It all could have been scripted in advance.

President Biden pounded former President Trump, calling him a liar who acquiesced in the Capitol riot.

Trump hit back at Biden, calling him a failure who himself is perpetuating the real Big Lie by denying the 2020 election was stolen.

And the media coverage was passionate, partisan and predictable.

So were Trump’s shots at the "complicit media" for accusing him of perpetuating a very different Big Lie.


President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris depart after delivering speeches to mark the first anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.  (Reuters)

One year after one of the darkest days in our country’s history, everyone ratcheted up the rhetoric, and no minds were changed. No problem came a millimeter closer to being solved.

Biden could have given a unity speech. Instead, he mounted a highly personal attack, throwing in references to Trump’s "bruised ego" and how "you can’t love your country only when you win." He threw in a pitch for his party’s voting-rights legislation.


Asked afterward by CBS News reporter Nikole Killion if his speech will divide more than it heals, given all his talk about healing, the president said: "The way you have to heal, you have to recognize the extent of the wound."

Biden’s bare-knuckle assault on his predecessor undoubtedly pleased the Democrats, who wish their guy would take off the gloves more often. And it automatically turned off most Republicans.

But how much choice did Biden have? He was not just jabbing away at the man he defeated in the last election and could well face in 2024. He was defending the legitimacy of his presidency against Trump’s continued barrage of claims that he was not actually elected. And he was saying that Trump approved of what Biden called an "insurrection" meant to block the certification of the Electoral College results.

Trump, who canceled a planned news conference, doubled and tripled down on what he has been saying for well over a year. He threads scathing critiques of Biden’s performance into a tapestry that depicts the Jan. 6 rioters as the real patriots.

A large group of police arrive at the Capitol, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. President Biden and members of Congress are marking one year since the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.  (Associated Press)

Journalists who are not political partisans try to stick to the facts, knowing full well that most Republicans don’t believe them.

It is a fact that none of the investigations, recounts or audits of 2020 found significant evidence to support Trump’s claims of fraud. It is a fact that many people, from Republicans to his daughter to Fox News hosts, tried to get Trump to urge a halt to the Capitol violence, and nothing happened for hours. And it is a fact that more than 725 people have been charged with crimes from that day, although the Justice Department has produced no evidence of a coordinated or treasonous plot to overturn the election.

Karl Rove, once a key voice in the Republican Party when he was a top aide to George W. Bush, had an important op-ed in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. Rove, a Fox contributor, may be out of step with today’s Trumpian GOP, but he took aim at selective outrage:

"What if the other side had done it? What if in early January 2017, Democrats similarly attired and armed had stormed the Capitol and attempted to keep Congress from receiving the Electoral College results for the 2016 presidential election?"


What, he asked, if Democrats claimed Trump won through extensive fraud but offered no proof? What if Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan were threatened during the riot? What if the party insisted that Vice President Joe Biden had sole authority to seat Hillary Clinton’s electors?

A year after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, television cameras and video monitors fill Statuary Hall in preparation for news coverage, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.  (Associated Press)

"If this happened, would some of my fellow Republicans have accepted it as merely a protest? Would they have called patriots those charged with violent acts against our country, its laws and Constitution?" His answer was no.

Biden’s speech was in part an attempt to salvage his presidency. Trump’s counterattack was in part an attempt to win back his old job. Most Republican and Democratic lawmakers kept playing their assigned roles in an attempt to hold onto or regain power.


And if the media hadn’t lost so much credibility since Trump’s election and Biden’s ascension, maybe more people would trust them to report what really happened one year ago.