FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2022
Some reasons for saying yes: Yesterday's presentation by the January 6 committee focused on a remarkable meeting in the Oval Office.
The meeting occurred on January 3, 2021. For the record, the information presented yesterday wasn't exactly new.
The Washington Post had described this same meeting in this detailed report which appeared online ten days ago, on June 14. The lengthy report was widely discussed when it appeared. Oddly, we found no sign that the remarkable report had ever appeared in the Washington Post's print editions.
That said, yesterday's presentation was riveting. At one point, Rep. Adam Kinzinger described then-president Donald J. Trump strangely saying this:
KINZINGER (6/23/22): The Select Committee confirmed that a call was actually placed by Secretary Miller to the attache in Italy to investigate the claim that Italian satellites were switching votes from Trump to Biden.
This is one of the best examples of the lengths to which the president—President Trump would go to stay in power, scouring the Internet to support his conspiracy theories—shown here, as he told Mr. Donoghue in that December 27th call, quote, "You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do."
Were Italian satellites somehow switching votes from Trump to Biden? Scouring the Internet (or being so directed), Donald J. Trump had landed on a crazy claim to that effect.
According to notes from the January 3 meeting, he scolded three top Justice Department officials because they hadn't been "following the Internet" to the same extent. Trump was aware of the crazy claim, and his three underlings weren't.
This is the type of comment which provokes group hilarity on our tribe's cable channels. For us, it's the type of comment which makes us wonder if Donald J. Trump is cognitively impaired in some serious way, or if he may be in the grip of some (serious) mental health issue.
Presumably, Trump's bizarre, scolding remark seemed crazy to those in the room. It seems that the very peculiar Donald J. Trump wasn't equipped to know that.
That said, we encountered a lot of statements which struck us as odd as we watched yesterday's hearing, along with the subsequent commentary. One such statement was this:
KINZINGER: The only reason I know to ask for a pardon is because you think you've committed a crime. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Kinzinger's statement came late in the hearing. It has been widely echoed all over blue tribe cable and in the mainstream press.
We can't assess the motives or thinking of anyone who may have asked for a pardon. However, we can say this:
The highlighted statement strikes us as stunningly unintelligent. But then, our own blue tribe has crossed many lines in the past six to ten years.
Does our tribe need to improve its political game if it hopes to win future elections? Presumably, everyone always has room for improvement, but our tribe is significantly disadvantaged by several features of our creaking electoral systems.
In a recent post, Kevin Drum called attention to one of these disadvantages. The post in question caid this:
DRUM (6/22/22): I got aimlessly directed to the latest Fox News poll this morning, and as I was browsing through it I came across its results for the generic congressional ballot ("Would you vote for the R or D candidate in your district?")
For some reason I was under the impression that Democrats were way underwater right now, but the difference is actually only three points. FiveThirtyEight has it at two points.
Obviously that's hardly good news for Democrats, who need to be well ahead to retain their majority, but it doesn't quite sound like a disaster either. And who knows? Maybe Dems can get their act together and improve on this. It's not the craziest idea in the world.
It's true! Due to several factors, Democrats need to win the national popular vote in House elections by a fairly substantial amount in order to break even in the number of House seats won. (Due to several factors, they may need to be ahead in the polls by 6-8 points to end up winning by three.)
Under current arrangements, even winning by three points may not get Democrats there. Here are two recent examples of the way this foofaw works:
November 2016: In the 2016 House elections, Republicans won the nationwide popular vote in House elections by just over one percentage point, but they won a large majority of House seats (241 R, 194 D).
November 2020: In 2020, Democrats won the nationwide popular vote in House elections by just over three percentage points, but they won a slender majority of House seats (222 D, 213 R).
No two elections are just alike, but under current arrangement, electoral systems work against Dems on almost all federal levels. In part for this reason, our blue tribe needs to improve its performance—but human nature being what it is, we may not be so inclined.
At present, our tribe is involved in a great civil war involving two tribes, red and blue. Our tribe could get wiped out in the fall—or then again, maybe not!
At present, the January 6 committee is playing a large role in the discourse. With the exception of its initial, prime-time hearing, the hearings have even aired live on Fox.
(Yesterday, Fox cut away from the hearing at 5 P.M., skipping its last 25 minutes, so it could air an especially dimwitted version of its high-rated program, The Five.)
During these televised hearings, people are seeing extensive testimony concerning the astounding behavior of Donald J. Trump during his last few months in office. Could this material possibly shift the current political balance in the country?
Yes, of course, it possibly could. But then again, it may not.
For ourselves, we've been massively struck, in the past 24 hours, by the moral and mental weakness of our tribe's established thought leaders, especially those who drive the discussion on cable.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our established leadership is quite mediocre. Even grading on the curve, we may be excessively generous if we grant them their legacy C's.
In letters in this morning's New York Times, several members of our tribe beg for indictments of Donald J. Trump. Should Trump be indicted for his conduct prior to January 6?
We don't know the answer to that question. Even if Trump committed a definable crime, it strikes us as a difficult call, unless the ongoing committee hearings are changing the nation's political balance.
Meanwhile, is it possible that Donald J. Trump is disordered in a literal clinical way? We've wondered about that question for years. His reported remark about "following the Internet" made us wonder about it again—but it didn't affect the Storylines of our tribalized pundits at all.
On cable, our "journalists" are openly rooting for indictment. It would be silly to say that they aren't.
We think these stars should get over themselves—should let American journalism be journalistic again. Attempting to explain what we mean by that would take the next hundred years.
For ourselves, we almost never like the idea of sending people to jail. Many people are inclined to feel differently, especially at times of war.
That said, our tribe is facing a difficult political problem. It isn't clear that any such problem can be solved by legal means.
"We must be friends," President Lincoln once urged. "Our human brains aren't wired that way," disconsolate experts have said.