The House’s Jan. 6 committee has turned to a renowned former network news executive to hone a mountain of explosive material into a captivating multimedia presentation…
James Goldston — former president of ABC News, and a master documentary storyteller who ran “Good Morning America” and “Nightline” — has joined the committee as an unannounced adviser, Axios has learned… I’m told Goldston is busily producing Thursday’s 8 p.m. ET hearing as if it were a blockbuster investigative special.
Some voters might prefer congressional hearings to be conducted as if they were merely examinations of facts and law.
Brian Steinberg notes in Variety that among Mr. Goldston’s previous programming triumphs are his network’s compelling coverage of boys trapped in caves. Mr. Steinberg seems to understand that the challenge for House Democrats is to attract and hold an audience while also managing to be taken seriously:
Journalists slated to cover it will have to hope America sees the broadcast as something other than entertainment.
“These hearings will be essential viewing,” raves Senate Majority Leader
(D., N.Y.). Dave Goldiner at the New York Daily News says the Democrats’ plan is “to create a gripping spectacle.”
But will it be accurate and fair? Michael Goodwin writes in the New York Post:
Perhaps the solution is to label the Thursday show as “based on a true story” rather than claiming to be actually true. That would also be more accurate, given that viewers are only going to see and hear a version of events that fits a distinctly partisan narrative.
The scheme sounds hokey enough for high school, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has never been more serious. The entire select committee probe has been an openly partisan exercise on the public dime since it began, with Pelosi blocking Republicans who objected to the fact that she started by putting a target on the entire GOP.
She promptly proved the critics right by removing the members whom Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy nominated and replaced them with Reps.
whose talking points sound more Democratic than those of most Democrats.
It’s true that the committee features an all-Democratic cast, with the exception of the two Democrat-approved Republicans. But if the show proves to be much better than “Cats,” people may want to see it again and again. Still, there are skeptics. Jacob Bacharach writes in the Times:
Even if they manage to drag a few million American eyeballs away from the streaming platforms for a few evenings with some measure of spectacle and the promise of comeuppance for some of the minor and expendable figures from Trumpworld, their scope and impact are likely to be minor. The modern Democratic Party has not often shown itself to be capable of transcendent political showmanship, and the televised congressional hearing, as a genre, has likewise been in decline for a long time.
But that’s what a lot of people said about musical theater until Mrs. Pelosi’s January production. David Rutz at Fox News writes that at CNN, which plans to carry this week’s event live, anchors and analysts are enthusiastic:
“New Day” co-host John Berman, acknowledging he once worked under Goldston at ABC News, called him a “terrific television producer.”
CNN anchor Laura Jarrett, the daughter of former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrret, fretted much of the American public has likely tuned out of Jan. 6 coverage, and it might need a media pro’s touch.
“It shows you they want to make this compelling,” she said. “They know that a certain segment of the American public has a tin ear to this, sadly, and shouldn’t, but has seen that video of them storming the Capitol so many times now it may not have the same impact, and so I think that they brought in essentially an expert, a showrunner, to try to package it in a way that breaks through.”
What would we do without experts?
A number of networks are pre-empting their normal programming for the Democrats’ presentation. A Washington Post report suggests that the Capitol riot show will therefore not have to compete against “Young Sheldon,” “Grey’s Anatomy” or spinoffs of “Law & Order,” which like the committee features stories ripped from the headlines. There’s no NBA game on Thursday night, but the New York Rangers will be playing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL playoffs.
The biggest challenge for this week’s Pelosi production may be getting audiences to accept committee members appearing in new roles. For example, Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) spent years pushing a Trump conspiracy theory and misleading the public by claiming to have “more than circumstantial evidence” of collusion with Russia. Now he’s being asked to play a guy opposed to people pushing election conspiracy theories.
(D., Miss.), who will preside over the Capitol riot hearing, was among the 31 Democrats who sought to prevent the certification of the re-election of President
George W. Bush
Similarly, this week Rep.
(D., Md.) will be portraying a legislator who condemns those who won’t accept election results. Yet television audiences may remember him as the man who showed up on CNN to recommend dismantling the Electoral College after the 2000 election didn’t turn out the way he wanted.
And who could forget his star turn in January of 2017 as a Hillary Clinton bitter-ender who boycotted the Trump inauguration? That followed a spellbinding performance captured by the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis earlier that month:
Congress made President-elect
victory official… meeting in joint session to tally electoral votes ahead of Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20…
A handful of House Democrats raised objections to ballots cast for Trump and running mate
but without the support of a single senator, their efforts were futile.
(D-Mass.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and
(D-Wash.) raised the first objections Friday after the joint meeting was gaveled to order. They were among several House Democrats who considered lodging objections on grounds of “voter suppression” or apparent Russian interference in the campaign. But they were hampered by the fact that federal law demands that any objection be sponsored by both a House member and a senator.
Because neither objection was signed by a senator, Vice President Biden, who presided over the tally, ruled them out of order.
“It is over,” Biden said to Jayapal’s objection, prompting Republican lawmakers to rise in cheers and applause.
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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