It is universally acknowledged that the 9/11 Commission is the gold standard for after event investigatory panels, an example of what can be accomplished when partisan political considerations are cast aside and the search for truth is an actual search for truth.
As the debate intensifies in Congress over creating a commission to examine the Jan. 6 assault on the U. S. Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears determined to turn the gold standard into fool’s gold.
Her insistence that the proposed 11-member commission be dominated nearly 2 to 1 by Democratic appointees would seriously compromise the panel’s credibility before it begins, and deepen the divide between those who hold conflicting views of the events of Jan. 6.
Pelosi’s every decision is driven be her ego, an obsession with wielding power and a lust for political advantage. Her approach to the proposed study commission is consistent with that established pattern.
Public acceptance of the 9/11 commission report and the high degree of confidence in its findings was achieved by its bipartisan composition, including a former Republican governor, Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, and a former Democratic Congressman, Lee Hamilton of Ohio, serving as co-chairs.
Pelosi wants to ignore that history by placing seven Democratic appointees and four Republican ones on the commission as a hedge against any findings that differ from Congressional Democrats’ preferred narrative that the riot was planned and executed by pro-Trump groups, egged on by the president to block Congressional ratification of the Electoral College result.
As if to underscore the Speaker’s plan for a desired result, Virginia Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly proposed Republicans be denied commission membership altogether, alleging their votes against election certification disqualified them.
The proposed commission would be armed with a mandate to determine the origins of the storming of the Capitol, as well as provide answers for what seemed to be a remarkably ill-prepared law enforcement presence, allowing the building to be breached, property damaged, offices ransacked and members of Congress fleeing the chamber.
Not surprisingly, her partisan advantage scheme drew a vigorous negative response from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who saw it as an attempt to guarantee the commission reached a pre-determined conclusion.
A handful of Democrats shared McConnell’s view, expressing concern that without equal representation, the commission’s findings would invite skepticism and fail to win public confidence that the truth behind the most serious civil assault on government in modern history had been laid bare.
McConnell suggested the proposed commission expand its purview and examine the protests which tore through American cities last summer.
Pelosi rejected it, insisting the focus remain exclusively on the storming of the Capitol and not be distracted by testimony or documentation of the violence, looting and arson which marked many of the protests in response to police misconduct and the deaths of Black men at the hands of law enforcement.
Should the creation of the commission be approved by Congress, Pelosi’s demand for a narrower focus will likely carry the day.
Neither the Speaker nor most of the Democrats in Congress are eager to open a full-throated debate over the anti-police protests with which many of them sympathized. Moreover, they make a valid point that an insurrection against the seat of government is a far more serious matter than civil protests turned violent.
Should she remain adamant on the partisan tilt of the commission, though, Pelosi will be accused of torpedoing the idea, allowing the current narrative to stand - an insurrection abetted by Trump and carried out by a mob of his supporters.
In her political calculation, she emerges victorious either way: The commission will validate her pre-determined outcome or, if there is no commission, the blame will be Trump’s legacy.
Pelosi’s reputation as a major leaguer in the sport of political hardball has been well-earned, even when it fails spectacularly as it did in 2020, when her party absorbed a serious beatdown in the Congressional elections, losing 15 House seats despite her persistent predictions of substantial Democratic gains.
Whether the horrific events of Jan. 6 are scrutinized by an independent commission is unclear at this point. In Pelosi’s hands, though, It is certain political benefit will take priority over the gold standard.
Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at cgolden1937@gmail.