Kevin McCarthy’s Mistake Handling The January 6 Committee
(Photo by Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images)
Why are most Congressional hearings unbearable?
Two reasons: There’s too much grandstanding by politicians, which is nauseating and boring, and the hearings are too fragmented because Democrats speak for five minutes, followed by Republicans speaking for five minutes, followed by Democrats, followed by Republicans, so nobody has enough time to make a point.
What’s happening during the January 6 hearings? They’re actually pretty interesting, because the two unbearable things have been eliminated. First, the committee has hired a television producer to help the committee present its findings, which means that grandstanding has been eliminated. We don’t have to listen to members of Congress pontificating; instead, we just hear evidence. Second, Kevin McCarthy chose not to appoint any Republicans to the committee. The committee has only Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger on the Republican side, and those people are aligned with the Democrats on the issue being investigated. The committee is thus able to make a point in an uninterrupted fashion, so the hearings can hold the viewers’ attention.
I’m sure that when McCarthy was thinking about whether to appoint Republicans to the committee, he decided that he didn’t want to give the committee’s findings any credence. If he didn’t appoint Republicans, then Republicans could shout about how the committee is biased, and its conclusions shouldn’t be trusted. Republicans are certainly doing that.
But McCarthy missed a trick. If he’d appointed Republicans to the committee, then the hearings would be fragmented: The Democrats would speak for five minutes. The Republicans would speak for five minutes. The Democrats would speak for five minutes. And the public would tune out because the hearings would, as usual, be unbearable.
Pro-Trump Republicans on the committee would disrupt the flow of the hearings no matter what they said. Those Republicans could be doing constructive things, such as playing videotaped testimony to put the videotaped excerpts selected by the Democrats into context, or cross-examining witnesses, or the like. Alternatively, the Republicans could be doing silly things, such as talking about how the hearings are a waste of time and how Americans should instead be worrying about inflation and critical race theory. It doesn’t matter too much because the goal would not have been to make a point, but rather to interrupt the flow; having any Republicans on the committee saying essentially anything would serve that purpose.
When I watch the hearings with my litigator’s eyes, I wonder whether any points could be scored on cross-examination, if anyone were playing the cross-examiner’s role.
But I’m certain that McCarthy missed a trick: He should have appointed some Republicans – even moderate Republicans, who would not have spent the hearings tossing verbal hand grenades – to the committee, just to break the Democrats’ flow.
Mark Herrmann spent 17 years as a partner at a leading international law firm and is now deputy general counsel at a large international company. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law and Drug and Device Product Liability Litigation Strategy (affiliate links). You can reach him by email at inhouse@ abovethelaw.com.