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Bill Straub: Listen carefully to Beethoven’s Eroica, Mitch; recall he ripped away dedication to Napoleon


The world this year is justly celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. One of the pieces one is likely to encounter during this festive occasion is one of the master’s greatest works, his groundbreaking Third Symphony, first performed in 1804.

Beethoven, it is written, planned to dedicate his E flat major opus to Napoleon Bonaparte, recognizing that the French statesman had seemingly embraced the democratic values of equality and liberty, principles the composer perennially sought to advance.

His views changed once Napoleon declared himself emperor and endeavored to dominate the continent. According to his secretary, Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven flew into a rage upon hearing the news of the Little Corporal’s ascension, proclaiming, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!” Whereupon the great man proceeded to rip the Bonaparte dedication from the symphony’s title page.


The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

So it might be a good time for Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch” McConnell and his colleagues to listen anew to the symphony Beethoven retitled “Eroica,” since there simply is nothing heroic about their efforts to fuel the rage of an obviously addled president and create chaos around this nation’s time-tested electoral system, one that is sagging under false claims and political opportunism.

You may have heard that last week former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, decisively defeated incumbent Republican President Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius, aka President Great and Unmatched Wisdom, by upwards of 5 million votes, amassing more than the 270 electoral votes required, thus handing him the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue while simultaneously leading to the eviction of a man who will almost certainly be spending considerable time in his forced retirement seeking to evade New York state prosecutors for questionable financial dealings.

Of course, Trump being Trump, and reality being a concept well beyond his simplistic grasp, El Presidente has refused to acknowledge the butt-kicking he only recently received, declaring himself the winner, like some tinhorn dictator, and vowing to tie up the American judicial system until he gets his way.

Since there is nothing apparent that could logically lead to the reversal of results, one would assume members of both political parties would wish this sorry excuse for a human being well in his future endeavors and show him to the door. But that would grossly overstate the character of the modern Republican Party, which continues to sink to depths heretofore unseen under the guidance of our boy McConnell, of Louisville.

The current situation is a microcosm of the four years under Trump. The president produces nothing short of outrage, which would normally call for individuals on both sides of the aisle to cite the obvious error of his ways. Instead we get McConnell, the Senate leader, expressing support and making excuses for actions that are by definition indefensible. And GOP officials, like the sycophants they are, applaud Trump’s whole vaudeville routine, where he adopts the precept of Louis XIV and “l’état, c’est moi’’ – I am the state.

McConnell and his gang of putzes have done nothing but encourage him down this dubious path.

All that provides a glimpse into McConnell’s primary political nature — the utilization of power regardless of its direction and party before country. Always party before country.
Trump claims he won the election, collecting a majority of the “legal’’ votes cast and that the entire electoral process was riven with fraud and corruption and that the vote was rigged. There were, by his telling, “ghost voters” – dead people – casting ballots in Pennsylvania and numerous illicit and unconstitutional shenanigans going on in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia, all states that he apparently lost.

Of course, he offers not a scintilla of proof of the sort necessary to overcome Biden’s 5 million vote margin, his approaching 306 electoral votes and his better than 50 percent of the total tally. Just baseless innuendo. Thus far, his results in the courts have been perfect – he’s 0 for 12.

Nevertheless, to paraphrase McConnell in a different context, he persisted.

Suffice to say here that Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States of America, is a sick man. He’s delusional. He’s been described as a narcissistic sociopath. He never should have been elected in the first place. But these things happen in a democracy. The mistake has been corrected, although the damage is yet to be fully determined. He should be wished a bon voyage along with a request to drop his passport off at the Department of Justice.

What he’s doing now — tying up the court system in at least five states with bogus lawsuit after bogus lawsuit in an effort to get his stumblebum issues to the Supreme Court where he believes his three appointees will bail him out — will ultimately hurt the nation. He’s blocking Biden‘s path to begin the necessary and traditional transition of power, including receiving up-to-date and accurate information about international hot spots and the workings of those who would do the United States harm. You don’t want Biden, or anyone else for that matter, assuming the position as the most powerful person on earth without being completely and competently briefed.

But he’s standing in the way. And there, forming a rear guard, is Mitch McConnell and most congressional Republicans.

McConnell has responded to the situation, as usual, with weasel words. In a floor speech this week after the election, McConnell suggested that all legal votes should be counted and the illegal ones shouldn’t, as if that were some sort of great revelation. He then supported Trump.
“We have the system in place to consider concerns and President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” he said.

McConnell added that, “If any major irregularities occurred this time of a magnitude that would affect the outcome, then every single American should want them to be brought to light. And if the Democrats feel confident that they have not occurred they should have no reason to fear any extra scrutiny.”

The thing is no one is claiming that Trump has no right to file lawsuits about the results. The question remains whether it’s proper to do so given the lack of evidence and the scam he’s pulling to create distrust of the electoral system with the hope of pulling something out of thin air. Conservative Republicans like McConnell have always complained about gratuitous lawsuits – until now.

Nowhere does McConnell assert it would probably be a good idea to let the whole thing slide, absent, you know, any factual basis, lest the American people lose faith in the system.
“Suffice it to say a few legal inquiries from the president do not exactly spell the end of the republic,” he said.

No. But someone needs to remind Mitch that part of his job, and part of Trump’s job for that matter, is to restore faith in the federal government, something that has been lacking since the Reagan administration. Instead, he’ll gleefully watch the American government decline further in the eyes of the public and kill whatever confidence remains simply to gain some sort of negligible advantage.

Restoring faith in the system doesn’t appear to exist in McConnell’s DNA. He is, in fact, the rare possessor of the Triple Crown – he has done untold damage to all three branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial. And the good people of Kentucky have returned him to Washington DC to add to that unprecedented achievement for the next six years.

Beethoven knew when to hop off the Napoleon bandwagon. McConnell needs to listen to Eroica.


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