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The J6 hearing, aka 'Fahrenheit 1/6,' back in prime time. Plus, AOC and the photo op arrest.
By Gary Abernathy
The House select committee that’s been repackaging old information about the riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 could well rename itself “Fahrenheit 1/6.” That would be a reflection of the template they are most closely following — leftwing filmmaker Michael Moore’s 2004 documentary, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which blasted then-President George W. Bush and the Bush administration’s response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Moore’s movie was interesting in the same way that Oliver Stone’s movies are interesting if you ignore numerous facts and abandon any pretense of fairness in order to sit back and enjoy the show.
Let’s be clear. Donald Trump’s actions, and inactions, deserve condemnation. It’s right to remind Americans that he refused to accept the election results, inspired the riot of Jan. 6 and was a no-show on Jan. 20, 2021, shamefully foregoing participation in the peaceful transfer of power. Hopefully, as time goes by, more and more Republicans will refuse to support him.
But in the United States, even the most despicable person deserves balance in how they or their actions are depicted, whether by Congress or in the courts. This may not be a trial, but the misuse of a congressional committee to cherry-pick facts and paint a completely one-sided narrative in Hollywood fashion against a former president is still wrong. It’s all for the purpose of turning the public against him, improving the Democrats’ chances in the upcoming midterm elections and prodding the Justice Department to bring charges in hopes of preventing Trump from running again.
There should have been members of this committee asking skeptical questions of witnesses and presenting the less damning explanation of events that is in the public record. For instance, the refusal of the committee to play the clip in which Trump tells rally-goers to march “peacefully” to the Capitol is an unforgiveable and glaring omission.
Like a Michael Moore documentary, this committee has, from the start, been dedicated to building a damning narrative against Trump for his role in the riot of Jan. 6. These have never been hearings in the traditional sense. Traditional hearings are gaveled to order with perhaps an opening statement and then testimony from witnesses who face a variety of questions that often take an unexpected course based on the answers. In typical hearings, questions are both from friendly allies and from critical skeptics. Not here. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to seat two Republicans appointed by GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy, McCarthy understandably pulled the other three Republicans he had put forth. He wasn’t about to allow Pelosi to dictate his choices, any more than she would allow such a thing if McCarthy was in charge.
Pelosi ended up appointing two Republicans of her liking, both longtime Trump critics. One, Adam Kinzinger, isn’t seeking reelection and routinely rips his own party, and the other, Liz Cheney, is struggling so much in her Wyoming primary that she is begging Democrats to come to her rescue. As New York Magazine put it this week in reporting on her primary poll numbers, “Liz Cheney, January 6 Hearings Star, Is Bombing Back Home.” So much for the Republican presence on the committee.
And so, the Democrats have the committee they wanted, with everyone singing tranquilly from the same hymn book, swaying in harmony like the occupants of a commune singing hypnotically around a campfire. Each question is literally written in advance and read robotically from a teleprompter. The witnesses are so well coached that there’s no danger that a new question not previously agreed upon might be inconveniently asked.
Also enhancing the presentations have been extensive and carefully-edited video clips, both of witnesses who were previously interviewed and footage from Jan. 6, all dramatically crafted into compelling television by a professional network news producer, James Goldston. As the New York Times reported back in June:
Mr. Goldston is helping congressional investigators retell and reframe the events of that day for a weary and polarized nation. With a handful of production staff, it is his job to sift through and edit down a voluminous amount of images from police body cams, hallway surveillance video and raw footage from a documentarian — hours and hours of recordings that captured the insurrection as it unfolded. He and his team will help the House committee that is investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack produce TV-ready segments for all its public hearings…
Unlike some shows that feature different casts or hosts for their nighttime incarnations versus their daytime versions, this Thursday’s primetime version of the show will star the same co-hosts, Cheney and Bennie Thompson. According to reports, this episode will provide the committee an opportunity to parrot a segment of “Fahrenheit 9/11” so closely that Moore may be tempted to claim plagiarism. The focus will be on Trump’s delay in responding to the riot. According to testimony and previous reporting, Trump enjoyed watching the rioters disrupt the counting of the electoral votes, taking pleasure in the loyalty they were demonstrating to him. Despite numerous pleas, including from family members, he refused to issue a statement or send a tweet asking supporters to disperse until the damage had been done.
In “Fahrenheit 9/11,” Moore depicted a similar scenario involving a president failing to take immediate action in response to a developing threat. Bush was at a Florida elementary school reading with children when he learned that a second plane had hit the World Trade Center and America was under attack. Rather than leap up and run out of the room to deal with the emergency, Bush chose to remain seated and carry on with the program for a few more minutes. Moore focused on that episode, detailing each long minute that passed and painting Bush as a weak and paralyzed man. Here’s the clip from Moore’s documentary.
“Fahrenheit 1/6” will undoubtedly follow a similar script, with testimony recounting each time Trump was asked, and then refused, to call off the rioters, detailing with corresponding video the minute-by-minute damage that was done to the Capitol, injuries to law enforcement and even deaths that resulted — in the moment and later — from Trump’s inaction. A narrator will surely intone, Michael Moore style, “As Donald Trump watched the insurrection unfold on TV and cheered on his supporters, another life was lost.”
And “narrator” is the right word. According to reports this week, among those featured Thursday will be Matthew Pottinger, who served on Trump’s National Security Council, and Sarah Matthews, who was a deputy White House press secretary. Both resigned shortly after Jan. 6 in response to the riot. As New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman tweeted, they will “appear as live witnesses narrating the hearing Thursday night on Trump's inaction on Jan. 6, 2021.”
Narrating the hearing? Since when are hearings “narrated?” They are chaired, gaveled to order, conducted with questions and responses and then adjourned. But they are not “narrated” — until now, that is, with a professional producer at the helm.
As always with these hearings, they will be aided and abetted by a willing and compliant media unquestioningly relaying the prepackaged production with headlines and analysis that could have been written by the committee itself, as happens with new movies that come complete with press packets consisting of profiles and stories written by studio publicists that often find their way into newspapers and magazines.
Thursday’s hearing was originally scheduled to be the last, but committee members have said that there may be more based on “new evidence” emerging. That’s odd, because “new evidence” has never been a requirement before. Rest assured, the hearings will continue for as long as polls show Democrats getting trounced in November.
If Republicans win control of the House in November, as widely predicted, one can only imagine the page they will take from the Democrats’ playbook and the “hearings” they will produce (although most networks will pass, since it’s the GOP running them). They will copy this committee’s tactics and package professional productions with documentary-style audio and visual and, hey, why not just add an ominous musical soundtrack for the final evocative touch? The Jan. 6 committee has opened the door, and future committees will follow its lead.
Some media desperate to validate Hutchinson’s story
Some in the media seem desperate to validate the story told by former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson about Donald Trump going ballistic in an SUV when Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Hutchinson — telling a second-hand story, as was the case with much of her testimony — said she was told that Trump grabbed the steering wheel, and then lunged for the “clavicles” of a second agent in the car.
The Secret Service reportedly denies that account of events, but now CNN reports the following: “DC police officer in Trump Jan. 6 motorcade corroborates details of heated Secret Service exchange to committee.” According to the story:
A Washington, DC, police officer has corroborated to the House select committee investigating January 6, 2021, details regarding a heated exchange former President Donald Trump had with his Secret Service detail when he was told he could not go to the US Capitol after his rally, a source familiar with the matter tells CNN.
The officer with the Metropolitan Police Department was in the motorcade with the Secret Service for Trump on January 6 and recounted what was seen to committee investigators, according to the source.
The officer was “in the motorcade?” Being in the motorcade is much different than being in the vehicle with Trump and the other agents. Was he in the car behind Trump? Two cars away? Five cars?
Whatever the officer saw from afar, it’s hard to understand why it’s pertinent beyond a tenuous effort to validate Hutchinson’s testimony.
Talking Jan. 6 committee on CNN with host Laura Coates
On Saturday evening I joined Laura Coates on CNN to discuss my latest Washington Post column on the Jan. 6 committee. A few months ago, I was a guest on Laura’s Sirius radio program to discuss a piece I wrote on how tolerance is no longer enough for some on the left, who now insist on advocacy. We had a good conversation, as we did Saturday on this subject.
There’s not a good link to the whole segment in one piece, but this link to an internet archive has portions posted separately for anyone interested. Thanks to Laura and the producers for having me on.
The strange case of AOC and the invisible handcuffs
You gotta love this clip of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being escorted away during a protest at the Supreme Court this week. With her hands behind her back, she gives the impression she is handcuffed as she smiles and smirks for cameras while being walked away from the protest — until she can’t resist raising a clenched fist for a couple of seconds, breaking the illusion.
Please spare us the alternate takes, such as, “Maybe she was told to put her hands behind her back.” Apparently the other person being escorted by the same police officer wasn’t given those instructions.
If AOC had been successful in her quest to defund the police, this never would have happened, of course. But that would have denied her a great photo op, which is the whole point.
Give her credit, she knows how to draw attention to herself better than anyone else in Congress.
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