SATURDAY, JUNE 18, 2022
Sherrill pours it on: President Abraham Lincoln had a peculiar idea.
Peculiar though his notion was, its premise lies at the heart of a very large nation's ability to function. He stated his idea at the very end of his first inaugural address:
LINCOLN (3/4/61): I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Thus spake the newly inaugurated president. This leads us to an ongoing current question:
Did Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) lead a reconnaissance tour of "the Capitol" on January 5, 2021?
Stated a slightly different way, did Loudermilk, knowingly or unwittingly, help insurrectionists stage their subsequent attack on the Capitol building?
For the record, we don't know the answer to those questions. We'd guess that he didn't knowingly lead such a tour, but we have no way to be certain.
That said, the poisonous relations prevailing in Congress spill out with respect to this matter. In Congress, we're very much enemies at this time. We've long since ceased to be friends.
We can understand why members of Congress might have unusually strong feelings about the January 6 attack. That said, we'll admit that we recoil from the recent press release by Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.):
SHERRILL (6/15/22): I have served our country as a federal prosecutor, and I know how important it is to investigate and collect evidence and to let that process run its course. The video evidence released today by the bipartisan January 6th committee, combined with the constantly shifting narrative and misdirection from Representatives Barry Loudermilk and Rodney Davis, calls into question their dedication to our common oath as Members of Congress.
I remain committed to supporting this investigation into January 6th, so we ensure it never happens again.
Rep. Sherrill never tires of praising her own past service. Normally, she cites her military service as well as her experience as a federal prosecutor, seeming to say that these experiences provide her a special ability to spot evildoers.
We were struck by the following aspect of this relatively muted recent statement:
Rep. Sherrill starts by noting the importance of investigating and collecting evidence—the importance of letting that process run its course. From there, she proceeds directly to a poisonous insinuation concerning two of The Others—a poisonous insinuation she didn't bother spelling out.
Did Loudermilk conduct a reconnaissance tour? Back in January 2021, Sherrill and others seemed to say that a very large number of such tours had been conducted on January 5. In part, these self-impressed members said this:
“Many of the Members who signed this letter, including those of us who have served in the military and are trained to recognize suspicious activity, as well as various members of our staff, witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups in the complex on Tuesday, January 5. This is unusual for several reasons, including the fact that access to the Capitol Complex has been restricted since public tours ended in March of last year due to the pandemic."
Regarding the statements by Loudermilk and Davis, a fair amount of confusion seems to have infested the limited discussion of this topic, such as it has been.
In fact, the tour conducted by Loudermilk never entered the Capitol Building itself. Concerning the claim you'll constantly hear on "cable news"—the claim that any such tours were forbidden at that time—a brief search concerning these questions quickly turned up this report:
TULLY-MCMANUS (1/13/21): Visitors, official tour groups and almost anyone without a congressional ID have been barred from the Capitol since mid-March, when the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic led congressional leaders to partially close the usually public building.
But members of Congress have been disregarding those strictures to bring in families and friends for small private tours for months, and Capitol Police stationed at entrances typically don’t challenge lawmakers to enforce rules.
That report appeared in Roll Call, one of the two semi-official newspapers of Capitol Hill. You'll note that the reporter seems to think the charge at issue concerned tours of the Capitol Building itself, not of "the Capitol complex," a later substitute.
It has been an amazing seventeen months since Sherrill, later joined by others, launched her remarkable charge. That remarkable charge may even be true—but seventeen months later, we see no sign that anyone, in any journalistic or governmental agency, has actually tried to investigate the initial sweeping charge.
That said, Sherrill stepped forward last week with a new dose of partisan poison. We'll admit that, when we see former prosecutors behaving this way, we sometimes wonder if this helps explain why our prisons and jails seem to be full of innocent people.
Did members of Congress conduct reconnaissance tours of the Capitol building, or perhaps of "the Capitol complex," on January 5? It's certainly possible, but we'll admit that we're tired of hearing Sherrill pretend that her professional experience provides her with a magical ability to assess such remarkable charges.
"We must not be enemies," President Lincoln alleged. In recent years, some Republican members of the House have made it hard to adopt such a stance, thanks to their crazy behavior.
Has the effort been abandoned? Earlier this year, when this same matter briefly boiled up again, Rep. Pelosi's office responded this way to an apparently inaccurate suggestion by Rep. Davis:
BEITSCH (2/121): The Capitol Police Board, comprised of the sergeants-at-arms for both chambers and the Architect of the Capitol, oversees the Capitol Police.
[Rep. Davis'] letter, however, is not addressed to the Capitol Police Board, which retains such footage, but to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who Republicans have increasingly sought to cast as having primary control over Capitol security.
“We’re sorry that Rep. Davis thinks he needs to act like a lunatic in order to win his Republican primary but as he knows the Speaker’s Office does not house the security footage from the U.S. Capitol,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement to The Hill.
"We are friends, not enemies," Lincoln once strangely said.
For ourselves, we've found Sherrill's sense of certainty off-putting ever since this matter surfaced. (That doesn't necessarily mean that her claim was wrong.) Mainly, though, we're astonished that the original, sweeping accusation seems to have gone unexamined, even at this late date.
Relying on her self-admitted exceptional judgment, Sherrill seemed to claim that there was a large number of such tours on January 5. Seventeen months later, she's throwing poison at Loudermilk, but no one seems to have attempted to examine the initial sweeping claim.
Meanwhile, out in the country, can we regular folk find ways to view each other as friends? This morning, on C-Span's Washington Journal, the very first "viewer call" started off like this:
ED FROM GEORGIA (6/18/22): I guess what bothers me the most about today's question is—
Every year, the Democrats like to bring up Watergate. But they never bring us the fact that when the Democrats, during World War II, invented the atomic bomb, they set it off in the United States.
I mean, that's where they set off the bomb, in the United States. And everybody got cancer.
That was Ed's initial reaction to this morning's question. That question concerned "the Watergate legacy and trust in government."
Can you imagine seeing Ed as a friend? Before his comments were done, we found that we agreed to a certain extent with one of his basic points. That said, a giant nation can't survive if its citizens are constantly looking for ways to see each other as enemies, not as friends.
Did Loudermilk lead a reconnaissance tour? We have no way of knowing, one way or the other. (Absent overpowering evidence, we would be extremely loath to launch such a claim or suggestion.)
Seventeen months later, has anyone asked Rep. Sherrill to detail her sweeping initial claims? We get the impression that no one has. Not even on cable!
As President Lincoln might have known, sweeping claims about The Others can be a great deal more fun. But can a giant nation survive a descent into such widespread loathing?
Lincoln endorsed the better angels. Four years later, he was killed.