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Eight Days in June

Bennie Thompson, the Chairman of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol last year, has announced that that the Committee will hold eight televised hearings in June. He said that it has not yet been determined which and how many of them will be held on prime time television, and which will be in the daytime. How they will be ordered, and which witnesses will be called, is of course still to be decided.

I am sure that many of us remember the drama of the Watergate Hearings in the Senate, from May to November of 1973. I was in college, out for the summer, and I watched them virtually every day. They were in the nature of a mystery whose clues and revelations slowly unfolded. So many unforgettable figures in the Senate,, and as witnesses. The end result, which did not occur immediately, was the resignation of President Nixon. Even though Gerald Ford replaced him, pardoned him, and then was almost elected President, this still seemed like a major victory for the forces of democracy, and the rule of law.

And now we are facing perhaps an even greater threat, as incomprehensible as that might seem to anyone who is just waking up to it. We are watching Republicans who plotted that attempted coup, now feverishly working to finish it, and engineer the complete takeover of the American government by their forces, culminating in 2024, with a major step toward it in 2022. These hearings will be immensely important in trying to alert and inform enough Americans so that they might be compelled to try to stop it.

The House in 2022 is not the same as the Senate in 1973. That body certainly had staunch Republicans and Nixon supporters, but most senators were open to learning the truth. This House is filled with Republicans who mostly think or pretend to think that Trump won the last election, and that Biden is illegally the President. They did not impeach Trump, they would not have impeached him for any cause. They will do everything they can to interrupt, mock, disparage, and deflect from these upcoming hearings.

And of course the nature and knowledge of the American people seems to have significantly declined, as well. We can see that in the news every day. The question will be, is there something that could be shown to them, to cause them to understand what was, and, is at stake?

That is what these hearings will be about. Of course there will be witnesses, and this will be in the nature of fact-finding. But unlike Watergate’s six months of hearings, these will not be open-ended. They will be circumscribed, and in the nature of a story being known, and then conveyed to the viewers.

Again, the sides are drawn, and most people are likely to simply see what they want to see, perception bias. But the hope of the Committee is that there are enough open-minded people remaining to make a difference. If not, it will be much like the two impeachment hearings, a lot of sound and fury, after which most potential voters will not have changed their mind at all.

This will be even more difficult, because it is about the past, last year and the months preceding that. Republicans always respond to any such revelations by saying, “Well, it was not good, but it was in the past, let’s move forward, elect more Republicans.”

I suppose that the hearings could lead to indictments from the Department of Justice, or even the House itself. But we will be four months from the midterms. Would the hearings somehow compel enough voters to decide not to vote for Republicans, so that the Democrats hold on to control of Congress? If not, if the Republicans take over the House, this Committee will be immediately shut down, and the Republicans will then create committees to investigate all sorts of Democrats, out of spite, revenge, and attempted political gain.

This is another reason why the upcoming hearings will be so crucial. There are so many very bright and articulate Democrats on this committee, who must have a chance to tell the American people what is at stake for all of us. One of them, Jamie Raskin, not at all given to overstatement, said that the hearings will blow the cover off the House. He has access to information, through depositions and documents, which are largely hidden even now, and which the media has been unable to try to leak and minimize.

So this will be in the nature of a story told, but in rather sped-up fashion. The hearings have to be compelling viewing, because it is not just about, “telling the truth and leaving a message for history,” it is about breaking down the silence and the lies and the complicity of the Republicans who were very aware of what was plotted, and joined in the conspiracy, and are still trying to hide it.

I saw some brief discussion among journalists who are on the side of the Committee, with regard to how this should be done. And as expected, the comments were about how dire things were; some saying that it is the Democrats’ last chance to prevent the Republican takeover of Congress. And then, about how this should be presented. One said that they should employ filmmakers who support Democratic causes, and let them make a dramatic presentation, perhaps like they sometimes do at the Democratic Conventions.

I thought that the presentations at the impeachment hearings were well done, but they did not get Trump removed from office the first time, or punished the second time. They may have helped contribute to the Democratic wins in the 2020 election. But in midterms, there are so many races, and so Republican candidates will have their gameplan, which is to disparage these hearings, call them a witch hunt, blame “The Woke Left” for everything, and then go along with their plan to take over the country.

How should the Committee play this? Well, they need to have it somewhat choreographed, the story told in a compelling way, so that people who have not paid attention, might have a much better understanding, intellectual and visceral, as to how it all happened. As far as witnesses, I don’t think they can dare to bring ones forward whose testimony is not already assured.

A big mistake which Kevin McCarthy made, when the Committee was first created, is that he tried to put some Far Right people on it, who would of course have stymied the entire process. Speaker Pelosi did absolutely the right thing, by not accepting them; at which time McCarthy seemed to feel that he had made his point, would now play victim, and would not suggest any more people to put on it. So Pelosi picked Cheney and Kinzinger, and that was the Committee, one which could be stated to be bipartisan. No one on it is going to do anything but advance the narrative.

I will watch it, it will remind me of the days of 1973. I know that the media, both-sidesing as it now always does, will try to undercut the whole thing. “Interesting presentations, but no Republican in Congress has had their mind changed; and when we spoke to diners at a coffee shop in Cedar Falls, most of them said that they missed their soap operas, and wanted this to be over.” “Elon Musk tweets that this is all a waste of time; that the Left, which hates everyone, including themselves, is responsible for it, and let’s get back to having fun.”

The stakes are very high, and we only have a certain amount of chips to push into the pot. I have every confidence that the members of the Committee will do an excellent job, though I would wish for a Sam Ervin to be there. As always ,there will be what is said and what is shown; and then how the public reacts to it. I think that we will learn some new and chilling things, just how deep the conspiracy went, how many public officials including Congresspeople and law enforcement people were in on it.

We will have the floor, and hopefully a large nationwide audience, and we must pull no punches, but tell the public how bad it was, and how much worse it was intended to be. If we are doing so much to help democracy in Ukraine, how can we possibly allow tyranny to supplant democracy in the United States? That is the existential question which these hearings must focus on.