Democrats in the Senate have led a determined effort to show that they can be bipartisan, which Americans continue to believe is a good thing even though the result is that little of consequence is accomplished. Which is decidedly bad. Of course, even more Americans want Republicans in Congress to “work across the aisle” than ask the same of President Biden, to which Sen. Mitch McConnell responded on Tuesday by saying that “the era of bipartisanship is over.” 

Also on Tuesday came the release of a Senate report on the events of Jan. 6. That report looks at the structural failings that caused the intelligence community to miss signals of upcoming violence, the police to miss signals of upcoming violence, and the Pentagon to deliberately ignore violence very much in progress.

But, as The Washington Post points out, the report also shows something else: It shows that the effort to be bipartisan can render an entire project worthless. Because not only does the Senate report ignore the causes for the insurrection, it also ignores the reasons why the FBI was willing to overlook messages openly planning an insurrection, why the Capitol Police were willing to say that Trump supporters were an unlikely source of violence despite all the evidence to the contrary, and why the Pentagon twiddled its thumbs even as police were on the phone literally begging for help.

The effort to generate a bipartisan report means that the Senate produced something that is shorn of both the reasons behind the insurgency and the motivations of those who failed to provide an appropriate response. Which means the bullet list of prescribed solutions are all but worthless … except for those who want to close the case on Jan. 6 and pretend the Senate did something bipartisan.

At each step of the process, the Senate report looks at how the system failed to provide adequate preparation, protection, or response around the events of Jan. 6. But because the report also draws a line around looking at motivations, the list of suggestions for improvement is about as valuable as a report from a doctor who says just “stop getting sick.”

The report makes it clear that the intelligence community failed to adequately warn D.C. law enforcement officials about the risk of violence from pro-Trump extremists in advance of the Jan. 6 rally. But the solution can’t simply be that they should “review and evaluate” their process for dealing with social media threats, because that ignores the basic truth that the intelligence community has consistently underplayed the threat of violence represented by domestic right-wing terrorism. White nationalist terror has been repeatedly linked to everything from bomb threats to mass shootings.

That’s not new. It’s been going on for decades. That the intelligence community was still ignoring social media posts in which Trump supporters were openly saying that they intended to “storm the Capitol,” explaining how to infiltrate the tunnel system beneath Congress, and encouraging everyone to “bring guns” shows that the failing was not solely a matter of how information was passed along.

What happened in the intelligence community wasn’t something that can be solved with a few checklist items. It was a fundamental failing of the FBI and other organizations that still do not accord violent threats from white supremacist militias the same level of alarm as nonviolent planning by Black protesters. This is a cultural failing that demands deep changes across the intelligence community.

The same is true when it comes to the Capitol Police. The report accurately describes how the limited intelligence that reached that agency was bottled up and not shared in a way that led to adequate planning for the rally and eventual insurrection on Jan. 6. But that problem can’t be solved with bullet points calling for a revised information flow inside police HQ.

Because the root problem isn’t how security memos get circulated. The root problem is how the Capitol Police looked at a gathering of people who had twice before sparked violent incidents in that city, a group now meeting in larger numbers and with the stated intent of halting a vote in Congress, and still came to the conclusion that the threat of violence was low. This is a cultural failing that demands deep changes to the Capitol Police.

The delays in deploying the National Guard are among the most frustrating events of that awful day, and the report rightly spends significant time examining the arcane and outdated process necessary to engage the D.C. National Guard. But it doesn’t matter if the Capitol Police have a direct line to the Pentagon if the people on the other end of that phone are embedded in a culture that says ignoring white nationalist violence is just fine. This is a cultural failing within the upper leadership of the U.S. military that should genuinely scare every American s**tless.

The report put out by the Senate includes the fact that Donald Trump refused to acknowledge the results of the election, and that the “Stop the Steal” event was organized explicitly to protest the results of the election, but in true bipartisan fashion, it doesn’t draw the line between those statements and the outrage that took his supporters over police barricades and through the broken windows of the Capitol. While saying that Trump refused to acknowledge the outcome of the election, the report doesn’t even say that Trump was wrong when he made those claims. That’s bipartisanship in the service of making things worse.

As the Post says, “the only history of the insurrection that Republicans will acknowledge is one that carefully sanitizes the role in inciting the mob played by the then-president — and by Republicans themselves.” It completely ignores the fact that what happened on Jan. 6 was the intentional result of efforts carried out over a period of months, and that the violent assault on the Capitol was incited by Republicans as a whole, not just Trump. 

To get a report that Republicans were willing to sign required so minimizing key findings that the report is not actually useless. It’s perfectly useful. It’s useful for Republicans who want to divorce anything they did, or Trump did, from the events of that day. It’s useful for future claims by those who want to defeat any further examination of Jan. 6 that the Senate already looked at this.

It is not possible to resolve an issue without admitting either its history or its motivation. It’s absolutely not possible to address the events of Jan. 6 without acknowledging that the intelligence community downplayed threats of white violence. The Capitol Police downplayed threats of white violence. The Pentagon more than downplayed threats of white violence. And Republicans have embraced white supremacy as a political strategy.

Moving around all the deck chairs won’t help unless those fundamental problems get fixed.

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