to a double standard. And me asking if any of these lawmakers that are about to vote have gone through any questioning, any hearings, have asked any questions of anybody, that’s an appropriate question and it speaks to the foundation of our democracy, it doesn’t diminish it,” he added.
As for civil discourse: “And I would give this statement to him, as well — it is not as important in America, especially today with all the division that we have, that I say, ‘This is what I think about you.’ We’ve got to get to the point that we’re saying, ‘This is why I think something,’ now I can say, ‘This is why I think you’re wrong,’ and we can have a real debate and hopefully you end up learning something about each other instead of just coming away with two people that are pissed off.”
“Sedition” somewhat closes off that debate — particularly when you use it against a man who lost two legs to an IED in Afghanistan for nothing more than how he voted, the questions he asked about the election and the lawsuits he signed onto. In a world of Jake Tappers, be a Brian Mast. It’s OK to ask questions, it’s OK to debate. The most horrible take doesn’t win the day.
Unity and healing, the buzzwords of the day, don’t require scorched-earth demands for accountability to be met. They require debate.
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