The Jan. 6 committee report feels like ’70s rerun. It’s not

Can someone get me a tab and some Sea & Ski? We went back to the 1970s and I need to get ready for summer.

At least, it’s easy to feel that way: Here we are all again, watching a TV report on a Republican-led attempt to thwart democracy as we grapple with a gas crisis, rising inflation, anti-abortion protests and the , which will inevitably be described as coming to an end as a cultural malaise. With the recent death of Jim Seals, ‘Summer Breeze’ and ‘Diamond Girl’ are making their way through the collective consciousness and the Rolling Stones were playing Liverpool.

There’s a show about the making of The Godfather, a recent makeover of Death on the Nile, an upcoming Elvis biopic, and the sneaky return of crocheted halter tops and flared pants.

Those who refuse to learn from history are apparently doomed to go back to wearing crocheted halter tops and flared pants.

As I watch lengthy testimonies about a President’s attempt to tear up the Constitution.

Except there’s a difference, and it has to do with what we see. The January 6th committee leans into our current obsession with true crime and limited series, and away from the sprawling, 23-plus episode season-style Watergate investigation that dominated television for 11 weeks in 1973.

The House of Representatives special committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol holds its first public hearing

The House Special Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol is holding its first public hearing on Capitol Hill.

(Jabin Botsford/Associated Press)

Of course there are other differences. As became clear in the first two hours, the committee has already determined that Trump was at the center of a conspiracy to lie about the 2020 election results and attempt to stop the peaceful transfer of power through illegal means, including convening a mob attacking the Capitol on the day Congress ratified President Joe Biden’s victory.

Your public report will present the evidence.

If history were to truly repeat itself, Donald Trump would be forced into true political exile and some of his henchmen would end up serving their sentences.

With many Americans, including GOP congressmen, still “debating” whether the January 6 riot happened, and if so, whether it was really that bad, this finding seems like a reach.

President Richard M. Nixon points to the transcripts of the White House tapes

President Richard M. Nixon points to the transcripts of the White House tapes after announcing during a nationally televised speech that he would turn them over to House impeachment investigators in 1974.

(Associated Press)

On the other hand, many people initially thought the Watergate scandal was a bad buy. Richard Nixon enjoyed more popular support than Trump ever did, and before the Watergate hearings there were similar cries of “witch hunts” from the public and press. Nixon loyalists established the National Citizens’ Committee for Fairness to the Presidency; GOP members of Congress were expected to support the President no matter what.

Even after the Watergate Seven were indicted, many chose to believe that Nixon was not involved in the conspiracy. It was only after the release of the White House tapes, the existence of which was revealed during the hearing, that the Republican Party and the public turned against the President.

When the conservative Chicago Tribune first published the full transcripts, editor Clayton Kirkpatrick wrote: “It is a lack of interest in morality, a lack of interest in high principle, a lack of commitment to the high ideals of public office, which make the transcripts a sickening exposure of the man.” and his advisers. … He is humorless to the point of inhumanity. He’s sneaky. He falters. He is profane. He likes to be led. He has appalling gaps in knowledge. He is suspicious of his employees. His loyalty is minimal.”

The Senate committee on the Watergate case on Capitol Hill in Washington in 1973.

The Senate committee hearing on the Watergate case on Capitol Hill in 1973.

(Associated Press)

This is the part of history that the January 6 Committee is trying to repeat: the moment when the facts are made irrefutable, the implications undeniable.

Given our current propensity to revisit and occasionally reassess past crimes, it might work. Notwithstanding the crocheted clothing, however, this is not 1973. The problem the committee faces is not one of political division – the country was deeply divided then, as it is now – but that, unlike Nixon with his famous Checkers speech and his beautiful family, Trump has never hidden his Machiavellian leanings. In fact, that’s why many people voted for him.

Many of the qualities that shocked Kirkpatrick were and continue to be praised by Trump’s supporters: the abusive tweets, the blatant lies (often under the guise of “joking”), the willingness to counter what they saw as the tyranny of the “awakened” culture embracing extremist groups like the Klan, the vicious disrespect for colleagues who disagreed with him, and increasingly the democratic process.

Trump signaled early and often his unwillingness to relinquish power. He openly said he could only lose the election if it was rigged. He openly declared victory before millions of ballots were counted and called for millions of absentee ballots to be rejected. He openly said the election was stolen when there was no evidence to support the claim and vowed to take it to the Supreme Court. When this and other courts rejected his claims, Trump openly urged Vice President Mike Pence to refuse to confirm the election. When Pence said he couldn’t legally do so, Trump openly encouraged a mob to storm the Capitol to end certification.

If Richard Nixon had said all the things revealed by the famous White House tapes on TV and Twitter, would they have become any less egregious?

The first few hours of the Jan. 6 committee report revealed no transcripts of the president’s private conversations, but did include testimonies from Trump’s inner circle. Everyone agreed that Trump had been repeatedly told he had lost the election and planned to remain in office anyway.

Former Atty. General William Barr addresses the House Select Committee during a video deposition

Former Atty. General William Barr speaks during video testimony about the January 6 attack.

(House Select Committee via AP)

According to his own associates, Trump was certainly sneaky, profane, suspicious, disloyal, and unconcerned with morality, principle, or the high ideals of public office. After quickly exhausting all legal avenues of proof of winnings, he turned to illegal ones.

That happened. We’ve all seen it on TV and social media. We’ve now heard it from Trump’s own advisers, including his attorney general and his daughter.

Democracies are not overthrown by accident. They are not overthrown to seek truth or right an injustice. They are overthrown when an individual or group decides that personal power comes first. And that’s what the January 6 committee hopes to prove — that there was a conspiracy to keep Trump in office, and that that conspiracy was led by Trump.

It’s a conspiracy that is still at play as many GOP politicians reaffirm their loyalty to Trump and seek to rewrite history rather than learn from history.

According to House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who first called for an investigation into the mob who forced him to flee for his life and then blocked all attempts to actually investigate him, “everyone had taken it.” [sic] a certain responsibility based on what is going on. The riots in the streets.”

This is, in the words of the former Atty. General William Barr, “Bulls -“. As an Irish Catholic woman, I feel guilty and responsible for many things I shouldn’t, but even as a member of the media, I refuse to be held responsible in any way for Trump’s decision, the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and others to whistle at extremists, along with many disgruntled citizens, and sic them on Capitol police and members of Congress.

We can try to blame the media, playing on this country’s political divisions with Fox News on one side and MSNBC on the other. Certainly there is an increasing reliance on “recordings” (including this one) to spark a conversation that social media has already wildly amplified and all too often tragically simplified.

But during Watergate there was disagreement among the media – the initial coverage of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein was dismissed by many of their peers (including the Los Angeles Times), who chose to focus on the White House denials.

As chronicled on the Starz series Gaslit, everyone was happy to dismiss the horrific kidnapping and physical abuse of Martha Mitchell, ordered by her husband for fear she would speak to the press, as the debauchery of an alcoholic.

Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., delivers her opening remarks

Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., delivers her opening remarks on the Jan. 6 investigation, while Committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., left, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. , watch.

(J Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

I hope the disclosures of Thursday night and the nights that followed will do what the Watergate transcripts did: reveal the truth of a very big lie. In many ways, the January 6 violent attack on the Capitol was far worse than the Watergate burglary cover-up. But basically it’s the same.

A President should not be allowed to use the power of his office to direct, encourage, or fund illegal and immoral attempts to retain power. We might have turned down Tab for Diet Coke and old Sea & Ski for SPF 100, but most Americans still don’t see tyranny as an upgrade from democracy.

It is unlikely that the January 6 committee will repeat Watergate; It’s a different kind of show. But if it’s as successful as so many other true crime limited series, this country needs to be moved to ensure this more recent piece of history is never allowed to repeat itself. The Jan. 6 committee report feels like ’70s rerun. It’s not

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