Back in the wispy-willowed past, before the tea party and its many offspring, Republican Party loyalists were mainly focused on hunting down what they called RINOs, or Republicans in Name Only. That is, elected officials who didn’t regurgitate every GOP talking point or bend to the litmus gods of True Conservatism — defined, more or less, as what angry White men want.
Fast-forward through the Obama years — a relatively breezy rest stop on America’s hell-fired highway to Trump Town — and truth became the new RINO. Under Donald Trump, who never met a lie he wouldn’t, you know, grab, truth was the enemy and truth tellers were apostates. But truth is nothing if not relentless, and it dogged Trump all the way to his failed 2020 reelection, whereupon he invented the “big lie.” (Hey, little lies are for chumps!)
He didn’t lose to Joe Biden, Trump told himself. The election was stolen! It was voter fraud!
Those who didn’t subscribe to the “big lie” weren’t to be banished — that would have been too gentle a punishment. Traitors such as his own vice president, Mike Pence, should be hanged — and Trump said so, according to testimony Thursday from the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Pence’s offense was refusing to violate the Constitution and overturn Biden’s election victory.
“Mike Pence deserves it,” Trump reportedly said when he saw rioters on TV chanting “Hang Mike Pence.” (The former president denied having said that.) This isn’t quite the same as ordering his death, of course, but it’s further evidence that the unhinged commander in chief by then had lost any sense of reality. Several people in the Oval Office at the time begged Trump to stop the assault. Others repeatedly told him that his imaginary stolen election was a lie. Then-Attorney General William P. Barr bluntly said it was “bulls---.”
Testimony by insiders and even family members, as well as film and video footage from Jan. 6, revealed a more hostile and organized attack on the Capitol than most Americans had previously understood. Oath Keepers and Proud Boys helped spearhead the assault, and some Proud Boys had cased the Capitol to find the best entry points. They arrived at the “peaceful protest” dressed for war, wearing helmets, bulletproof vests and riot gear. Oath Keepers stashed weapons around the area in case they were needed.
Much of this is now familiar to people who watched the first hearing live on Thursday night. Unfortunately, a large portion of the TV-viewing public knows nothing of the sort. They are parked instead around their favorite baptismal font at the Church of Tucker Carlson, where untruths are dispensed from a barking head that alternates between expressions of utter confusion and manic hilarity. Carlson’s minions wouldn’t have heard a word from the committee on Fox News because Carlson and Sean Hannity in the following hour wouldn’t allow it.
Instead, Carlson spent his hour — uninterrupted by commercials lest anyone switch channels — trying to convince viewers that what happened on Jan. 6 “was not an insurrection.”
The violence that day, he said, was “forgettably minor” and “vandalism” at worst.
I don’t want to lock horns with Tucker because, oh my, Mr. Carlson, what big horns you have! But if what happened on Jan. 6 amounts to a quarrel over semantics, then the “big lie” must be bothering Tucker more than I reckoned. I defer to Merriam-Webster, which defines “insurrection” as “an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government.”
In a nutshell, as they say. And we didn’t even have to make a frowny face or squint our eyes.
Carlson’s mocking dismissal of the committee — and Hannity’s thereafter — was as removed from reality as the previous president was during most of his time in the Oval Office.
And there was nothing “forgettably minor” about those hours for the terrified people trapped inside the building, or for the traumatized officers who essentially were forced to engage in hand-to-hand combat to protect the Capitol and all who were inside.
Irony, I hear, has a corner suite at Fox News, where a few honest people do still work. But Carlson must have been projecting when he said that the Jan. 6 committee was trying to create an authoritarian state. It was Carlson’s show, after all, that blocked advertising (free markets and all that) to ensure that no inconvenient facts from outside his bunker leaked through.
In authoritarian Russia, where Carlson was briefly a pro-Putin poster boy, whitewashed, state-controlled news is all Russians get to hear, too. And uninformed Russians, who’ve remained ignorant about the destruction of neighboring Ukraine, think Vladimir Putin is the bomb.