From Chris Honeyman: Statement of J. Michael Luttig to the United States House Select Committee on the January 6, 2021 Attack on the United States Capitol

by Heidi Burgess for Chris Honeyman 

June 26, 2022

When I (Heidi Burgess) wrote Chris Honeyman, inviting him to participate in this discussion, Chris understandably explained that he couldn't do so at the time as he was preparing for a major conference that he (together with a few colleagues) were convening in just a few weeks.  However, Chris did take the time to read the framing article and noted that

"one thing you might think about is that just yesterday [meaning June 16, 2022] , a very prominent conservative, Michael Luttig, issued a 12 page statement in conjunction with his testimony to the Jan 6 committee, and much of it reads as if you and Sanda had written it. I doubt if you can get anywhere near Luttig right now, because his testimony will have put him front and center in lots of other discussions, but you should at least get hold of his paper and might think about who might agree with him from a right wing perspective. 

You can find it here: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/22061497-jml-final"

Luttig is a former judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. He was appointed by President George H. W. Bush, and notably, is one of the prominent Republican lawyers to advise Vice President Pence as he was considering his reponse to President Trump's demand that Pense refuse to certify the electoral votes on January 6, 2021.

After reading Luttig's statement, I very much agree: many of his statements do, indeed, correspond to a surprising degree with ideas we laid out in the CRQ framing paper, and in our follow up paper entitled "The Key to Revitalizing Liberal Democracy: Think of It As a Conflict Handling System" For example he begins his comments by saying:

A stake was driven through the heart of American democracy on January 6, 2021, and our democracy today is on a knife’s edge. America was at war on that fateful day, but not against a foreign power. She was at war against herself. We Americans were at war with each other -- over our democracy. January 6 was but the next, foreseeable battle in a war that had been raging in America for years, though that day was the most consequential battle of that war even to date. In fact, January 6 was a separate war unto itself, a war for America’s democracy, a war irresponsibly instigated and prosecuted by the former president, his political party allies, and his supporters. Both wars are raging to this day.

A peaceful end to these wars is desperately needed.

That very much echos the call we put forth at the beginning of our framing paper, when we asert that hyper-polarization threatens to derail our collective pursuit of the democratic ideal and to lead us toward any of seveal dystopian futures: paralyzing political dysfunction, further domination and oppression, authoritarianism, large-scale civil unrest or even war. Luttig goes on to say that

Though disinclined for the moment, as a political matter of fact only the party that instigated this war over our democracy can bring an end to that war." That is a suprising thing for a Republican to say, given that he is talking about the January 6 war, which he said was instigated and prosecuted by the former president, his political party allies and supporters.

That actually is father than I (Heidi) would go: I think the Democrats have a role here too, perhaps not in making peace regarding the January 6 war (though that is debatable too--see an important blog post by David Brooks on that matter).  I would say the Democrats have a role in making peace about Luttig's larger war—the culture and political war that has been raging for many years.

After explaining how egregious the former President's and his allies actions have been and still are, Luttig goes on to say:

for the rest of us Americans, the time has come for us to decide whether we allow this war over our democracy to be prosecuted to its catastrophic end or whether we ourselves demand the immediate suspension of this war and insist on peace instead. ...

No American ought to turn away from January 6, 2021, until all of America comes to grips with what befell our country that day, and we decide what we want for our democracy from this day, forward.

Further down he says

As a consequence, America finds itself in desperate need of either a reawakening and quickening to the vision, truths, values, principles, beliefs, hopes, and dreams upon which the country was founded and that have made America the greatest nation in the world -- a revival of America and the American spirit. Or, if it is to be, we are in need of a revival around a new vision, new truths, new values, new principles, new beliefs, new hopes and dreams that hopefully could once again bind our divided nation together into the more perfect union that “We the People” originally ordained and established it to be.

This sounds very much like our call to develop a "widely shared vision for building a democracy in which we would all like to live." (Feature article, p. 357-358)

Luttig goes on to observe that rather than doing that, almost all politicians now are putting party before country.

They have purposely led us down the road not in the direction toward the bridging of our differences, but in the direction away from the bridging of those differences. They have proven themselves incapable of leading us. But still, all it would take to turn America around is a consensus among some number of these political leaders who possess the combined necessary moral authority and who would agree to be bound together by patriotic covenant, to stand up, step forward, and acknowledge to the American People that America is in peril. ... All of these leaders then need to summon first the moral courage and then the political courage, the strength, and the patriotic will to extend their hands, and ask of the others -- and of all Americans -- “Can we talk? America needs us.”

He ends his statement by saying:

We need to get back to work, and quickly. We need to get back to the solemn business of preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution of the United States and the United States of America.

Yes, Chris, we don't have Luttig's insider's knowledge or credibility, but otherwise, yes, we could have written this! I hope he manages to persude enough of his party's leaders to develop such moral courage. And we constituents, I would add, should do all we can to convince our representatives to do so, and if they refuse, to vote them out of office and replace them with representatives who will.