THREE GAMBITS THAT FAILED ON JANUARY 6

January 12, 2021 § Leave a comment

January 6 will go down in infamy for the obvious, an extraordinary and unprecedented assault on the will of the people.  But it was also a failed gambit.  The failure of two other gambits was revealed on that day as well.  Neither was in the same league, and with luck none ever will be.  But they are certainly worthy of note because they are windows to human nature in the election season.  In any other year, one of them would have been headline news. Until the storming of the Capitol, I used to refer to all that preceded every January certification day as the silly season.  Levity does not wear well with the main event of that day.  But the under card (minor apologies for the pugilistic analogy) events can tolerate a lighter touch.

The New York Times headline on the front page of the January 7 issue assigns culpability for fomenting the mob.  Here we do not do that, sticking with a long-standing practice of this blog site to attempt to steer clear of positions in political matters.  We merely discuss the gambit, no matter who instigated it, which appears to have been storming the Capitol with intent to somehow overturn the results of the presidential election.  Whether this was to be with the simple imposition of will or the actual destruction of the ballot boxes containing the electoral college votes, we may never discern.  This had all the hallmarks of rabble rousing, as opposed to a carefully planned and executed campaign.  Having said that, history is pocked with instances of rabble rousing that took on lives of their own, with more lasting effects.

The other gambit was played in Georgia in early November and the result was revealed on January 6.  This was a decision to hang onto President Trump’s coattails despite his having lost the election in that state. Both Senate incumbents decided to do just that, although Kelly Loeffler was more strident, pointing out her perfect record of voting with the President. Many others across the country had ridden that strategy to victory.  In fact, in something of an anomaly, the coattails grabbers performed better than the coat wearer.  But both Loeffler and Perdue did not reckon with the President litigating (both literally and figuratively) his election loss, by basically asserting that the outcome could be reversed.  This took away the best argument for voting for Loeffler and Perdue, which was to preserve the Republican majority in a senate with Biden as president, an essential means for tempering the new president’s agenda.  As the weeks wore on, he attacked the governor and secretary state of Georgia, both Republican, for somehow being responsible for his loss.  The final straw was when he demanded support from both incumbent senators for a challenge of the electoral college votes in the January 6 certification in the joint houses of Congress.  With the die already largely cast, they went along with the political version of a Hail Mary (touchdown) pass. Even that characterization is charitable given any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution.  When the dust settled and the Georgia votes were counted on January 6, the same fateful day of the mob attack on the Capitol, both incumbents had been defeated in what most considered to be an upset verdict.  The margins of victory were even wider than the 0.5% which could have enabled a recount.

The third gambit pales in comparison and deserves discussion principally because of the temporal coincidence of it playing out on January 6.  But the gambit was conceived and announced in early 2017, shortly after Trump was elected president. It was also shortly after President Obama, literally on his way out of the door, issued an order to “permanently” ban offshore Arctic oil and gas lease sales.  My opinion of that play is in a 2017 blog. For President Trump this was an attempt at showing support for the oil and gas industry.  The only problem was that the smart money has known, at least since the plummet in oil prices in 2015, that the Arctic was too risky.  On pure economics, leave alone considering the environmental impact.  I opined a few months ago that the interest in the leases would be very low. But the gambit had to be played out.  Possibly nobody told the President that this could prove embarrassing; is it still a party if (almost) nobody comes?

And it was embarrassing indeed when the sealed bids were opened on that otherwise fateful January 6.  Only 11 of the 22 tracts offered had bids.  None of these were from super majors, majors, or large independents. All were at or near the minimum allowed in the auction.  9 of 11 were won by a division of the state of Alaska, not an oil drilling and production entity.  The other two were very small independent oil companies.  All this in the name of supporting the oil and gas industry.  If only they had been consulted.

Vikram Rao

January 12, 2021

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