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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: TV blockbuster or bomb?

by John Brummett | June 8, 2022 at 3:18 a.m.


It sounds like a prime-time television production, because that's what it will be. Thus it will be easily dismissed and derided by Republicans as a choreographed political assault, because that's what it will be.

But, ultimately, judgment will rest with the story being told. Is it compelling, credible and persuasive?

Will it hold your interest? Does it tell you things you didn't know already? Will you find what you hear believable? To the extent anyone might yet remain unhardened in views, will it form or reform opinions? Is objective persuasion even much possible anymore?

Will viewers of Fox News ever even hear about it?

The special House committee investigating the horror of Jan. 6, 2021, doing so with seven Democrats and two anti-Trump Republicans, will hold a prime-time televised hearing beginning 7 p.m. local time Thursday.

It will be less fact-finding than a report of facts already found. It will be case-making. It will not be open to spontaneity. It will make what will amount to an opening prosecutorial argument, although it's the Justice Department that will actually do any prosecuting that's done.

CNN and MSNBC likely will run the hearing live and in full so that, afterward, their talking heads can praise the powerful presentation. CBS, NBC and ABC tentatively plan to air the hearing live at least for a while, possibly moving them to affiliated news channels eventually.

Fox News announced Tuesday that it won't air the hearing live or in full, but ridicule--I mean "report and analyze"--it in a special afterward.

Ratings likely will start low. The test will be whether they pick up or fade to near-oblivion for the next half-dozen sessions tentatively planned this month.

Tonight's episode, which is what I'm comfortable calling it, will begin a coordinated report of what the commission has already determined: Former President Trump and persons working at his behest and in his behalf conspired to defraud the American people by seeking to undercut the nation's democracy with nonsensical contrivance about the presidential election of 2020 being stolen from Trump, which it absolutely was not.

Live testimony will be received from persons previously questioned whose answers will be known for their information and value. Selected videotape testimony will be played because of its prospective impact.

The committee hired James Goldston, a former ABC News president who in his earlier career produced narratives for "Nightline" as a consultant. Apparently, because this is essentially a political enterprise seeking to persuade, it will showcase witnesses from the philosophical or partisan right who have something damaging to say about Trump--perhaps lawyers and aides to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Lynn Cheney will be given plenty of airtime because she's kind of compelling--a conservative's conservative among Republicans who, rare among modern-day conservative Republicans, opposes sedition.

By videotape, the committee intends to show statements made to it by Trump's daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner. Ivanka apparently was in and out of the Oval Office on Jan. 6 pleading with her dad to call for a stop to the outrage that he might have been enjoying watching on television and the violence of which he tried to talk down only late and grudgingly.

Then there is Cassidy Hutchinson, previously unknown. She was on the staff of Trump's White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. She reportedly has told the committee about Meadows' and general White House comings and goings that infamous afternoon. The committee apparently wants to feature her, though it's not clear at this writing if that will be for the series opener.

There is talk Hutchinson might be the "new John Dean." I doubt she'd testify in the legal detail of which Dean, as the White House counsel to Richard Nixon, was capable. But if she saw things and can describe them effectively, she conceivably could become something of a household name.

Readers not old enough to remember Dean's testimony to the Senate select committee on Watergate might want to bone up by binge-watching the fictionalized series on Starz on Martha Mitchell, called "Gaslit." Dean's character is about as prominent as Martha, the talkative Pine Buff native married to Nixon conspirator John Mitchell.

As for any likening of Watergate and Jan. 6, famed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein wrote a piece published Sunday in The Post saying there was no similarity--that what Trump and his people did was worse than what they reported that brought down Richard Nixon in the early 1970s when Republicans still opposed presidential abuse of power by one of their own.

We'll see if anyone can be persuaded or cares in the early 2020s.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.



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