This year witnessed the greatest threat to American democracy since the Civil War. But strangely, since its occurrence in January, it has received little attention.
The mob insurrection – 1/6 some are calling it, in keeping with 9/11 nomenclature – was a bigger story than the Watergate break-in. But until now, a House committee probe has been getting nowhere near the notice the Watergate hearings did.
The rather ho-hum response is yet another example of the fortune that follows Donald Trump, who helped foment the riot. Thus far he’s emerged relatively unscathed.
If at the encouragement of a sitting prime minister, a seething mob violently attacked Parliament Hill in Ottawa with the intent of negating a legitimate election result, could we imagine that leader subsequently escaping ignominy and maintaining his support level?
Developments in Washington this week may well change the script. The House committee voted to hold Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, in contempt for defying a subpoena. More noteworthy was the release of text messages to the White House during the insurrection from Mr. Trump’s toadies at Fox News and from his son, Don Jr. They pleaded with the then-president to instruct the assailants to stand down.
“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Don Jr. wrote Mr. Meadows. “It has gone too far. And gotten out of hand.”
Fox’s Laura Ingraham was aghast. “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.”
Blowhard Sean Hannity also weighed in. “Can he make a statement?” he texted Mr. Meadows. “Ask people to leave the Capitol.”
For hours, as the rioting continued, eventually causing five deaths, Mr. Trump ignored the calls, many of which came from Republican lawmakers as well. Finally, while telling the goons that he “loved” them, Mr. Trump said they should disperse.
The insurgency reached the point, recalled Democrat committee member Elaine Luria, where, “our democracy was inches from ruin.”
Being a Democrat, her view is not so significant. But the texts from ardent Trump supporters, which were read out by Republican Liz Cheney – what a torment to her Grand Old Party she has become – carried a lot of weight.
Some of those who viewed the attack in such ruinous terms for Mr. Trump have since gone about soft-pedalling the seriousness of it. They now look like hypocrites on stilts and will appear foolish trying to defend Mr. Trump hereafter.
It won’t stop them from trying. After Ms. Cheney divulged the texts, Mr. Hannity complained that their release was an invasion of his privacy. He later had Mr. Meadows on his show for a puffball interview that lacked any questions on the contents of the missives.
In the agitprop sweepstakes at Fox, Mr. Hannity is well contested by the increasingly deluded and increasingly popular – is there a correlation? – Tucker Carlson. “They don’t look like terrorists,” Mr. Carlson once said of the rioters. “They look like tourists.”
It’s been a hard week for Fox. The day before the committee revelations, Chris Wallace, one of the few at the network who had any claim to objectivity, abruptly announced his departure. Shortly thereafter it was revealed he was going over to arch-enemy CNN.
The latest developments will boost Democrats’ chances of holding Mr. Trump’s feet to the fire for his complicity in the attempted coup. They may help focus more media attention on it, which is how it should be. As Ms. Cheney stated, “There has been no stronger case in our nation’s history for a Congressional investigation into the action of a former president.”
The likely reason journalists have not been more aggressive is that they got burned for pressing too hard on the Russian collusion story and are now being cautious with Mr. Trump on the attempted coup.
Mr. Biden, as Trumpians bleat, has not received favourable media treatment. One study by the information company FiscalNote examined more than 200,000 articles and concluded that coverage for Biden during his first year was just as negative if not more so than for Mr. Trump in his.
Facing headwinds on many fronts as the midterm elections approach, a big hope for Mr. Biden is to use the danger to democracy that Mr. Trump poses – 1/6, his fiction about a stolen election, his attempt to limit voting rights etc. – to cast him as a threat worse than Richard Nixon.
In a sane political environment that would have a lot of takers. In this one, who can say?
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