(CNN)President Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani made a rare appearance as an advocate in a courtroom this week in a baseless and hopeless effort to invalidate Joe Biden's victory.
Addressing the former New York City mayor, who was parroting Trump's lie about massive voter fraud, US District Court Judge Matthew Brann posed a devastating question at the hearing on Tuesday.
"You're alleging that the two individual plaintiffs were denied the right to vote. But at bottom, you're asking this court to invalidate more than 6.8 million votes, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the Commonwealth. Could you tell me how this result could possibly be justified?"
On Saturday, the judge effectively answered his own question by dismissing the lawsuit and saying, "this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations...and unsupported by evidence."
The Giuliani court appearance came on the same day two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers temporarily blocked certification of votes in Michigan's most populous county, where Biden outpolled Trump by more than 332,000 votes. Both board members received a supportive call from the President afterward. It was also the day Trump fired Chris Krebs, the Homeland Security Department cybersecurity official whose sin, in the President's eyes, was to declare there was no sign of systematic fraud in this year's election.
The Trump-Giuliani scenario of a rigged election, which Joe Biden actually won with a convincing electoral college victory and a popular vote margin of more than six million votes, seemed ripped from Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking-Glass," the sequel to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." The Queen tries to persuade Alice that you can believe impossible things -- and suggests that it helps if you practice. "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast," she declares.
The choice now is " Donald Trump vs. democracy," wrote John Avlon. For Republicans, "this is a test of whether you believe in our country more than a cult of personality. It's a question of whether mindless hyper-partisanship will overwhelm any remaining sense of principle. This should not be a tough call ... Which side are you on?"
In the Washington Post, Paul Waldman put it starkly. "No president in American history has ever before spent the end of his time in office trying to discredit our democracy, degrade the federal government and set Americans against each other," Waldman wrote. The Republicans, "are finishing the Trump presidency the way they started it, with a show of complicity and cowardice."
Several other lawyers had withdrawn from representing Trump's side in the case before Judge Brann, so Giuliani made the argument. " Rudy did Rudy, ranting generally about stolen elections, fraud, the 'dishonesty' of Philadelphia, and ballots illegally cast, in a freewheeling presentation supported by no facts and having virtually nothing to do with the amended complaint that had been filed by his colleagues," wrote Jennifer Rodgers.
"When questioned, however, about specific allegations, governing legal standards, and individual pieces of evidence, Giuliani was forced to back down in crucial ways, in part because he possessed no relevant evidence supporting his claims, and in part because he appeared unprepared and lacked command of the law and governing standards."
Law professor Joshua Douglas wrote that " the damage to our democratic norms will outlast Trump's time in office. Americans of all stripes must double down on our commitment to a democracy in which the losers graciously admit defeat and fight for another day. Lying about election fraud, as Trump and others have done, and turning a blind eye when a losing candidate personally reaches out to an election official, when the candidate does not like the results, cannot become the new normal."
Truth vs. Trump
In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, suggested to him in a phone call that legally cast ballots could be thrown out. Raffensperger had ordered a hand recount of the vote, and on Friday, Georgia certified the results as originally projected: an upset win for Biden in the historically red state.
Frida Ghitis spotted signs of an emerging split in the GOP. "On one side is the truth-denying, ethically imperiled practitioners of whatever-Trump-says-is-gospel. The other, invigorated by the challenge of defending democracy, is possibly much smaller or at the very least less noisy. Its members acknowledge reality, even when it says their party lost, and are fighting for high principles, including democracy. It is in this smaller segment of the party where Republicans may yet find redemption."
When Jim Kolbe first ran for Congress in southern Arizona as a Republican in 1982, he lost by less than 3,000 votes. The future 11-term congressman still remembers the painful moment when he called his Democratic opponent to concede — the step Trump is refusing to take.
"Failure to concede an election when the outcome is certain and beyond doubt undermines the very foundation of our democracy — the public confidence that elections decide who will guide the country or the state or the city," Kolbe observed. " Pointless disputes over fictional 'fraud' only fuels disinformation, increases distrust in our constitutional form of government, and weakens trust in their leaders and the very process of holding elections."
The Covid-19 news could not be worse: The number of new cases around the US hit a single-day record this week, and the daily death toll is growing.
But the Covid-19 vaccine news could not be better: There are two vaccines in development that appear to be 95% effective.
Getting from the awful now to the hopeful future is a leap — and with Thanksgiving coming this week, there's a real risk that more travel by Americans will spread the virus even faster.
" Future-tense hope is complicated by the fact that the future is a fragile place, cognitively," wrote Robert Sapolsky, an expert on human behavior. "Sacrificing immediate pleasure (a big gathering at Thanksgiving, for example), for a bigger future gain (less sickness and death) is tough for humans."
Writers have lamented the unwillingness of some Americans to make sacrifices in the pandemic, but we shouldn't be all that surprised, wrote historian Nicole Hemmer. Even the "greatest generation" wasn't fully on board with the restrictions enacted during World War II. " Personal sacrifice for community benefit is incredibly difficult," Hemmer pointed out.
"Americans sacrificed during the war, as they do today, for a wide range of reasons: altruism, food shortages, poverty, regulations, social pressure. The sort of sacrifices Americans made during WWII were, as often as not, mandatory and resented. They required not just laws but extensive propaganda campaigns, severe social sanctions, and regular exhortations that a little sacrifice on the home front would save countless lives on the frontlines."
On Monday, David Perry wrote, "We know more lockdowns are coming, but this time, we could prioritize children over bars, restaurants, working out, sports and socializing in our homes. It's time to keep schools and day cares open -- and shut almost everything else down."
But on Thursday, the nation's largest public school system, New York City, closed its school buildings and moved to fully online learning, due to a rising average of Covid-19 cases -- while indoor dining and gyms remained open.
Jill Filipovic wrote that there's plenty of blame to go around for America's inadequate response to the pandemic. "With positive test and hospitalization rates increasing, and winter and the holidays looming, there is every reason to believe that things will get much, much worse before they get better. Unfortunately, our elected officials have failed us at nearly every level, from the White House to governors and city mayors — and not just in the red states where Covid-19 denial thrives, but in blue cities and states as well."
For more on Covid-19:
Megan Ranney and Jessi Gold: Health care workers are experiencing more than Covid-19 burnout
David Oshinsky: What the polio vaccine can teach us about the Covid-19 vaccine
Lauren Ghazal and Caroline Dorsen: President-elect Biden, you need a nurse on your Covid task force
Kent Sepkowitz: How Trump could get credit for a Covid-19 breakthrough
Susan Blumenthal and Emily Stark: The best way to make masks work against Covid-19
What Emily Murphy isn't doing
On the day after the 2016 presidential election, Denise Turner Roth, the head of the US General Services Administration in the last years of President Barack Obama's second term, officially "ascertained" that Donald Trump had won.
"My determination," she wrote for CNN Opinion, "was based on several factors: a review of the results reported by every state, the major news organizations that called the election for Trump, Trump's clear margin of victory and the absence of voting irregularities or fraud. Once I gave the go-ahead, members of our administration were able to coordinate with President-elect Trump's team to ensure an orderly transfer of power."
But this year, nearly three weeks after the election won by Joe Biden, GSA administrator Emily Murphy is refusing to ascertain his victory. That is stalling the transition in worrisome ways, Turner Roth wrote. "The federal government comprises some 100 agencies and some 3.5 million employees. None of them can start cooperating with a new administration until the GSA makes its official ascertainment."
Murphy " has single-handedly created chaos, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness, all while steadfastly refusing to respond to the American people, who, after all, have spoken through the ballot box," wrote Jill Filipovic.
For more on the election:
Fatima Goss Graves and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner: The next big job for White women who oppose Trumpism
Rep. Josh Gottheimer: Democrats and Republicans, stop fighting and get something done
Elie Honig: The reason Trump's election lawsuits are tanking
Thomas Balcerski: Three terrible presidential transitions that hurt America
Victoria Herrmann: Trump's ruinous parting shot at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Hold Trump accountable?
When the tumultuous transition is finally over, incoming President-elect Joe Biden's administration will have to make a fateful decision: Should it try to hold Donald Trump accountable?
"Once the President leaves office, he will no longer have the immunity from prosecution he's enjoyed for the last four years," Joe Lockhart noted. "And despite never prosecuting a former president in our history, this time there is a strong case for breaking that norm. Holding President Trump accountable also may be the only way to hold our political parties accountable."
Biden, who campaigned on the promise he would heal the nation, will hear urgent cries from Democrats to investigate Trump, noted Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman. " Not putting pressure on the US Department of Justice to prosecute Trump will be unpopular with much of the Democratic base," Dent wrote, "but it may be necessary to steer the ship of state from turbulent and dangerous waters. It won't be easy. The alternative will be more bitterness and the never-ending cycle of hostility that define today's American political debate."
Barack Obama's best seller
The first volume of Barack Obama's presidential memoir sold nearly 890,000 copies, including pre-orders, on its publication day Tuesday, putting it on track to be the top-selling book of the year. Historian Jeremi Suri called it a " sad and hopeful memoir" that revealed the former President's "passionate love for the United States." The book showed the limits to what a president can accomplish "without cooperation from lawmakers and fuller participation from citizens."
"Obama ran an exciting campaign on restoring equity and opportunity to Americans, but he spent most of his difficult presidency holding off one disaster after another," Suri wrote. "His recollections of his first term in office are filled with repeated frustrations and regrets, born of the crises that repeatedly took him off track."
"The truth is that Obama was never in a position to implement a transformative reform agenda like Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson. He lacked the legislative super majorities they had."
Obama's presidency was at least good, wrote John F. Harris in Politico. But he and his supporters were aiming higher, for truly historic accomplishments. "The intelligence and earnestness and self-probing mind are obvious on every page. But by the time the 700 pages of narrative conclude — with the remaining five years of his administration still awaiting a subsequent volume — it is clear that these traits don't always lead to the kind of presidency he wanted."
Whether the Obama presidency will ultimately be seen as great in its influence on American history will depend in part on what comes next. "The alternative to his reasonable, rational, relativistic way of thinking — the alternative to the pluralistic world he seeks — is an angry world driven by people who think like absolutists and haters and zealots," Harris observed.
Jessica Calarco: The US social safety net has been ripped to shreds -- and women are paying the price
Season 4 of the Netflix series "The Crown" brings the story into the 1980s and spools through the British royal family's more unflattering recent years. Prince Charles is "shoehorned by both his parents into a loveless marriage to young Diana," Holly Thomas noted.
"Almost overnight, he is transformed from a pensive bachelor whose sister calls him 'Eeyore' into a dispassionate, inconsiderate and cruel failure of a spouse," she wrote.
"In the time-honored fashion of British poshos, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and co. manage to remain perpetually uncomfortable — physically, morally and emotionally. When they're not trapping their children in tragic unions, they're trudging up hills in the rain, ignoring the aesthetic disintegration of their palaces, or sacrificing loyal employees to save face. Their ingrained stiffness is matched only by the rigidity of their hair (Princess Margaret's is the only mop that ever moves) — and by that of (Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher, whose enormous, spherical coiffure may as well come with its own bio reading: 'tough as the Queen, but with bigger brains.'"
The royal family's public relations machine deserves credit for resurrecting its image in the past decade around the children of Diana and Charles — "the more accessible Princes William and Harry," Thomas wrote. But the new season of "The Crown" is a "solid reminder that even comparatively recently, 'The Firm' was in a near-constant state of crisis — and begs the question of how much more controversy the family's image can withstand."