The Select Committee on the January 6 Insurrection

One hearing Down, five to Go. How it is Going, What Stands Out


Some Very Quick Observations

The next hearing is this Monday morning- Today – 10 AM ET.

About everyone who has the means to do so has been writing about the hearings. That is mostly a good thing, but I don’t want to add to the long list. Besides, a lot of us watched it live (more on that shortly).

Therefore, some very short observations on the way forward and where we are.

First, the Historical Analogies – They are Relevant

 The obvious comparison, of course, is the Watergate hearings. There are some similarities that bode well, and some important differences.

When the Watergate hearings were held America had 3 TV networks + PBS. Today there are many, many more choices and outlets. A lot of Americans watched Watergate at least in part because there was literally nothing else to choose from. Still, they absorbed the lessons pretty well. That is harder to do today, but doable.

Both committees have/had talented leadership and disciplined members. The current one, of course, had much less Republican participation, but those that are participating are going to be standing tall when this is over.

Both committees focused on our most fundamental elements of democracy. Bob Woodward has commented that these hearings compare to the Army-McCarthy hearings in terms of importance and potential impact. That is an encouraging observation from someone who knows what such a comparison means.

The Mechanics- Structure, Presentation, Timing, Content

Pretty much four stars across the board on the first hearing. I don’t know how they could have done it better.

The mechanics and processes were smooth and effective. The room was well organized, cameras were in the right place, the mix of live and video was just right (and well cued every time. How many Zoom meetings have you attended that could claim that?). The presentation avoided the usual mess of 5 minutes per speaker.

Two people, the Chair and Vice Chair, did all the talking on this one, giving us a coherent, smoothly flowing and well connected experience. Kudos to the rest of the committee for sitting tight on this first hearing. They all have a ton invested; could not have been easy to stay silent.

They started on time, took a 10 minute break that actually ran only 10 minutes, and ended precisely on time.

The content was clear, focused, and substantive. It left no doubt about the nature of what happened, who has responsibility, and what dangers remain because of all this. More on this in a moment.

Who Were the Stars of Round 1?

 Easy calls on this one. The Chairman, for his leadership, communication, dignity, and sense of purpose. The Vice Chair for those same qualities, plus the specific call outs of Donald Trump for all the damage he sought to do.

There are few people I disagree with more on policy than Rep. Cheney, but when it counted, she has stood up like few have in the public forum. I hope she beats the crap out of the Trump machine in her upcoming primary.

And certainly, the witnesses, a capitol policewoman and a documentary filmmaker. They were genuine and moving. Add to this list those who had testified before, who came on this night as escorts for widows of others who died as a result of this insurrection. Just when you feel ready to give up on our fellow citizens, people like this stand up and remind us of what nobility and courage look like in real life.

Who Watched the First Round?

About 20 million people, which is a pretty good number, if not as high as I would like. That is more than watch the World Series, and just under what watches a State of the Union speech. Enough to help get a serious national dialogue under way.

I was reminded by someone this week that the Watergate hearings had real effects, but that was not obvious until some months after the hearings. We might see the same effect this time around.

I have a hopeful hunch that a lot of people who are worried about the country and are looking for answers watched and will do so again. The dedicated Trumpers and “I only watch Fox” crowd did not watch, of course, and would not no matter what.

Fox was so concerned that they not only chose not to air the hearings, but also put Carlson on throughout the hearings with no commercial breaks, lest the occasional restless viewer might accidently channel surf into the hearings and actually hear something important. Cowards.

Did We Actually Learn Anything?

 Yes, we did.

Although not much was truly new, a lot was clarified and connected in important ways. One could list a number of things, but here is my short list of the most important takeaways:

  • Trump knew he lost. His psyche is so damaged and his capacity for self-delusion is so high that it is difficult to know for sure, but it surely seems he knew he lost and lost big. Lots of people on his own team told him that over and over. Only the Giuliani-Eastman Nut Wing fed his energy on the Big Lie.
  • The riot that led into the insurrection was in no way spontaneous. At least two domestic terrorist groups planned the breach and how to feed the crowd into it. They positioned their assets in place around the capitol well before Trump spoke and fed the crowd into the breech. Who in Congress and the Administration was a part of this plot should be covered in the coming hearings. Some seriously high ranking people need to be wearing orange jump suits, and they themselves know it.
  • Trump actually played with the idea of how Pence’s death by mob violence might serve his ends. When it became clear that Pence was not going to do what Trump sought, Trump appears (and not he alone) to have thought about Pence’s murder by mob as deserved punishment and an opportunity for someone else to chair the Senate for the vote count.
  • Any pretense that this was not a violent attack was shut down once and for all. Those who blithely said these were peaceful demonstrators and Americans exercising their rights were visibly and audibly shown to be liars of the first magnitude. People that supported and condoned violent sedition will, I hope, be called out and justice delivered. Give them a pass on this, and we will see it all again, soon.
What Comes Next?

Five more hearings. Four beginning at 10 AM during the work week, and a final 8 PM primetime session. Given the quality of the hearings and their short duration of two hours each, I expect near universal coverage to continue.

Watch them. Encourage others to do the same. Host watch parties. Talk about them whenever an opportunity exists to do so. Take no BS from those who dismiss or attack the hearings. We have work to do, America.

Here is the schedule for the remaining hearings. All after June 13 are tentative on times, so watch for changes:

  • Monday, June 13 at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET.
  • Wednesday, June 15 at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET
  • Thursday, June 16 at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET
  • Tuesday, June 21 at 7 a.m. PT/10 a.m. ET
  • Thursday, June 23 during primetime (likely 8 PM ET)

             Bill Clontz

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