The House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol Building, which was undertaken live on television on January 6, 2021, by Donald Trump devotees, opens for business tomorrow. There will be no penalties levied at the end of these hearings, no punishments doled out. The point of the exercise is simplicity itself: This happened, it happened in this way, here is who bore the brunt, there is who bears the stain of final responsibility, and this is what must happen going forward if we wish to cling to the threads of this tattered and tottering democracy.
“[O]n Tuesday, four police officers — two from the Capitol’s protection squad and two from D.C. police — are set to provide the first public testimony before the select committee,” reports The Washington Post. “They are expected to testify about their experiences of both physical and verbal abuse on Jan. 6, as they tried to protect the Capitol from a swelling horde of demonstrators determined to stop Congress’s efforts to certify the 2020 electoral college results and declare Joe Biden the next president.”
While the stark testimony of the various witnesses will surely lie at the heart of this unfolding process, the political logistics behind these hearings are what truly fascinates at this point.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tapped two hardcore House Republicans — Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to join the panel of Democrats who will hear testimony on the Capitol attack. This, after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attempted to foist brazen, career liars like Jim Jordan on the committee. Pelosi sent that suggestion packing, and now the venomous relationship between the two is akin to that between owls and crows: two animals, according to Hunter S. Thompson, who will attack each other on sight.
At first blush, the inclusion of Cheney and Kinzinger would seem to represent a giant step back. These are what passes for “moderate,” responsible Republicans today? Adam Kinzinger basically believes just about anyone should be able to carry a concealed pistol just about anywhere, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, thinks war with Iran is a bully idea, opposes federal funds for clinics that provide abortions, opposes the Equality Act offering legal protections to the LGBTQ community, and generally represents everything that makes your average progressive want to climb a tree and start speaking squirrel until the bad noise stops.
And as for Liz Cheney? Where to begin. The notorious WMD lies peddled by her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, got millions of people killed, maimed and displaced, and broke the national economy across its knee. Rather than shun these pestiferous familial policies that led the country into our current downward spiral, Liz Cheney embraced them, chairing the Iran Syria Policy and Operations Group with no lesser light than Elliot Abrams, who advocated for war in Iran and further militaristic mayhem in the Middle East.
“[A] few months of courage (if, indeed, that’s what you can call simply accepting the results of a fair and free election) cannot erase a political record that includes support of mass surveillance and the military’s use of torture — even waterboarding! — as well as a hawkishness second only to that of her father (George W. Bush’s war-mongering second in arms),” reports Stuart Emmrich for Vogue. “And let’s not forget the hardline stance she took against gay marriage in 2013, just as she was about to embark on her elected political career (a bid for the U.S. Senate that she ultimately abandoned before deciding instead to run for the House), despite the fact that her own sister Mary, who is a lesbian, married another woman just a year earlier.”
That right there — the very gruesome horror of it — is also the magic of it, maybe the best inside move/rib jab of Speaker Pelosi’s long career. The rank awfulness of Cheney and Kinzinger is what makes their presence on the panel a golden opportunity for those seeking justice and truth about 1/6, and likewise makes their presence a bewildering political conundrum for every Trump defender seeking to discredit the process.
You’re telling me these two aren’t righteous Republicans in the modern vein?
How do you make that argument? How do you say the committee is nothing but a vat of left-wing progressive nonsense seeking to shame a noble man like Trump, if those two are part of the line-up? Before all this happened, Kinzinger’s star was on the rise, and Cheney was the #3 horse in the GOP stable. In a parallel universe where Trump and 1/6 never happened, I’d spit upon hearing their names.
Now? I’ll still spit, but I will also be watching them the way astute baseball fans observe an ace pitcher on the mound in the seventh game of the World Series, how they work the dirt, how they paint the corners of the strike zone, and most important of all, how well their fastball eats up the batter. McGhan, McCarthy, Wray, Milley, Meadows, Ivanka, Stone, Giuliani, Tuberville, Brooks… oh, man.
Cheney and Kinzinger are at the mercy of their voters next year, having burned their bridges to Trump’s GOP. The best they can do for themselves is bring all the fire they can to this hearing, to prove they were right to take the stand they did. It is in their most profound self-interest to focus on getting to the truth of all this. It is, in fact, their best re-election campaign strategy. Set ‘em up and knock ‘em down, and let the million flowers bloom.
If Pelosi and her colleagues are as wise as they seem with these choices, they will have Cheney and Kinzinger ask all the dagger questions during these hearings. The pair’s only Republican sin is their disdain for Donald Trump. In the larger majority world beyond the GOP, that’s no sin at all.