January 6 hearings are a summer TV delight – a bit like Iran-Contra in the 1980s – NBCNEWS

  • Whatsapp
Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Makes Comments at the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

The names were a mess.

And they would be for every 18-year-old boy who just broke into radio, worked in the newsroom at a major Cincinnati news station, and struggled to solve the Iran-Contra scandal.

Fresh out of high school at the time, I got to anchor the nightly weekend newscasts on WKRC-AM in Cincinnati. But I worked in the editorial office during the week. And 1987 was my introduction to how Congress sometimes holds big hearings in the summer.

The TV channels blew out “As the World Turns” and “Ryan’s Hope” to broadcast the Iran-Contra hearings. And at 35 past every hour my job was to sit by a vertically mounted tape machine in the newsroom and make sure two metal TASCAM spools with three holes were spinning. I pressed a few buttons and turned a knob. This was the setting for our special ABC Radio News feed in New York. My job was to record and copy the hourly “news call” of reports and sound bites that ABC would send to local stations across the country. We would then use them in our local newscasts on WKRC.

Hourly that summer, it was a procession of sound bites from Iran-Contra figures from that day’s hearing.

THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE WHETHER THE JAN 6 COMMITTEE IS ‘LEGITAL’

“ABC. Zero-Seven. News Just Two. East!” intoned a rich tenor voice, further down the line from New York, announcing the stations that the feed was about to begin.

I have no idea who this man was. But there was just a way he said “ABC.” Zero-Seven” – as if it were some sort of designation for a spy in MI6. And then he always bent “East!” as if it were the most exclusive point on the compass. North, south and west were pedestrian directions only.

The names and sound bites followed, each preceded by an annoying beep.

Oliver North. Elliot Abrams. Caspar Weinberger. Richard Secord. Laurens Walsh. sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. Even reports from ABC’s Vic Ratner — whom I got to know years later here in the Capitol.

November 3, 1980 file photo, Former President Gerald Ford supports Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan and his running mate George HW Bush, in Peoria, Illinois.
(AP Photo/File)

I became familiar with the names and was even able to hear each player’s voices during a few weeks of listening to the hearings and handling the hourly news call. It was like learning characters in a play. But ask me to explain Iran-Contra? The Reagan-era ‘weapons for hostage’ scandal? It was a steep learning curve to understand what Hezbollah was. I sometimes heard them talk about ‘the Boland amendment’. That’s a reference to the late Rep. Edward Boland, D-Mass., and his “rider” to a defense law. It specifically banned the US from assisting the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

And yet the Reagan administration was accused of devising a back-channel plan to channel aid to the Contras — by covertly selling weapons to Iran — and diverting profits.

ROBERT MCFARLANE, REAGAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER INVOLVED IN IRAN CONTRA CASE, DIES

Complex? Yes. Did I get it all? Not quite.
But it was fascinating. Hard not to watch. I was already interested in politics. Those hearings shaped my interest in wanting to report on Congress.

The hearings served as their own daytime soap opera.

“The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran” and “The Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition” have merged to convene the hearings. Inouye led the Senate section. Former Representative Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., was in charge of the house section.

The House Panel Ranking: Former Vice President and Representative Dick Cheney, R-Wyo.

Chair Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Makes Comments at the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.
(Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

NANCY REAGAN WAS DRIVING FORCE TO PROVIDE HUSBAND TO BE PAYABLE FOR IRAN CONTRA CASE

The hearings began in early May 1987 and ran until June. In early to mid-July, he focused largely on Oliver North and what President Reagan did or did not know about the operation. Mid and early August turned to how the late Secretary of State George Schultz argued against weapons for hostages and whether advisers defrauded the president.

The hearings ended on August 6.

They were a summer blockbuster, filling the TV screen daily. If you walked into an appliance store in the summer of 1987, the showroom manager would have every TV for sale tuned to the Iran-Contra hearings.

But the hearings can be a little hard to follow. They were On TV. But they weren’t created for television.

Which brings us to this summer’s mega-series: the January 6 committee hearings that fell in mid-June. The committee is scheduled for a prime-time hearing next Thursday night. But that won’t necessarily be the last hearing before the panel releases its final report.

And unlike the Iran-Contra drama, these hearings are easier to follow. She to be made for television.

WHY DEMOCRATS WILL EXCLUDE COMMITTEE HEARINGS ON JANUARY 6 FOR ‘AS LONG AS THEY CAN’: DOMENECH

After weeks of testimony, Cassidy Hutchinson, Rusty Bowers, Greg Jacob and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss are household names. People even know how to spell ‘Van Tatenhove’, according to the testimony of former oath-keeper Jason Van Tatenhove.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Mark Meadows, tells a story about President Trump again to the House selection committee on Jan. 6

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Mark Meadows, tells a story about President Trump again to the House selection committee on Jan. 6
(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Observers now know the chatter ranging from Michael Luttig’s turtle-pace speaking voice. Images of ketchup dripping down a White House wall are even imprinted in their minds.

The January 6 hearings are a summer news event wrapped in a story. And, like a miniseries or a movie, you get to know the characters and remember the key scenes. That’s crucial when staging a drama.

Critics blame the committee of 6 January for political drama. They have been particularly critical of the highest-ranking Republican on the panel, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for her Hitchcock-esque cliffhangers at the end of each hearing and even surprises O. Henry.

The 1/6 commission is not bound by the usual hearing limitations of yielding to the other side and offering counterpoints. This gives the committee a lot of leeway when it comes to production and narration.

JAN. 6 COMMITTEE: TUESDAY HEARING TO FOCUSE THE TRUMP TEAM’S LINK WITH FAR-RIGHT EXTREMIST GROUPS

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., snatched all of his GOP picks before the committee after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vetoed two of his selections. So the committee can do whatever it wants. And there is some statistical evidence that the commission’s hearings could lead to potential support for former President Trump.

Rep.  Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep.  Liz Cheney (R-WY), Rep.  Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Rep.  Jamie Raskin (D-MD) listening at a Jan 6 committee meeting

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) listening at a Jan 6 committee meeting
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A New York Times poll revealed that 49 percent of Republicans are against Mr Trump going back.

Fox was told at the commission’s inception last summer that this panel was actually carrying out “the third impeachment” of former President Trump. Another argument was that this exercise was “pre-impeachment”. After all, Liz Cheney herself has repeatedly said it is critical that Mr Trump never “never come near the Oval Office again.”

The Iran-Contra hearings ended late in the summer of 1987. Questions about hostage weapons continued to haunt President Reagan for the remainder of his term in office. Reporters and the public wanted to know what then-Vice President George HW Bush knew about the deal when he became president in 1988. The memory of the former Reagan was hazy about Iran-Contra. He said “I don’t remember” or “I can’t remember” 88 times during a statement on Iran-Contra, a year after he left the White House.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Few now remember much about Iran-Contra. It was a complicated story and difficult to distill into an individual event. But the hearings dominated the Washington news cycle in the summer of 1987.

This summer, the 1/6 Committee is taking on stories of inflation, gas prices, monkey pox, and Senator Joe Manchin, DW.V. All remarkable. But like the Iran-Contra hearings, the 1/6 committee hearings dominate the 2022 solstice.

Related posts

Leave a Reply