A “Scripted Production Masquerading as a Congressional Hearing”?

From the very outset of the House’s January 6 investigation committee, I pointed out that to have any sort of authority and legitimacy, Speaker Pelosi needed to accept and involve the representatives selected by the House minority, however antagonistic and obstructionist they might prove. Gary Abernathy’s column in the Washington Post illustrates how right I was:

Never have we seen such a scripted production masquerading as a congressional hearing. Narration and questions are carefully read from a teleprompter. The witnesses even appear to have been coached to pause at specific points to await the next prepackaged query. While chair Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) do the heavy lifting, other committee members sit in zombie-like silence, unless it’s a day designated for one of them to perform, too.

The committee’s tactics are particularly disturbing for those of us who identify and empathize with Trump supporters, but want the GOP to abandon the former president. We know that following a well-worn playbook pitting the same basic collection of usual adversaries against Trump will not succeed at changing minds.

His remarks on the allegedly “smoking gun” testimony by Cassidy Hutchinson?

Numerous news outlets reported almost immediate denial of the story, although generally from anonymous sources. But as Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley tweeted: “It is the type of problem that arises when the focus of a hearing is persuasive rather than investigative. The account fit the narrative and the underlying fact seemed simply too good to check.”

Still, someone on the committee playing the role of skeptic could have perhaps challenged her on the details, as well as another episode wherein she said she personally heard Trump “say something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away.” Her habit of couching her recollected conversations in terms of people saying “something to the effect of” leaves plenty of wiggle room for later revision.

Everything Hutchinson said on Tuesday may well be true. But it’s more likely that she got some things wrong. By rushing her in front of the cameras without more fact-checking — or wiser heads determining to prune her testimony to only events she witnessed firsthand — the committee opened the door for her entire appearance to be summarily dismissed by critics. Such sloppiness doesn’t harm Trump nearly as much as it impugns both the committee investigating him and journalists too eagerly relaying its overscripted and faulty narrative as news.

The committee investigation might have served many different purposes. It could have been a thorough-going investigation of the events of January 6 with an eye to preventing their recurrence. That might have included investigations of the condition and conduct of the Capitol Police Force, the reports of police ushering people into the Capitol or agents provocateurs among the demonstrators, as well as a dispassionate analysis of the demonstrations, the breaching of the Capitol, and the conduct of the president and other public officials leading up to and during the events. It could have been educational, as George Will has urged. I think what we’re seeing is what happens when those purposes are completely overwhelmed by battlespace preparation for the next general election.

Mr. Abernathy concludes:

The committee is anxious to prove that Trump knew the election wasn’t fraudulent and yet engaged in numerous unsavory tactics to engineer and encourage an attack on the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent Biden’s certification as president. It’s a misguided objective, and will likely never produce evidence that will be trial-worthy. It is clear that Trump acted irresponsibly on Jan. 6, but it remains highly unlikely that Trump was involved in actually planning the attack on the Capitol.

There are multiple ways of looking at our present politics. My way is that politicians inevitably conflate their own personal welfare with the common good, that there is a considerable separation between elected officials and their staffs from the party rank-and-file, that many people are not particularly interested in politics and not strongly partisan, and that party affiliation is malleable, changing with conditions (yours, local, and national) and location, performance, and personalities. Maybe my view is old and anachronistic.

Another way is that we have become completely tribal. Once a Republican, always a Republican. Your tribe is completely right and the other tribe is completely wrong and cannot be swayed by logic, reason, decency, or appeals to the common good.

I wonder what people holding that view will think should Republicans gain decisive majorities in both houses of the Congress in the next election? My conclusion will be that Democrats screwed up. I presume theirs will be that Republicans cheated.

4 comments… add one
  • Jan Link


    ”It’s a joke. Hutchinson didn’t witness anything. Everything she said about Trump’s “very angry” episode was the kind of pure hearsay that would never be admissible in a real trial, but that’s not what this is. The Jan. 6 circus is nothing more than a Soviet-style show trial intended to destroy the lives of Democrats’ political opponents and accrue more power for themselves.”

  • steve Link

    Totally tribal. If you put Republicans on the committee you could not have an investigation. If you didnt they would claim they were excluded, but really it didnt matter. Republicans already made up their minds. Its just like the election. Evidence doesnt matter.


  • Jan Link

    The problem is more that evidence has been denied, excluded, or rebuffed as “misinformation.” This happened in how vaccines and their clinical trials were presented, as well as the last presidential election, and the current J6 travesty, where the jury is comprised of all trump haters and no rebuttal testimony or witnesses are allowed. How is that not a kangaroo court, no matter who is being tried —-> democrat or Republican?

  • steve Link

    In the case of vaccines the evidence largely consisted of “some nurse said she saw something”. In the case of the election it has gone to courts with Trump nominated judges who noted there was no real evidence, and we have had Trump dominated legislatures do investigations unable to substantiate any claims. Arizona even brought in a firm specifically to fix the numbers to help Trump and they couldn’t do it. Wisconsin put a special investigator in charge. Couldn’t find anything. Etc. Bounties have been offered. Still nothing.


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