May 19, 2022
Today, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol sent a letter to Representative Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), asking for his voluntary cooperation in their investigation. The committee members believe he has “information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021,” the day before the January 6 insurrection.
The letter goes on to say that there have been public reports of both individuals and groups gathering information about the layout of the U.S. Capitol before January 6. In response to those allegations, the committee’s letter says, “Republicans on the Committee on House Administration—of which you are a Member—claimed to have reviewed security footage from the days preceding January 6th and determined that ‘[t]here were no tours, no large groups, no one with MAGA hats on.’ However, the Select Committee’s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial.
Loudermilk and the ranking member (that is, the top Republican member) of the Committee on House Administration, Rodney Davis of Illinois, released an odd nondenial, saying, "A constituent family with young children meeting with their Member of Congress in the House Office Buildings is not a suspicious group or 'reconnaissance tour’…."
Notably, the committee did not use the words “reconnaissance tour.” As well, there is a rhetorical sleight of hand here: a hypothetical tour with a family and young children is presented here as innocuous…but the Republicans’ statement doesn’t say that’s actually what happened, although it seems clear that’s the conclusion the authors hope a reader will draw. It implies that Loudermilk simply gave a tour to a family with young children, without saying so. It’s a classic nondenial, a construction that makes Loudermilk look like a victim of an overzealous critic by deflecting attention from the central question.
The statement goes on to say that the committee is “pushing a verifiably false narrative that Republicans conducted reconnaissance tours on Jan[uary] 5th. The facts speak for themselves; no place that the family went on the 5th was breached on the 6th, the family did not enter the Capitol grounds on the 6th.”
So… Loudermilk did, in fact, take people around on January 5, despite denials from the Republicans on the Committee on House Administration, who claimed to have reviewed security footage, saying there were no tours? And despite the fact the Capitol complex was closed to the public because of the pandemic?
Lots of questions here, and it seems likely the January 6 committee will have new information when public hearings begin next month.
Meanwhile, the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC), the influential right-wing PAC of the American Conservative Union, is holding its first European event, convening today in Budapest, Hungary. Its leaders have chosen Hungary apparently because they see that country as a model for the society they would like to see in the U.S. under a strongman leader like rising authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary.
Orbán is the architect of what he calls “illiberal democracy,” or “Christian democracy.” This form of government holds nominal elections, although their outcome is preordained because the government controls all the media and has silenced opposition. Illiberal democracy rejects modern liberal democracy because the equality it champions means an acceptance of immigrants, LGBTQ rights, and women’s rights and an end to traditionally patriarchal society. Orbán’s model of minority rule promises a return to a white-dominated, religiously based society, and he has pushed his vision by eliminating the independent press, cracking down on political opposition, getting rid of the rule of law, and dominating the economy with a group of crony oligarchs.
Led by personalities like Tucker Carlson, the American right wing embraces the Hungarian model, despite the corruption, lack of legal accountability, and attacks on the press that make Hungary the only member of the European Union no longer rated as “free” by democracy watchdog Freedom House. As if in illustration of Orbán’s policies, U.S. journalists were not allowed into CPAC today.
Orbán gave the keynote speech at the CPAC convention. In it, he embraced the “great replacement theory” that says white people are being replaced by immigrants of color. This is the myth that motivated the shooter in Buffalo, New York, last weekend, when he murdered ten people and wounded three others. It is the myth from which most Republicans have tried to distance themselves since the Buffalo killings.
And yet, when CPAC leader Matt Schlapp met U.S. journalists outside, he said that ending abortion rights would address the great replacement myth: “If you say there is a population problem in a country, but you’re killing millions of your own people through legalized abortion every year, if that were to be reduced, some of that problem is solved,” Schlapp said. “You have millions of people who can take many of these jobs. How come no one brings that up? If you’re worried about this quote-unquote replacement, why don’t we start there? Start with allowing our own people to live.”
Orbán told the attendees that the right wing in Europe and the United States must fight together to “reconquer” institutions in Brussels and Washington, D.C., before the 2024 election because those “liberals” who currently control them are destroying western civilization.
It is surprising to see folks who talk about American greatness take their inspiration from the leader of a small central European country of fewer than 10 million people, about the size of Michigan. Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley commented: “Oh come on US conservatives, stop embarrassing yourselves. Have some dignity and national pride.”