If they gave out Emmys for congressional hearings, there’s no doubt about it : This summer’s blockbuster hearings by the Jan. 6 select committee would win hands down. Washington’s never seen anything like it.
Let’s be honest. Most hearings are less exciting than watching paint dry — nothing but talk, talk, talk; members of Congress bickering among themselves; witnesses droning on without saying anything; no control, no direction, no message. A total waste of time.
But not these hearings. Just the opposite. Netflix could not have produced a better series. They were tight. They were focused. They were brilliantly choreographed.
Each hearing had one central theme, delivered in skillfully edited — and short — video clips and buttressed by carefully chosen — and short — statements by live witnesses. After brief opening statements by the chair and vice chair, one committee member alone was designated to lead the hearing, while all other members simply shut up.
Like bookends, the committee’s first and last hearings were the most powerful. On June 10, the committee opened by showing never-before-seen video of the carnage at the Capitol on Jan. 6. In its July 21 finale, the committee documented how, for more than three hours, former President Trump watched the violence on television but did nothing to stop it.
And the hearings have already had an impact. Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) closed the July 21 hearing by asking the critical question: “Can a president who is willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of Jan. 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?” The very next day, based on that argument alone — that Trump had failed to do his duty on Jan. 6 — The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, both controlled by longtime Trump supporter Rupert Murdoch, answered her question: No way.
“It’s up to the Justice Department to decide if this is a crime,” concluded the New York Post editorial board. “But as a matter of principle, as a matter of character, Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.”
Success has many mothers and fathers, and there are many who deserve credit for the Jan. 6 hearings: Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), for running a tight ship; committee members, for not grandstanding; Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for appointing Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to the committee; and, perversely, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), for making the dumb mistake of rejecting a bipartisan committee with the same number of Democrats and Republicans.
But, in the end, credit must go to three brave Republican women who carried the day, led the fight, and delivered the most powerful testimony: Cheney; former Mark Meadows top aide Cassidy Hutchinson; and former deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews.
Hutchinson electrified the nation with her account of Trump throwing plates of food across his dining room — “ketchup dripping down the wall” — and his temper tantrum in the presidential vehicle when Secret Service agents refused to drive him to the Capitol.
Matthews followed with her calm but compelling account of how Trump, in the midst of the violence, chose not to use Twitter to ask supporters to go home, but instead to pour “gasoline on the fire” by calling then-Vice President Mike Pence a “coward.”
And, consistently, it was Cheney who provided the focus, asked the toughest questions, and wrapped each hearing with a damning summation.
How ironic, for a man who’s never shown much respect for women, that three brave women should help bring him down.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”