1/6 hearings' goal: keep the GOP on the run
Repetition, hammering a message over and over, is key. Don't pay attention to those who say it's all been heard. Plus: The sick Dem fascination with Nancy Reagan.
photo: Tyler Merbler, license: CC BY-ND 2.0
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This week the House select committee investigating January 6th will hold its first public hearing, in prime time, pre-empting programing on all broadcast television networks and cable news outlets — except for Fox News, which is refusing.
The plan by the committee for an evening hearing is extraordinary (there will be another one on the last day of hearings as well), but it’s actually something we’ve, sadly, seen in the not too distant past: Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings went well into the night. And that underscores how we’re in an era in which Trumpism is still something enormously dangerous and requires razor-sharp focus — like nighttime hearings — but that focus doesn’t guarantee anything will change.
One difference this time, however, is that Trump isn’t on trial alone. It’s also members of Congress who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” rally. It’s the Republican House leadership, which has fought this investigation tooth and nail and whose own members are defying subpoenas. It’s the entire GOP, and really, the entire MAGA movement on trial — a cult movement that revers a man who incited an insurrection, an attempt to overturn an election.
New information released by the committee reveals that Trump himself thought on January 5th that he would be deemed the winner of the election the following day. Millions of people, deeply immersed in the cult, believed it too.
Americans will see that the people at the Capitol who stormed the building are the same people organizing in their own communities to keep Trumpism alive and to destroy democracy. January 6th happened because of the Big Lie, and that’s something Republicans are running on this fall. That’s one reason why the hearings, if they can further expose the lie that led to the violence, have implications for the mid-term elections this fall.
On my SiriusXM program this week, some callers highlighted why the hearings are important, as we’ve still not had a full accounting of what happened and how GOP leaders were involved, including members of Congress and White House officials and Trump himself.
But there were a few callers who believed the hearings won’t change anything. They may be right — but that doesn’t mean we don’t pursue justice. And I don’t think they are in fact right. Republicans are afraid of these hearings and doing everything they can to distract from them. A Republican caller to my show went on about how no one will watch them and then yammered on about inflation.
The issues Republicans want to shift the discussion to — like inflation — are issues that the president didn’t cause and can’t do much about, and which the GOP doesn’t offer any plans on how to fix. On the ballot this fall, energizing Democrats and independents, is a woman’s right to her body and whether or not we are going to allow mass shootings to continue in this country. On both issues the vast majority of people are opposed to the GOP’s reckless and dangerous stance.
And the same is true of January 6th. The key is to keep reminding people of these issues — taking a page from the Republicans, who are much better at repeating messages ad nauseam, until even blatant lies begin to stick with some people. What the committee is presenting of course are not lies. But the truth as to be hammered over and over again.
The hearings have to be relentlessly bold and they must be just one component of a message that is repeated continually. They’re not for those of us who are already there — yet I think even those who’ve been following it closely will hear some startling revelations — but rather must be part of a campaign to wake up others, and even peel away a few people who’ve tried to ignore the issue. That’s what the GOP is afraid of, and that’s why the hearings are vital.
Democrats’ cringeworthy reverence for Nancy Reagan
On Monday, at a White House ceremony, First Lady Jill Biden heralded Nancy Reagan while unveiling a new postage stamp with the former first lady’s face on it:
“First lady Nancy Reagan served the American people with grace,” Biden said. “She understood that the role of first lady came with inherent pitfalls and scrutiny, yet she found the humanity in it all. She knew the potential of this role.”
I get that the stamp wasn’t something the White House initiated, and came from the U.S. Postal Service, which decides these matters. And I understand that protocol probably calls for the current First Lady to unveil the stamp — though I’m not so sure about that and wonder if the postal service could simply have announced this on its own, without a White House ceremony. Perhaps the Biden White House was worried about an outcry from the right. And course President Biden talks about bipartisanship and trying to reach out to the other side — even if it’s futile.
Still, doing this during the beginning of LGBTQ Pride month was terrible timing at best. It was a slap in the facing to LGBTQ people, as Ronald Reagan — and his wife — ignored the AIDS crisis for years, negligence that directly led to the deaths of thousands, while Reagan bowed to religious extremists who viciously attacked the gay community. This came days after President Biden issued a proclamation on LGBTQ Pride. As Jennifer Bendery at HuffPost states in summing it up:
After coming to the White House in 1980, Reagan stayed silent for years as the AIDS epidemic ravaged the LGBTQ community. He didn’t give his first major public address on the AIDS crisis until May 1987, after thousands of people, mostly gay and bisexual men, had died. This was after he recommended cutting federal AIDS spending in 1986.
Nancy Reagan herself turned down a plea for help from her friend, actor Rock Hudson, who in 1985 was desperately trying to get treatment for AIDS in France. Nine weeks before he died, he asked the White House for help getting transferred to another hospital for an experimental treatment in a last-ditch effort to save his life. Nancy Reagan said no.
Bendery also points out that none other than Trump’a handpicked donor, who he helped install as postmaster general, and who has some ugly discrimination in his past, was on hand:
Monday’s event honoring Reagan also featured U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who was recently sued by a former postal worker who claimed he was discriminated against and fired for being gay and HIV-positive.
DeJoy got the case dismissed entirely on a technicality.
There was so much wrong with this event.
And it brought me back to Hillary Clinton, during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Nancy Reagan died, mind-bogglingly praising Nancy Reagan as someone who did an enormous amount to fight AIDS. The outrage was so swift from many people, some of them prominent, that Clinton apologized. From CNN at that time:
Hillary Clinton apologized on Friday for calling the late Nancy Reagan a “very effective, low-key” advocate on AIDS/HIV, saying she “misspoke” in an interview with MSNBC.
Clinton said the former first lady, who died on Sunday, “started a national conversation” on AIDS that “penetrated the public conscience and people began to say, ‘Hey, we have to do something about this, too,’” during an interview with the network at Reagan’s funeral.
Clinton tweeted after the response, completely walking back the statement in an apology: “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I’m sorry.”
So we were supposed to believe that Hillary Clinton either had a massive brain fart and just blurted out these comments, or was trying to score points with Republicans — and not thinking about the backlash — who, by the way, couldn’t care less because they’ll hate her no matter what.
Neither answer is flattering. But it’s probably the latter, which is likely what also motived the Biden White House to have the ceremony for the stamp. Again, I get the politics and the optics.
The timing during Pride month, however, and pointing to Nancy Reagan finding “humanity” in anything was a blunder. The White House and Jill Biden rightly heard back from a lot of people, as social media went ballistic. I’m glad there was at least an uproar. Praise them when they do great things — and point out when they’re engaged in cynical political maneuvers at the expense of people in their own base.