Do it and Do it Right.
The nation needs an independent Presidential Commission, a board of inquiry, to determine the origins, the planning, and, of course, the ultimate objectives of the January 6th Capitol insurrection. Why a Presidential Commission? Simply because Congress is hopelessly partisan and polarized and not in a position to conduct such an inquiry with the credibility the task requires if it is to be constructive.
Sure, one could, and will, allege the same about a Commission empaneled by President Biden or any President. However, a credible presidential board of inquiry would consist of an exemplary panel of qualified, respected, and accomplished men and women. They should be above reproach and equally representative of both parties and who are not currently in elected office and, therefore, are not subject to the exigencies of election campaigns or other partisan political considerations. The Commission would consist of men and women who would be unimpressed, unafraid, and undeterred by the fulminations of House Speaker Pelosi, House Minority leader McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Senate Minority leader McConnell and certainly not former President Trump.
This much seems clear; the insurrection was an attempt to stop (think overthrow) the results of the 2020 Presidential election, which is tantamount to overthrowing the government (elect) of the United States. The nation needs to identify those who planned it, what the objectives were (and probably continues to be), and the extent of the involvement, if any, of individuals affiliated in any way with the United States government. Finally, we need to ensure that such an outrageous lapse in security never happens again.
We must achieve unvarnished fact-finding, free of fear, free of political grandiosity, and free of preconceived conclusions. We need to establish the extent to which those who stormed the Capitol were motivated by organizations or movements representing either the far right or, as some still assert, the far left. We simply need to know. We need to pursue the truth as though the future of our democracy depends on it because it does.
So, how-to, and not-to, proceed.
Given the extreme polarization permeating Congress and the impending need for every member of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate to campaign for reelection, this Commission must be as far removed from partisan politics as possible. It would be folly in the current political climate to have anyone running for office to be among the Commissioners serving on such a board of inquiry.
Violence aimed at the heart of the United States, whether domestic or foreign, is nothing new for our country. That’s why we had a Roberts Commission following Pearl Harbor, a Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy, and a Kerner Commission to study the urban uprisings in the 1960s. The 1983 Beirut bombings and the horror of 9/11 also prompted the creation of special Commissions. None were flawless, but nor were they dominated by partisan maneuvering and manipulation that would be almost certain to hound and shame such an investigation conducted in today’s highly partisan House or Senate.
The Republican leadership in both the House and Senate has already suggested that the January 6th insurrection was not much different from the widespread urban disorders of last summer. Therefore, they argue, any investigation should encompass all the turmoil of the 2020 season of turmoil. Nice try, but no cigar.
January 6th was a horror of its own, and it could have cost us everything. Concurrently, I hasten to add, the urban disorders of the past year and the response at the local and state level do indeed warrant a serious, non-partisan inquiry as well. Still, the efforts to conflate the two phenomena are wrong, politically calculated, and reckless.
A distinctive and serious presidential Commission will deserve and will assume a mantel of dignity as it works to provide an accurate historical record of the calamitous events of January 6th. Such dignity, sadly, has not lately, nor often, been ascribed to the deliberations of our Congress.
A January 6th, 2021 Commission, like the September 11th, 2001 Commission, would provide a detailed chronology of relevant events leading up to the calamity. The Commission would investigate the extent to which the January 6th storming of the Capitol was pre-planned, and orchestrated, and would examine the extent to which political turmoil was engendered and coordinated by those planning the insurrection. Such an inquiry would provide an account of the planning of the insurrection and of the events that unfolded in the hours before the crowd gathered, as well as the calamitous events that followed the so-called “Save America Rally,” aka “March to Save America,” aka the “Stop the Steal Rally,” featuring the former President, his son and the former President’s attorney, Rudi Guiliani, among others. The Commission would determine the extent to which the disorders at the Capitol were consistent with the objectives of those who planned the rally at the Ellipse on the national mall, just south of the White House.
I am not suggesting that a presidential Commission will heal the deep political divide in our country. Still, a well-planned and well organized and staffed presidential Commission can provide an understanding of how malicious misinformation can spin out of control in this age when so much of America is divided into easily manipulated thought silos. The country needs to know who the perpetrators were, the extent of their coordination of the events of January 6th, and, perhaps equally important, why help was so late in arriving.
America cannot afford another January 6th.
All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.