By one account local and federal law enforcement authorities have arrested at least 444 people and charged them with crimes related to the violent January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the insurrectionist assault that left five dead and dozens, including many police officers, seriously injured.
One of the injured, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone, who was brutally assaulted by the mob, said this week he has had difficulty watching some Republican elected officials “whitewash” the outrageous episode over the last few weeks.
“I experienced the most brutal, savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life. Let alone my policing career, which spans almost two decades,” Fanone told CNN. “It was nothing that I had ever thought would be a part of my law enforcement career, nor was I prepared to experience.”
One of the latest Northwesterners arrested was a 62-year-old Hillsboro, Oregon man who, among other things, is charged with striking police officers and breaking through barricades. Nearly a dozen residents of Idaho, Washington and Oregon have been charged in what has been described as the most documented crime in American history. Many of the insurrectionists took time out to snap selfies or willingly commented to journalists on camera.
Yet, even with nearly daily reports of more arrests the unprecedented events of January 6 feel more and more like ancient history rather than a still fresh wound. Part of the reason is our collective short national attention span, but an even more important factor about why this bloody riot is rapidly receding is what Officer Fanone identifies – a conservative whitewashing of events that took place in real time on live television over the space of several hours.
The man with the most to gain from erasing history – other than the guy who incited the riot – is, of course, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy of California. By continuing to downplay the events of January 6, McCarthy is hoping fellow Republicans can use their gerrymandered districts across the country to reclaim control of the House next year. McCarthy, as craven and vacuous a politician as our craven and vacuous age is able to produce, would then almost certainly become Speaker of the House.
“After the House chamber was evacuated on January 5, Mr. McCarthy retreated to his Capitol office with a colleague, Representative Bruce Westerman, Republican of Arkansas,” Mark Leibovich reported recently in the New York Times. “When it became evident the rioters were breaking in, Mr. McCarthy’s security detail insisted he leave.” But Representative Westerman was left behind, as he confirmed in a recent interview.
Fearing for his own life, while rioters shouted “hang Mike Pence” Westerman said he grabbed a Civil War sword from a display in McCarthy’s office and then barricaded himself in the minority leader’s private bathroom, waiting out the siege, crouching on the toilet.
To appreciate the extent of the effort by McCarthy and numerous others to diminish and ultimately dismiss January 6, you have to recall in some detail what transpired in the immediate aftermath of the riot and then analyze that information side by side with what is happening now.
While the riot was underway, McCarthy called the instigator at the White House to implore him to call off his mob. We know this because Washington state congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler reported that McCarthy told her the substance of the call and that the then-president dismissed the attack, lying about its origins as the work of antifascists.
After McCarthy told the president he was wrong – and the president knew he was wrong because he had spoken to his supporters that very day and then watched them storm the Capitol on live television – the then-president responded: “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”
A week after the riot McCarthy told the entire House of Representatives, the American people and the world: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.”
Fast forward to last Sunday when McCarthy is sitting across the table from Fox News Sunday questioner Chris Wallace. “I was the first person to contact him when the riot was going on,” McCarthy said in a feeble and fabulist effort to defend the indefensible. “He didn’t see it, but he ended the call . . . telling me he’ll put something out to make sure to stop this. And that’s what he did. He put a video out later.” Hours later.
Recalling this timeline is important not only for what it says about the lengths political figures like McCarthy are willing to go tell us what we saw with our own eyes and heard with our own ears didn’t really happen, but also because it’s a reminder that the shape shifting McCarthy is no outlier as a Republican whitewasher.
With a very few notable exceptions, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Herrera Beutler, and Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois among them, the vast majority of Republican officeholders have quietly and gladly moved on from January 6. Northwest lawmakers like Idaho’s Mike Simpson and Washington’s Cathy McMorris Rogers immediately decided they wouldn’t hold the highest figure in the government accountable for his actions leading up to and including January 6. They have said nothing of substance about it since.
Idaho Congressman Russ Fulcher remains deeply implicated in the January 6 events due to his very public efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, so his silence about the still unfolding aftermath and efforts to whitewash history makes sense, at least from the standpoint of avoiding having his reprehensible role in encouraging the violence highlighted over and over.
No Northwest Republican has called for the kind of investigation of January 6 that would in more normal, rational times receive bipartisan support. No major Republican figure in Idaho has joined Cheney in saying the riot instigator should have no future in the party. None have acknowledged that the domestic terrorism behind the insurrection has been, as the FBI director said in March, “metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon.”
“The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack,” Liz Cheney said back in January. “Everything that followed was his doing.”
Morally deficient Republicans want us to forget the single greatest threat to democracy in our lifetime. They lack courage. And honesty. It’s up to us to hold them to account just like those who stormed the Capitol to kill, maim and destroy democracy must be held to account.
For your consideration…some worthwhile items…
PANDEMICS – THEN AND NOW
John Barry is the historian of the 1918 pandemic. He writes in Wilson Quarterly about the lessons learned and lost from the last time the world faced what the world is still facing.
“In 1918, the public was lied to, and the lies mattered. Initially, when the public still believed official pronouncements, lies killed people who exposed themselves. But soon deaths became too common for anyone to trust what the government said. I believe that ultimately society is based on trust, and as trust dissipates, society begins to fray; one saw this alienation in 1918 both in large cities and rural communities – even to the extent that people starved to death because others lacked courage to bring them food.”
Read the full piece. Worth your time.
HOW DONALD TRUMP WANTED THE END OF HISTORY
The great Rebecca Solnit reckons with the end of the last presidency.
“To those who opposed him, the years felt like a constant barrage of insults to fact, truth, science, of attacks on laws, on rights, on targeted populations from Muslims to trans kids, on the environment, on scientists, on institutions that might protect or promulgate any of these preceding things, and on memory itself. It was a disorder from which we were forever trying to emerge into order, like people clawing a slimy bank, only to slump back into the ooze.”
NEVER STUPID TO ASK QUESTIONS
“Philip Marlowe, that most self-reliant of fictional detectives, had no boss and no one to boss around. Not so his creator, Raymond Chandler, who needed some help.”
I love Chandler’s stories. This is good.
Thanks for reading. Be careful out there.