The eight televised, three-hour meetings by the House Committee to investigate January 6 are over.
There may be more, as early as September. There may be a “Final Report,” as early as December. It’s hard to see why more time and treasure should be thus expended.
The Committee, and its hearings, and the supporting documents and videos thus far released, have done their work. They’ve hammered home, repeatedly, the theme on which they pretty much exclusively focused. Former President Donald Trump was temperamentally and practically not up to the job he was elected to do. When he was put in a critical situation where he had to do it he acted completely in character, and didn’t get it done.
He was confused. He was impulsive. He was irrational. He was inside his own head. He paid attention only to the superficial and one-sided sources of information to which he usually paid attention. He rounded up cronies like Rudy Giuliani for fragmented discussions. He chose not to admit anyone into his thought processes who didn’t mesh with his usual conclusions in those processes.
The committee Hearings showed how he urged the breaking into Congress on because he felt no personal danger. Neither did his wife, who somehow managed to avoid noticing what was going on. “I was fulfilling one of my duties as First Lady of the United States of America, and accordingly I was unaware of what was simultaneously transpiring at the US Capitol Building,” she later told CNN.
She said those “duties” included taking pictures of the contents of the White House, out of which her husband had been voted several months before. Her chief of staff had informed her about what was “simultaneously” going on, asking her to condemn the violence.
“No,” was her one word reply.
“No,” said her husband, the President, in many ways, for hours and hours.
“Had I been fully informed of all the details I would have immediately denounced the violence.” Mrs. Trump later said.
“Everything she says is bullshit,” says her former Chief of Staff.
“Bullshit” was also the word used to Trump’s face by his former Attorney General, discussing the unsupported belief that the election had been “stolen.” “Bullshit” is what vice-president Mike Pence called Trump’s pleas to get him to illegally fail to fulfill his Constitutional responsibility on January 6 and certify President Biden’s election.
So what will “the American people,” as we are so dearly and so often called, make of all this…bullshit? Will we associate it with just its most skilled and most recent practitioner? Will we, who have lived through many Presidents (and countless other elected officials) internalize the assumption that they are pretty much all so infected?
Let’s take another one at random. And in the bi-partisan spirit we are (falsely) accused of having once had and (falsely) condemned for no longer having, let’s try it on for size with a Democrat.
Andrew Cockburn, (“The Fight to Choose” Harper’s August 2012) reminds us that in 2007, when campaigning for the Presidency, Barack Obama pledged to Planned Parenthood that “the first thing I would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” which would eliminate all federal state, and local restrictions on abortion.” But once elected, he announced that this was “not my highest legislative priority.” It was “more important to ramp down some of the anger surrounding this issue.” The bill languished in committee when the Republicans took over Congress while Obama was still “ramping” down passions, and millions of people agonized over the difficulties and traumas of deciding about abortion.
So is it fair to say that Obama – who has had almost nothing to say about the Supreme Court’s recent reversal of Roe v. Wade or Trump’s excoriation by the January 6 hearings – was bullshitting?
One way or the other the effect will be slight on his remaining years among us. But a family member, his wife, is not so silent. One can hardly imagine Michelle Obama busily inventorying rugs and dishes in the White House while a mob up the street storms Congress and threatens to hang the Vice-President.
But even had she been doing what she (or whoever assists her) now does, one can easily imagine her coloring between the lines, as her soon to be published next book, “The Light We Carry,” enters production. Because “between the lines” was where her husband lived his Presidency, and where she now dwells.
An excerpt from the book indicates that what we “carry” is “a light,” not a penumbra centering on a fetus. “If you know your light you know yourself. You know your story in an honest way. In my experience this type of self-knowledge builds confidence, which in turn breeds calmness and an ability to maintain perspective, which leads finally to being able to connect meaningfully with others – and this to me is the bedrock of all things.”
Huh? What about if your body’s “self-knowledge” includes a pregnancy test? What if that pregnancy isn’t wanted? Or dangerous? Do we have he right to expect from an intelligent, well-educated woman like Michelle Obama at least a discussion of the matter in a book that will be the occasion of many celebratory TV appearances as well as sold-out (economically segregated, of course) events nationwide?
Folding oneself into one’s “identity,” which both Obamas are good at, has helped bring us to Trumpworld. (Which is where we are, no matter what the destiny of its namesake). Nowhere is this more obvious than for women, whose outburst of feminism, when limited to the identities of being and celebrating womanhood have arguably helped kill reproductive choice.
“While fourth wave feminists focused on cultural empowerment, anti-abortion activists and policy makers better understood how power works in this country,” writes Charlotte Alter in TIME (7/25/8/1 2022). “They didn’t rely on inspiring movies or heartfelt Oscar speeches or Twitter hashtags to advance their cause. Instead, the anti-abortion movement has been extraordinarily successful at getting conservative lawmakers elected at the state level, where they slowly chipped away at abortion rights… Barack Obama couldn’t get his nominee on the Supreme Court, and this left Donald Trump to appoint an anti-abortion majority.
One wonders if the Obamas even bother to follow power (i.e. electoral) politics any more...now that they lead such fungible lives. Have they seen Politico’s list of “Thirty Counties that Will Decide the Midterms?” In those thirty counties, a visit by either Obama, or both, might well energize the field operation necessary to win against a celebrity candidate like Trump, whose supporters tend to turn out for rallies, but then go home. Whereas Democrats tend to organize door to door contacts which can make a difference. TV, radio, and internet ads will be lavishly funded by both sides. In Cobb and Gwinnett counties Obama nostalgia and post-Roe passion can carry Democrats.
Conventional wisdom, which is more conventional than wise, says that whatever damage has been done to Republicans through the trashing of Trump in the House Hearings has been done. Other wise and conventional, like Stacey Abrams, running against supposed Trump “traitor” Brian Kemp for Georgia Governor, count on Trumpistas being discouraged at the shame he’s brought to the Presidency. And his party. And on a big turnout among women who remember that Kemp is against abortion rights while not defending Trump.