Condoleezza Rice wants to move on.
She concedes that what happened on Jan. 6 was “wrong.” It was, she told the hosts of “The View” last week, an “assault on law and order, and an assault on our democratic processes.” And Rice, a former national security adviser and secretary of state, thinks those who attacked and ransacked the U.S. Capitol should be punished. That day, she said, made her cry for the first time since Sept. 11.
So yes, it was a terrible day. It was a stunning day. It was a day that defiled democracy. But ... “It’s time to move on,” she said.
Given Rice’s gravitas and credibility, it was a stunning pronouncement, but perhaps we ought not be surprised. After all, Republicans have been urging the rest of us to move on from Jan. 6 almost since Jan. 7. They refused to convict the former president for inciting the mob. They refused to authorize an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection. Some even questioned whether there was an insurrection to begin with.
Now comes Rice, urging us to “move on.” No more investigating. No more discussion. No more grappling with the hard questions it raises.
The mind seizes as it struggles to imagine anyone saying that about Sept. 11. That day is a livid scar upon American memory: the iconic buildings felled, the people caked in dust, the sudden sense of vulnerability, the candlelight vigils for those who were never coming home. Sept. 11 spawned an independent bipartisan commission, joint House and Senate committee hearings and two wars. We did not just “move on.”
And yet, ghastly and frightening as they were, the events of that day posed no threat to our national existence. There was never a chance that a band of thugs ambitiously punching above their weight could topple American democracy.
But that threat, however distant, was certainly in play on Jan. 6. What makes it worse is that the threat came from inside our own national house. Worse still, it’s still there, just as virulent as it ever was. So it is jarring to hear Condoleezza Rice chirp about the need to “move on to a better America.”
How, exactly, does that happen? How much must we ignore? How much must we forget?
And why would they even ask it of us? The only answer that presents itself is that Republicans fear Jan. 6 because it contains too many embarrassing truths.
Those were not, after all, Democrats breaking the windows, beating the cops, erecting the gallows. No, those were Republicans, albeit Republicans of a stripe that would have been a stranger to Reagan, McCain, Eisenhower or any other politician with even a molecule of statesmanship in them. Sadly, that’s a quality in short supply in the GOP just now. Even in places where you’d expect to find it — i.e., a respected former government official — it turns out the cupboard is bare. But the capacity for political expedience? That, they have in abundance.
“Move on,” she says.
To which the only patriotic reply is: No. Not until the questions are answered, the lessons learned, the nation secured, the culprits — those in the streets and those in the suites — held to account.
The forces that animated the events of Jan. 6 did not spring from nowhere. Nor did they disappear into mist when the clock struck midnight. We face a clear and abiding danger, one we ignore at great peril. With all due respect to Rice, if we don’t treat this with the seriousness it deserves, we won’t have a “better America” to move on to.
We’ll be lucky to have an America at all.
Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. email@example.com