WASHINGTON — “This is my Super Bowl,” an off-camera newscaster said during public hearings by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill. But what’s a Super Bowl without stars, or even fans, I thought. Former President Donald J. Trump and his family certainly would not show up in person. Neither does Rudolph W. Giuliani, once his personal attorney and former mayor of New York City, nor anyone else who would be recognizable to anyone other than a student of politics.
And unlike last month’s libel trial involving Johnny Depp and his ex-wife, Amber Heard, in which the public’s passion for lewd celebrity gossip was unmistakable, avid fans didn’t seem lined up to cheer or protest. .
Outside the building, Washington seemed unperturbed. Masses of color-coordinated schoolchildren trudged from monument to monument, oscillating between amazement and boredom.
Sweaty, white-collared men, jackets tucked into their elbows, walked between meetings and the Hyatt.
And an ice cream vendor fed hot tourists and hungry pigeons.
But inside the Capitol, television crews, reporters and photographers were ready.
Reporters stood in the hallways of the Cannon House office building for hours, ready to run, iPhones extended, behind committee members.
Photographers aimed their lenses through the cracks in the doors, hoping to capture a rare unorchestrated moment.
Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, working on a segment for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” circled the Capitol Rotunda making crude jokes and impersonating Trump. Later, the puppet (or, more accurately, his master, Robert Smigel) was arrested by the Capitol Police and charged with trespassing.
Some members of the media seemed nostalgic for the turbulent days of the Trump administration. The scripted nature of President Biden’s tenure has not sparked the same passions, or qualifications.
“This is the biggest event we’ve had in a long time,” said one photographer.
The hearings themselves were run in part by a veteran television executive, hired to capture the attention of Americans weary of two impeachments and countless breaking news banners. But Fox News refused to show an audience during prime time. (He later decided to air the daytime sessions, which did not conflict with his main talk shows.)
Washington has had its share of political sideshows over the years, but this one felt both fascinating and a bit underwhelming. People who were always paying attention got sucked into the coverage, but the other side just flipped the channel.
Strolling outside the Capitol, I saw a tourist from Germany wearing Fred Perry’s infamous black and yellow T-shirt, the uniform of the Proud Boys. Seemingly unaware of the symbolism of it, he grinned for a photo with the Capitol in the background.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him.