Hartmann: An Act of Treason by and for Josh Hawley

Jan 4, 2021 at 6:15 am
Josh Hawley's angle is always to benefit Josh Hawley.
Josh Hawley's angle is always to benefit Josh Hawley. TOM HELLAUER

Senator Josh Hawley is poised to take his place in American history Wednesday as a loathsome traitor to the nation. But the sedition he proposes on behalf of Donald Trump and in the name of the U.S. Constitution is intended to serve neither.

It’s all about Josh Hawley.

The junior senator from Missouri plans to throw all his political chips into the center of the table with a fraudulent effort to claim electoral fraud in the 2020 election. He has announced his plan to join co-conspirators in the House of Representatives for a dead-on-arrival effort to overturn the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

Mind you, the claim is limited to votes cast for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and further limited to only those states whose outcome was determinative to their sizable victory over Trump. There’s no argument that the invented fraud claims affected a single other race. Even in Georgia, where Hawley will contest Trump’s loss, he hasn’t even suggested that the same supposed fraud caused Republican Senator David Perdue to have improperly lost enough votes to have prevented a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

No other close race in America in either direction is alleged to have been impacted by the fraud. Only Trump’s. And only where he just happens to need electoral outcomes reversed on the basis of no evidence. More than 50 federal and state judges from both parties — including the U.S. Supreme Court justices, three of whom Trump appointed — have flicked away like flies the lame attempts at judicial frivolousness by Trump’s bungling legal clown car.

All that is required for the congressional coup to fail is a simple majority vote of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Any objection to any state’s certified election outcome must be sustained by both chambers. The chance of that happening in the Democratic-controlled House is zero. And the odds aren’t much better in the Senate, where far more than the requisite three Republican votes certainly exist to reject the assault on American democracy.

Hawley knows this. But he has made a political calculation that now is the time to amass loyalty in the Trump base for a presidential run in 2024 or beyond, and that this is the way to do it. It’s a puzzling conclusion for someone of such presumed brilliance.

For those of us plagued with proximity to this reprobate over the past four years, Hawley’s charade is surprising less for its mendacity than its clumsiness. The junior senator always has slithered smoothly until now. But when the senator’s bluff gets called on January 6, the date January 7 may mark the moment his meteoric career headed toward the ocean.

Hawley seems to be banking on hero status on the far right, and he’ll get it for the entire length of its attention span, roughly equivalent to that of one of those farm animals he didn’t raise. He is likely correct in the apparent assumption that no one named Trump will get within several prison yards of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. But why he thinks he can substitute his hustle for that of world-class con artist Trump is hard to figure. There’s only one Trump, thank God.

To be fair, Hawley is a grand master of smoke and mirrors in his own right. He has built a prominent career as the quintessential phony: a kid who grew up comfortably as a banker’s son in rural southwest Missouri but waxes mistily on the stump about his days as a farm kid. Turns out Opie Taylor got his hard-knocks education at a posh Kansas City prep school, followed by elite training at Stanford and Yale, where one imagines he was the only student baling hay as an extracurricular activity.

After his 2006 graduation from the Yale Law School, Hawley enjoyed a couple of plum clerkships, including one with Chief Justice John Roberts, who certainly must now be banging his head against a wall at the thought of it. Hawley then had brief stints as a civil litigator, a bit part (which he tried to exaggerate) on the legal team championing Hobby Lobby’s right to discriminate before the Supreme Court, and a similarly unremarkable short tenure as a law professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia. It's no wonder this guy's newspaper debut was as a sanctimonious fifteen-year-old columnist for his hometown Lexington News. Give him credit: With just two electoral wins greatly abetted by circumstance, Hawley has positioned himself with zero executive experience to be in consideration for the Republican nomination for president.

Do you remember all that Hawley accomplished as Missouri attorney general? Didn’t think so. He did join the Republicans' national legal assault on Obamacare. He jumped on the pile investigating disgraced ex-Governor Eric Greitens and — tellingly — he took a swipe at Big Tech, his signature issue today.

But his drive-by service in Jefferson City, where he probably can’t find his old office without navigation today, was notable primarily for his abuse of it for crass political gain. For a man who has used epic skill in raising campaign money from vastly wealthy Republican donors — for the purpose of advancing economic populism and bemoaning the evils of money in politics — no amount of irony is beyond the pale.

Again, it seems like ancient history, but it was less than three years ago that the Kansas City Star reported that his office was essentially run by his political consultants.

"Josh Hawley pledged to Missouri voters in 2016 that he was not the kind of career politician who would use ‘one office to get to another.’” the Star reported in 2018. “But within weeks of Hawley's swearing in as the state's top law enforcement official, the high-powered political team that would go on to run his U.S. Senate campaign had stepped in to help direct the office of the Missouri attorney general — and raise his national profile.

"Out-of-state political consultants gave direct guidance and tasks to his taxpayer-funded staff, and followed up to ensure the tasks were completed, according to emails, text messages and other records obtained by the Kansas City Star."

But that didn’t keep Hawley from riding Missouri’s tragic affection for Trump to victory over Senator Claire McCaskill in 2018. He has treated the Senate like his farm life: Talk is all that matters.

As Esquire writer Charles Pierce observed earlier this year, "In a town full of thirsty people, Josh Hawley is a man crawling across the Kalahari. And this is the thing that I know for certain. The most dangerous place to stand in Washington D.C. is any place between Senator Josh Hawley and a live microphone."

On Wednesday Hawley will have that microphone, briefly, and he’ll undoubtedly enjoy a wave of great adulation in the right-wing media bubble. But his Republican colleagues will likely never forgive him for putting them through the worst votes of their careers on behalf of Donald Trump’s tragic psychosis.

More important, patriotic Americans will be even less indulgent of Josh Hawley on what hopefully will be a speedy journey to the trash heap of history.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at [email protected] or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).