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David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic.
Just two days into the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, Rep. Jamie Raskin and the other House impeachment managers are doing what journalism has so far mainly failed to do: producing a factual, coherent and compelling account of the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6., one of the darkest days in American history. They are writing the first draft of history, something we in the business of journalism like to think we do.
Here we are more than a month removed from that horrible event, and I still feel as if I know only a sliver of what really happened, how it happened and who is responsible. Writing on Jan. 6 about the role of media on that shocking day, I couldn’t help but ask why there was no military or major law enforcement help while Trump’s goons rampaged and desecrated the Capitol. Did Trump, then commander in chief, keep forces under his control from protecting the Capitol and the government of the United States?
I expected a definitive journalistic answer in days or weeks. But I am still waiting. The House impeachment managers, on the other hand, are promising to make that part of their case against Trump, and I believe they will after Tuesday’s powerful and convincing presentations.
In his opening Tuesday, Raskin offered nothing short of three-dimensional history. The superbly edited video shown during his presentation vividly captured the mob in all its fury. His words offered a narrative that ordered the images. And, finally, details of his personal family story of that day provided an emotional context impossible not to feel.
Meanwhile, Tuesday night, cable news and some newspapers were still fixated on such “facts” as Trump “screaming” at the TV during the embarrassing performances of his lawyers. He especially didn’t like the ill-fitting suit one of his lawyers wore, viewers were told.
Stop it. I do not care any more about such cosmetic matters. Let Trump sit in Florida and eat cheeseburgers and rage at the TV.
In Wednesday’s opening, Raskin specifically promised now that the constitutional question about impeaching someone who is out of office has been answered, he and the other managers will deliver the facts of Jan. 6 and Trump’s role in them.
Thank goodness we have Raskin and the other house managers on our screens this week giving us the big story that matters — doing the heavy-lifting and historical work journalism so far hasn’t.