The January 6th Hearings are over, and it was quite a series, quite a thriller. Will there be a season 2? "The January 6th Hearings: The Secrets of the Secret Service." "The January 6th Hearings: A Final Report," or even better: "The January 6th Hearings: Liz Cheney Goes Medieval on Yo' Ass."
The Committee did an excellent job presenting their case to Congress, the public, and the Justice Dept. It does sound like there will be even more to come as the dam broke and more witnesses saw the writing on the wall, er, uh, came to a conscientious and moral epiphany and suddenly want to testify. Seemed like the right thing to do. Just like that. Now that federal prosecutors are mulling over all this testimony.
All the kidding around about it being a dramatic Netflix series has an air of truth, though. The television of it all was indeed quite compelling. You can go back and search through the Congressional archives to find other dramatic hearings, and there are some powerful, historic moments. "Have You No Sense of Decency?" was the famous comment to Sen. Joe McCarthy-R, the red-baiting senator from Wisconsin that held the country's attention by accusing his rivals of being communists. McCarthy held sub-committee investigations for years in the early 50's. And most of us recall the Watergate hearings... over 250 hours of testimony that was televised live. Lawmakers like Sam Erwin, Fred Thompson and Barbara Jordan became household names, along with witnesses like John Dean, H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman... there was the discovery of the Watergate tapes... and a couple of intrepid reporters from the Washinton Post, Woodward and Bernstein made a mysterious informant they referred to as "Deep Throat" almost as famous as the president himself.
But 250 hours of testimony? And sure, much of it was compelling and dramatic if you followed the intricate story (many did, the ratings were sky-high.) How do the Jan 6th hearings compare? The nation was certainly divided during the Nixon presidency. Nixon had ended the Vietnam war, but the nation was still raw from that conflict. It was the beginning of the culture wars, and Watergate would accelerate the nation's mistrust of government. But the majority of the GOP still believed in the peaceful transfer of power and the primacy of the Constitution. The Watergate hearings were essentially bipartisan, and 75% of America was tuning in.
The Jan 6th hearings were marred from the start, as many in the modern GOP stayed loyal to an ex-president who proclaimed the proceedings as "fake," "sick," and "fraudulent." The only two Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, had already been declared "RINOs" by fellow Republicans for their disdain of the former president. Fox News refused to air the hearings, choosing instead to allow their prime-time propagandists to downplay the investigations while bashing President Biden for a dozen perceived offenses.
In a stroke of genius, the Jan 6 committee hired a top television producer to direct the hearings. As the NY Times reported, "It has brought on a veteran TV executive to help do the job, hiring James Goldston, the former president of ABC News, to produce the hearings as if they were a docudrama or a must-watch mini-series."
It worked. The average viewer would not have known how carefully the hearings were structured, they simply came off as a riveting court drama. While the McCarthy and Watergate hearings were compelling by their very nature, the Jan 6th show was enhanced by careful writing, editing, and the judicious use of video and audio clips. From the Times:
The plan is to present the case in six tight, thematic episodes that will unfold in prime time and during the day, running 90 to 150 minutes. The idea is to make them as compelling as the marathon Watergate hearings — some of which stretched for hours — but tailored for the streaming era and a media world fueled by viral moments.
Each episode will have a focus: former President Donald J. Trump’s promotion of a lie of a stolen election; his attempts to misuse the Justice Department to cling to power; the pressure campaign on Vice President Mike Pence to persuade him to throw out electoral votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr.; how the mob assembled and descended onto D.C. on Jan. 6; and how Mr. Trump did nothing to stop the violence for more than three hours while the assault was underway.
Each night was an episode scripted with a beginning, middle and end. Each had villains and heroes, challenges presented that were met, excellent narration, and a buildup to a surprise climax or a damning conclusion. And each episode built from the last, culminating in a season-ender that revealed the President of the United States to be the root of the Big Lie and the attempted insurrection.
Uninformed viewers were able to follow each detail; the more sophisticated and politically engaged audience members were shocked by every new revelation. Most importantly, these careful presentations are having the intended effect. The hard core Trumpers will not budge, but a number of average Republicans are showing signs of Trump fatigue. Still supportive of the ex Toddler in Chief, some GOPsters are hoping to find someone else that can "continue his policies." A sea-change from many of those same voters that could not imagine anyone else to be their legitimate president. His fundraising numbers are also down, especially relative to one of his chief rivals, DeSantis.
Chalk it all up to "good TV."
And speaking of Republicans and Democrats...
Two weeks ago, Roger Gray dissected the Texas Republican convention and its platform. Now it's the Democrat's turn, except they didn't seem to get one done. Granted, Dallas is a great party town, but at some point, they have to get serious about politics again or accept that they have become a partisan wine-tasting society. That whirring sound you hear is Ann Richards spinning in her grave.
Meanwhile, DeeceX "unpacks" Gregory Wayne Abbott's chances for greater things. (Isn't it strange how many famous Texans have "Wayne" as a middle name? Why, there was Elmer Wayne Henley, Vernon Wayne Howell - aka David Koresh, Robert Wayne Harris...)
but I digress...
Abbott is not very good at so many things. He seems intent on proving to the vile GOP base that he can be just as reprehensible as the former president. Unfortunately (fortunately?) he doesn't seem to be very good at that, either.
Norman Maclean famously wrote that “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” Here with the Texas Outlaw Writers you regularly read that we seem to be diverging as a state, not merging. James Moore suggests that the rivers barely run at all in Texas anymore, much less through it.
We're used to some serious droughts here in the state - in all of the Southwest, in fact. But the cumulative effects of overdevelopment, climate change, near permanent drought... is reshaping the West and Southwest. Could a northward migration be in our near future?
*Note: a link to a great documentary that James wrote, “A Run Unto the Sea: The Adventures of the Abilene Boys,” narrated by Walter Cronkite can be found in the article.
Maybe one reason for our inability to problem solve as a society is the lack of critical thinking in our schools, business, and government. It's making Myra Jolivet a little crazy. Common sense is becoming the most uncommon thing of all.
Stay hydrated, people. Keep cool, in all ways. Go do some do-gooding this week. Volunteer, donate, block-walk, see an old friend, listen to some music (and turn off the news for a bit.)