Live video: The January 6 committee hearing


Embedded for your enjoyment below, in case you’re away from a TV and want to watch at 8 p.m. ET. Or in case the only channel your TV gets is Fox News, which will distinguish itself tonight by becoming the only major news network not to cover the hearing live. Even Newsmax…

Kevin McCarthy was asked this morning about comments he made last year, privately and before the impeachment vote on the House floor, that Trump bears responsibility for the insurrection. Does he stand by that? Sure, he said — inasmuch as we all bear some responsibility for it.

That’s the sort of sober, serious reckoning with a presidential coup attempt that the committee would be contending with right now if McCarthy’s five nominees to the panel had been approved by Pelosi.

Kevin Williamson accused the committee today of “stupidly and wrongly” focusing more on the Capitol riot than on the extended campaign to overturn the election that led to it. Do we know that the committee intends to do that, though? News broke yesterday that Brad Raffensperger is set to testify at some point this month. Raffensperger had nothing to do with January 6; his testimony will doubtless focus on his phone calls with Trump and assorted cronies in which they pressured him to “find” the votes to erase Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia. The committee’s going to get into the weeds on the broader “stop the steal” plot. Eventually.

But not tonight, it seems, which will focus on planning by the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers before the riot and the police’s experience during the attack. There’s a legitimate strategic debate to be had there. Should they have devoted their first, most buzzworthy primetime hearing to details about the insurrection itself or should they have used tonight to start a chronological journey through the post-election period, beginning with Trump’s plans to try to overturn the election? Those details are less well-known to the public and might draw more interest. And having Trump as the main character in the narrative rather than the Proud Boys would draw more viewers to the next hearing, I suspect.

We’ll see. Meanwhile, David Brooks argues that the January 6 committee has already blown it by rehashing the past instead of looking to the future. Brooks agrees with Liz Cheney that the threat of another coup attempt and resulting civil disorder is rising. Where he disagrees is believing that the best way to call public attention to that threat is revisiting the last plot instead of instead sketching out what the next is likely to look like:

We need a committee to explore just how close America is to rampant political violence. I had some problems with Barbara F. Walter’s recent book, “How Civil Wars Start,” but I wish all the committee members would read it if only to expand their imaginations.

She demonstrates that the conditions for political violence are already all around us: The decline of state effectiveness and democratic norms. The rise of political factions that are not based on issues, but on ethnic identity and the preservation of racial and ethnic privilege. The existence of ferocious splits between urban and rural people. The existence of conflict entrepreneurs — political leaders and media folks who profit from whipping up apocalyptic frenzies. The widespread sense that our political opponents are out to destroy our way of life…

We need a committee to explore what political violence might look like in this country. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way foresee a future of “endemic regime instability”: frequent constitutional crises, contested or stolen elections, periods of dysfunctional democracy followed by periods of authoritarian rule.

“Conflict entrepreneurs” is a great term. It cuts to the bone in describing around 95 percent of MAGA celebrities.

I’d guess Cheney would say that it’s important to revisit January 6 to remind people that we’ve already experienced an authoritarian power grab. It’s not a hypothetical. We reached the brink 17 months ago, and the more that’s driven home to voters, the more they’ll take seriously the prospect that we’ll reach it again soon — in theory. Personally, I think the country’s already doomed. Americans aren’t attracted to authoritarianism because they’re ignorant, they’re attracted to it because many are authoritarian at heart. But I’m wrong about a lot about things. Let’s hope I’m wrong about that too.





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