I started the new year with a bang at a meeting in the Washington home of a European diplomat. I was interested in how Europe processes the American political scene, including
Donald Trumpthe refusal to accept the election result. I have a slap in the face. The diplomat was stunned: America is the beacon of democracy, you are leaving the world in the lurch.
It was January 1st, my first trip to Washington since the pandemic began. In a message to the diplomat a few days later, I threw in a warning: Stay home on January 6th; the planned big Trump rally could cause trouble.
I only knew this because I listen to what is going on as adults do. I had no specific information, no insider source, no advance warning about an encrypted app. I share this because I just read the report released this week by two Senate committees on the Capitol’s preparations for a possible insurrection. And the authorities weren’t paying attention.
Nobody was ready. The report highlighted how stupid government agencies are often, how negligent. They had intelligence systems and people monitoring the web. But there was a system-wide security failure, “critical outages involving multiple federal agencies.” Authorities failed to warn of the potential for violence or to prepare. One arm of the Capitol Police knew of the danger in the weeks leading up to January 6, but did not consider the information in its assessments. The police leadership never developed a staffing plan for the joint meeting called to count the votes and did not provide any information on the location of the officers. After the uprising, they were unable to provide any documents showing where the officers were when the attack began. Task Force commanders could not give any information to their superiors because they were busy with rioters. Front-line officers were not provided with proper equipment – helmets, armor, shields. Most defended the Capitol in their daily uniforms. Heavy equipment was stored on a bus near the Capitol, but when a train tried to retrieve it, the bus was locked and no one had a key. The Capitol Police leadership stumbled when they called the National Guard and the Department of Defense stumbled when they got it there.
What a disaster. If you read it, after the indignation has subsided, you realize: That sounds like a lot of America now. You put on the outfit and walk around playing a role. You are doing your best but have not been properly guided, trained or equipped and are not sure what to do. So you go forward and do your best. This applies to many professions – politics, economics, medicine. These institutions are interested in “public orientation”, not “internal reality”. Everything revolves around marketing and communication. Managers are rewarded not for thorough training, but for quick training.
Anyway, Capitol Hill slept at the counter.
I want to say something about the meaning of 1/6 and why it is so important that we know everything that happened that day.
It’s not just “the past” and we can’t just “move on”. It’s a story that is still happening.
People experienced it differently. Most of us were cold and appalled to see the pictures of men in storm gear climbing the Capitol, breaking in, and populating the rotunda. It was a shock to see the Capitol breach.
But some weren’t appalled. They see the Capitol already destroyed by decades of bad governance and now a stolen election. January 6th was merely the physical expression of a longstanding fact that the vandals had already arrived and were wearing congressional pins.
For the horrified, the Capitol is the symbol and repository of our republic, our democracy. Those whom we represent do their work there. It may be a mess and a bit of a brothel, but it’s always been a mess and a bit of a brothel because it’s human. And yet there greatness can break out, progress can be made, things can be improved.
We have that as a nation. It is our only hope.
If you weren’t horrified until 1/6, then you’ve given up: throw in the towel, democracy is done, over. Those who know that it is not done, not over, who will not allow it again and again, also know that democracy needs friends right now.
Here’s a way to be your friend.
The Capitol broke because of a conspiracy theory: that the election was actually won by Mr Trump but stolen from him by bad people. This theory has not gone away, it is growing and spreading. What one might call Trump Underworld – the agents, crooks, and media figures around him – are pushing theories harder than ever. It’s like they think he won’t be a candidate in 2024 and they better make their money now, the window is closing.
This conspiracy is bad for the country: it polarizes us and diminishes our trust in our systems. It’s bad for either of our two big parties: it leaves the GOP with an untreated cancer.
The only thing that can stop it are real facts, independently developed and presented with respect – and receipts. How happened 1/6; who was behind it, paid for it, tacitly promoted it, exploited it? Who didn’t care when people got hurt? Who wanted people to be hurt? That information is still accessible through deep glimpses into the documentation – phone records, bank records, hotel records, text messages. It is available through affidavits.
The Republican Senators recently passed a bill to set up a September 11, 2001-style public commission to investigate what happened and what led to it. But they cannot, shall we say, stop a House Special Committee of five Democrats, five Republicans, full staffed and full subpoenas.
The Democrats did not quickly launch a large and formal investigation. Perhaps they are afraid that they will be embarrassed about some of the revelations. Early on, they thought Mr. Trump was humiliating himself and they should turn the site into the shiny new Biden era. You should reconsider that. A thorough investigation would be dramatic and help divert attention from the recent bobbles.
Barbara Comstock, a former two-term GOP member of the House of Representatives and hearty supporter of a full investigation, notes that the idea that the election was stolen turned into “the Movement of the 3.” She said in an interview, “I think , it is important to get rid of the disease of conspiracy and QAnon. Trump world is invested in cheating on good people who write $ 25 checks. There are now smart people who believe in conspiracies, and those who are smart are slower to find out the truth than those who are not. “
“Sometimes good politics is good politics, too,” she adds. Republican candidates must be liberated in order to develop policies that return to dealing with the real problems people face, not just their grievances. Politics must get serious again. Republican Trump supporters on Capitol Hill must be confronted and pressed on the facts. “The future doesn’t have to be against Trump,” says Ms. Comstock, “it doesn’t have to be against Trump.”
She fears more violence and believes future attacks are possible: “The polarization has made the danger real. Threats have increased 107% since the election. They wanted to hang
Mike Pence. ”
The Capitol Police have told her that they would like a full investigation of their own. “What happened to Back the Blue?” She asks.
Congress should take this seriously and do it sooner rather than later. “The longer you wait,” says Ms. Comstock, “the more records go away.”
Wonderland: The January 6th Pelosi-Schumer Commission will do nothing about America’s time bomb of political violence. Pictures: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly
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