Nobody likes the Hearings anymore. It’s the worst show in town, lacking the breathlessness of the Senate Watergate Investigation Hearings and the perversion of the Clinton Impeachment Hearings.
Indeed, everybody, it seems, is out to get back at the January 6 Hearings — the DOJ, the mainstream media, the House Republican Caucus, some members of the January 6 Committee, the American public, weighing in with a big yawn: after Day 1’s 20 million viewers, viewership has descended into single digits. (1)
It’s the unresolved balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. It’s the unattainable accountability of the Supreme Court. It’s what obscures the Constitution in practice.
It’s a national election despair bucket.
It’s America’s attention span.
It's all of the above.
The mainstream media has wanted to write the January 6 Committee’s epitaph since Day 1 of the hearings. How does one propose “equal time” when a House Committee Investigation is unearthing a plot to overthrow an election? How does one’s coverage of the hearings appear non-partisan?
From the outset of the Committee’s report, a kind of name blame game claimed the public’s attention:
What to call the events of January 6?
Trump administration officials who have agreed to answer questions before the House Select Committee stop short of calling the attack on the Capitol an “insurrection,” a deference that fills the spacious House Conference Room, where the proceedings occur, with silence and partisan awkwardness.
“Putsch” has the trappings of a bygone era, peppered with cafes and beer gardens. “Revolution” is too glib a parallel. “Coup” is too elegant an appraisal. Sounds “Frenchy.”
For the Committee members, “insurrection,” to describe the events of January 6, seems, for the present, cautiously apt. Besides event-naming, using “insurrection” to describe the events of January 6 infers a plan, as in ‘planned insurrection,’ thereby proposing intent to… (fill in the blank).
For Rep. Bennie Thompson, chair of the Committee, “the intent, fill in the blank,” was two-fold: overturn the election of an elected President of the United States and prevent the peaceful transfer of power. At this point in his introductory remarks on Day 2, Thompson paused and delivered this zinger, “then President Donald Trump urged his followers to go to the Capitol and stop the certification of President-elect Joseph Biden, Jr.” According to Thompson, there was not only “intent,” — an undeserving epithet — but a task to complete: “then he urged his followers…”
For Bill Barr, former Attorney General, whose recorded testimony occupied the better part of Day 2 what America witnessed after November 8 and prior to January 6 was a time-out from reason, a descent into the game of whack-a-mole:
‘We would say that we didn’t find any evidence of election fraud here and the President would say, well, how about over there, did you look there…and we would look there and he would say, but you didn’t look here… it was like we were playing whack-a-mole.’
Like the other administration appointees and campaign officials Barr appeared to scramble during Day 2’s proceedings to convince the public that like them, he was a spectator at an unfortunate series of events.
Like the American public, Barr and company, “adults in the room,” were unable to stop what was about to transpire. And like the American public, unable to disbelieve what they/we were seeing unfold.
This is a curious public posture, recalling Eichmann’s ‘doing my job’ defense and Nero’s debauchery. It is a defense posture grounded in public contempt, not reckoning one’s involvement in past events but obfuscating them:
It’s Christmas morning in the White House and Donnie is not letting us play with our toys. He has taken them away for his own pleasure.
The “toys” are America’s institutions.
Day 3 of the hearings will begin the public task of following the trail of breadcrumbs through the corridors of America’s government and the White House power predilections; breadcrumbs leading to a plot to subvert the mission of those same institutions purportedly doing the job of upholding the Constitution. We are moving past the “who knew,” of Day 2 to “how did it work,” of Day 3 and subsequent days: moving from fingering ‘intent’ to plotting an insurrection.
‘We’ve been here before’ in America’s history: Tea Pot Dome…Watergate Break-in…Iran Contra…My Lai…Abu Ghraib, to name a few: events” where the protectors of democracy turn against those they protect, the citizens. “Events” revealing institutions designed to support the rule of law failing its participants. Traversing “new ground,” the Hearings are both investigator and despised messenger.
So soon into the investigation hearings and the American public is not any more convinced of Trump’s “culpability,” than after the release of the Mueller report. From the comparisons to other public hearings and on the 50th anniversary of the Watergate investigation, one asks , “Who cares about truth?” (2)
“And we have thousands of pages of testimony…” has become the Committee’s invitation, the Committee’s “public referral.” Except to what institutions is the collected testimony directed? The Presidency? Congress? Supreme Court? The Criminal Division of the Justice Department?
Gas Prices anyone? (3)
1-The Anticlimax of the Jan. 6 Hearings
2-”During Watergate, Truth Was Never Up for Debate,” Robert Draper, NYTimes, Saturday, June 18
3-Not one to miss an opportunity to debunk the Hearings, Trump weighed in, tweeting June 18 on Truth Social that the “hearings were a disgrace,” and a Democrat-hatched distraction from rising gas prices.