意见: History offers a surprising warning about January 6 hearing drama

Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst, is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author and editor of 24 图书, 包含, “The Presidency of Donald J. 王牌: A First Historical Assessment.” 在推特上关注他 @julianzelizer. 本评论中表达的观点是他自己的. 视图 更多意见 在CNN上.

一月 6 House select committee begins its public hearings this Thursday night. Members of the committee have promised to reveal stunning new evidence to the American public, with committee member Democratic Rep. 马里兰州的杰米拉斯金 vowing 他们 “will really blow the roof off the House.

While the hearings might shock a nation that has become numb to Trumpian chaos, they are unlikely to change the basic political dynamics that have thus far protected many Trump officials and supporters from being held accountable for what happened that day.
    确实, 民意调查显示 most Republican voters believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. And excluding the primary results 在格鲁吉亚, many Republicans who stood firm against the former president’s efforts to undermine the 2020 选举 已经 losing in recent elections or choosing to retire all together.
      History shows that investigations that produce dramatic evidence of wrongdoing don’t always damage the responsible party politically. It appears Trump and his Republican surrogates have benefited from a conservative playbook created during a different presidential scandalthe Iran-Contra affairand the subsequent hearings around it.
        Iran-Contra affair, which broke just before the 1986 中期选举, posed an enormous threat to then-President Ronald Reagan and his party. The sordid scandal revolved around a complex set of secret deals that were aimed at allowing the Reagan administration to pursue its foreign policy objectives in combatting communism.
        Then-Lt. 上校. Oliver North at the National Security Council admitted that he taken funds from weapons the administration had sold to Iranconsidered a top terrorist stateand diverted them to the anti-communist Nicaraguan Contras, despite explicit legislative prohibitions on doing so.
          Government investigations soon unfolded on several fronts. 第一, 里根 appointed a commission, led by conservative former Sen. John Tower of Texas, to investigate what had happened. The Tower Commission produced a report 在 1987 that criticized NSC staff for diverting funds to the Contras, while depicting Reagan as someone whose lack of sufficient oversight had enabled this diversion. 然而, the report stopped far short of accusing Reagan of abuse of power.
          Congress then set up House and Senate committees in early January 1987. The committees held joint hearings between early May and August. Tens of millions of Americans tuned in to watch members of the committees interview high-level witnesses, including North.
          Lt. 上校. Oliver North, with his attorney, Brendan Sullivan, testifying during the Iran-Contra hearings on Capitol Hill on July 7, 1987.

          The committeesmajority report, 被...签名 all the Democrats and three Republicans, did not produce specific evidence that Reagan knew about the illegal operationthere was nosmoking gun” — but it did show damning evidence that the NSC had used private entities and third party countries to work on the scheme. 让我们都大吃一惊, the administration provided funding that Congress had prohibited.
          The Republican Party’s strategy for fighting the scandal proved to be highly effective. A pillar of their response on Capitol Hill was to largely accept the findings of the congressional investigation but insist that there was nothing wrong with what the administration had done. Key Republicans even went so far as to claim there was justification for the administration taking such extraordinary action.
          Then-Wyoming Republican Rep. 迪克·切尼, who served on the House select committee investigating the scandal, drafted the minority report which gave a blistering defense of executive power. Calling the majority report that strongly condemned the administration “歇斯底里的,” Cheney’s missive stated the historyleaves little, 如果有的话, doubt that the President was expected to have the primary role of conducting the foreign policy of the United States. Congressional actions to limit the President in the area therefore should be reviewed with a considerable degree of skepticism.
          Some Republicans also valorized 北, who became a temporary hero during what became known asOllie Mania.They said North should be exonerated for his role in facilitating aid to the Contras, and they referred to the investigation of independent prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, who led a third investigation after the Tower investigation and congressional hearings, as leading a multi-million dollarwitch hunt.
          最后, Republicans sensed that if a party could hold onto power long enough, public attention would move on. As Democrats at the time resisted impeachment, fearing that the consequences would be worse than the crime, 里根 benefited from the success of his negotiations with the Soviet Union over the intermediate-range nuclear forces. His approval ratings climbed 至 63% 在十二月 1988 — up from the 47%, to which they had fallen in the worst months of the scandal.
          Despite multiple investigations and blockbuster hearings, 到底, Reagan’s presidency survived. And though Republicans lost control of the Senate in 1986, they largely survived the worst of it, 太.
          Vice President George H.W. 衬套, implicated in the scandal though he denied involvement, won the presidential election in 1988. And on December 24, 1992, 衬套 pardoned six people, including former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, for their role in the affair. 两年后, though they had lost the White House by then, 共和党人 took control of both chambers of Congress for the first time since 1954.
          Today’s Republicans are following a similar methodologyeven if, with the exception of two Republicans: 代表. 怀俄明州的莉兹切尼 (Dick Cheney’s daughter) and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, they are not participating in the congressional investigation.
          Though they have not issued a Dick Cheney-style report, many have sought to defend Trump and his surrogatesunjustifiable behavior in the weeks leading up to January 6 — 和 2020 election denialism is still playing a big role in the 2022 期中. 此外, rather than acknowledging Trump was in the wrong for promoting the “大谎言” and encouraging his supporters to像地狱一样战斗,” a majority of the Republican Party voted against his second impeachment and conviction following January 6.
          Republicans are also banking, like they did in 1987, that public anger over the Capitol attack will dissipate. And there’s already evidence that’s happening. 确实, a new NBC News poll found fewer Americans hold Trump to be responsible than they did a year ago. And with growing inflation, baby formula shortages and midterm elections just around the corner, rage about January 6 seems to have faded as a top political concern. 福克斯新闻, a conservative leaning-network, isn’t even airing the first hearings in primetime (though they are airing them on Fox Business).
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          Iran-Contra demonstrated it was possible to survive an epic presidential scandal if a party handled the crisis in the right way. The modern GOP has made the playbook even more effective.
          Trump conducted most of the campaign against the election in broad daylight, which helped give it a sense of legitimacy in the eyes of his supporters. Couple that with intense polarization, and it is almost impossible to move voters away from their party regardless of what elected officials do.
            The abuser of power can also count on an extensive media and social media ecosystem, which did not exist in the 1980s, to amplify falsehoods and disinformation that undercuts the political risks incurred. Besides the free flow of partisan information, there are so many choices for media consumers that they could easily ignore the hearings altogetherinstead opting to stream a film on Netflix or download a favorite podcast.
            With all the talk about the 50th anniversary of Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal and its failure to achieve accountability is a better roadmap to understanding the politics of the forthcoming January 6 听力.

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