Conspiracy theories demand from their followers a suspension of disbelief that almost always crumbles under the intolerable weight of their sheer madness. If the congressional committee hearings on the January 6 attack don’t add much else, they are a reminder of this enduring truth.
Like many viewers, I suspect, I found the Democrats’ antics in these proceedings disheartening. With her instinctive hyperpartisanship, Speaker Nancy Pelosi nearly succeeded in turning what should have been a thorough investigation into the causes of this terrible event into a show trial of her political enemies. Keeping critics out of the committee and letting its deliberations proceed without a dissenting word undermines its legitimacy and persuasiveness. And if the past few years have taught us anything, they surely have taught us that any process in which Adam Schiff is prominently involved is discredited almost by definition.
Ms. Pelosi almost made it. But not quite. Because it is not Mr. Schiff and his comrades who have built the most effective case against Donald Trump. These are Mr. Trump’s own hand-picked people.
The stolen election theory contains many of the required concoctions of all fabricated conspiracies. But none are so implausible as the premise that the people who prevented Mr. Trump from claiming his rightful re-election were all sinister figures conspiring to hand the reins of power to the illegitimate Joe Biden.
Think of the list of conspirators you would have had to conclude had somehow become late-converted enemies of Mr. Trump (and of American democracy) to believe the former president’s story.
Mike Pence, impeccable servant of the Republican Party, loyal supporter (more cruel observers might say servile) of the former president, who between November 3 and January 6 became a notorious RINO and a traitor.
William Barr, perhaps Mr. Trump’s most effective defender through the mostly fabricated controversies of his tenure, but who became something of a double agent for Mr. Biden after the election.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who himself quashed Stacey Abrams’ racial baiting charges for a stolen election and proved a strong conservative in power, but somehow conspired with other Republicans in the state to confirm a fraudulent victory by his political opponents.
And let’s reserve a special word for Eric Herschmann, who stole the show last week with a memorable account of his conversation with Trump adviser John Eastman, who, unimaginably, had tried one last time the day after the riot in January 6 to get the election canceled.
” Are you insane ? Mr. Herschmann told him. “I only want to hear two words out of your mouth from now on: ‘orderly transition.’ ”
The same Mr. Herschmann defended Mr. Trump at his first impeachment hearing and left his law firm at the end of Trump’s term to serve as an aide to the president. In the new account, we are asked to believe that he participated in the fraud to deny the president’s re-election.
The list is lengthened increasingly. Men and women who, for their unwavering support for Mr. Trump in recent years, had earned themselves the opprobrium of the media, the Washington establishment and even some members of the Republican Party but who all became the enablers of the biggest election heist (on behalf of their political opponents) in the history of the United States.
Perhaps it takes even more disbelief to think that the defenders of the stolen election narrative are the wise and virtuous of that narrative:
• Rudy Giuliani, who once served his city with great honor and courage, but whose career since 9/11 has gone downhill faster than a few whiskeys and sodas before dinner.
• Mr. Eastman, the law professor who, as we noted, was still trying to overturn the result even after the Capitol riot, but who, it turns out, had such courage in his own beliefs that he immediately asked to be put on “the forgiveness list” once he realized the game was over.
• Sidney Powell, the woman who could see Venezuelan ghosts in Biden vote machines and generators in Germany but whose Kraken proved to be about as fearsome as a lame sheep.
• Mike Lindell, the famous authority on constitutional law, known as My Pillow guy.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have on one side some of the most dedicated and trusted people who have served in public service, carrying the standard of conservative causes over long careers, and among the most insistent defenders of the presidency Trump.
On the other side you have a coterie of selfish lawyers with tattered reputations, a retired politician unfit for public consumption after hours, a pillow salesman and a host of coat hangers – that we last saw as extras in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
The credibility of witnesses on either side is always at the heart of a case. Have you ever seen a competition as unbalanced as this?
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