This post is for anyone who has read Midnight in Washington book or who is interested in the book. Feel free to talk about anything book-related, but here are some questions in case they are useful in getting the discussion started.
If you read Midnight in Washington but did not participate in the earlier discussions or the zooms, what was the primary message you took from your reading? What did you learn from the book that you had not known before you read it?
For those who were participants in any of the Zoom gatherings, this thread is for you, too. Are there things you wish we had been able to discuss on the zooms if we had more time?
Adam Schiff was very generous with his time, 40 minutes at the first zoom and 35 at the second. Even so, I bet there are questions you wish we had been able to ask him. What else would you have asked him if you had the chance?
SiubhanDuinne facilitated the discussion for one of our themes on zoom. She did a lovely job, and she has graciously agreed to facilitate this book club discussion today. Big thanks, SD, for that.
All the book club posts, including the ones with video of the time with Rep. Schiff, are at this link:
I think it would have gone better if there were questions solicited for each session, I think the themes should have been disseminated with each zoom meeting invitation, and I think you might have solicited questions early enough to have them voted on, as to which would be discussed. I think everyone on the zoom needs to know how to raise their hand in zoom and also drop it after they speak.
I would’ve liked for information from Congressman Schiff, about what the minority party can do to disseminate information, when the majority party is covering up crimes.
Thanks to WG for kindly asking me to facilitate — although, knowing the Jackaltariat, I doubt I’ll have to do much facilitating!
Now that it’s been a couple of weeks since the last discussion of Midnight in Washington, I’ll be interested to see what lasting thoughts you have on the book, its author, and its subject matter.
Thanks, brantl. Those are certainly thoughts to keep in mind for future book clubs, especially with zooms. And it sounds as though a brief tutorial on zoom practices and etiquette would be useful. I’ll pass your suggestions along to WaterGirl.
So far, it’s just you and me — so regarding your last paragraph, let me ask you to expand a little.
As we’ve talked about on this site many times and in many contexts, the Republican Party, whether majority or minority, has the advantage of a huge, compliant media, whereas the Democratic Party, whether minority or majority, has nothing equivalent. We need to knock ourselves out for every decibel of amplification of our message.
I did not read the book or participate in any of the sessions. I wanted to, but this is a busy time of the year for me.
On Zoom. Do people feel that Zoom is a good alternative to traditional author/book events? Even without the pandemic, I could see that it might be good for folks who can’t get to a book store where an author might be speaking. And I think it might be a good way for an author to reach out to more people who might be interested in his work.
On the book. Did anyone ask why the Republicans seem to be so intent on flirting with authoritarianism? Do they not see the danger to democracy?
Do any Republicans privately admit to him that they don’t agree with the excesses of their party?
He did say — I can’t remember whether he volunteered it or if it was in answer to a question — that several Republicans told him privately that they were appalled at the direction their party was moving, but didn’t dare say so in public for fear of retribution — primary challenges, official censure, being stripped of committee privileges, etc.
And as we’ve seen with what’s happened with Cheney, Kinsinger, and other Rs in recent weeks, they’re not wrong. A shame there’s not more starch in the GOP spine, but there you are.
I appreciated having it on Zoom, and would do it that way in the future happily.
What has stuck with me–other than the amazing amount of work that WaterGirl and others put into making it a rollicking success–is how much time Schiff spent with us, and how frank he was. I think the book is a kind of bearing witness, and is valuable for that alone.
I thought the organization of the questions when Schiff was with us was very good and worked well; it felt as though having organized it as well as you all did the first time made the second one go smoothly, too. Attendees seemed to know what to expect. Moderators did a fine job moderating. Some folks sorta butted in, but it didn’t become too distracting; I appreciated the attention to calling on folks who hadn’t spoken much/before.
I think for this book it was important to meet as one community, but I could see for other genres figuring how to do breakout rooms in zoom to give more folks a chance to talk.
I will make sure WaterGirl and Almost Retired see your comment. Thanks. I guess I didn’t know there was a breakout room option available on Zoom. If you’re familiar with it from experience, could you say a little bit about how it works? Advantages, drawbacks?
@SiubhanDuinne: I’ve never set up breakout rooms, but I’ve been in them at work. Basically, you break up the group into topic areas (for example), and participants choose which one to attend. It has worked well when I’ve done webinars where the three presenters (for example) are each talking about a different aspect of the main subject area. That’s useful if multiple team members are attending a multi-day/miulti-topic training. We also do a full yearly symposium at work, with multiple tracks, multiple breakout rooms, etc.; it’s been remote the past two years. I can’t see it being useful when we have a guest, but there might be other ways we could use it
ETA: the advantage is that you can really discuss sub-topics more easily, but the disadvantage is not being able to be in two rooms if there are multiple topics that are of interest. I was thinking that smaller groups–split up how? dunno–might enable more folks to talk, but I’m not 100% convinced that it would work well.
My revelation was that Adam Schiff felt he could work with Devin Nunes and suddenly couldn’t. It took a week to realize that Nunes was shunning him.
I wish there was more discussion about any strategies to get through media, social media, or otherwise. Rep. Schiff seems media savvy and aware of how to target specific audiences with his 4 versus 40 million frame. Four being the Senators that could be persuaded to do the right thing. Forty million being voters that are not locked in their opinions.
In several of our chats, discussions, and threads when Rep. Schiff wasn’t with us we wondered why he seemed to be surprised by GOP behavior, ie Barr, Nunes, and a few others. For example, most of us seemed to be clued into Barr as being anti Democratic back during the HW Administration. I’ve thought about it since. His book is really a first pass at setting the historical record on a consequential and dangerous time in American Democracy. If he hadn’t seemed surprised or betrayed, I’m not sure the telling of the events would carry the same honest reporting. It would have been just as honest to say the GOP have been shit for decades but they went beyond their usual horrible, etc. The fact that he establishes himself as someone who liked certain Republicans, was friends with them, and wanted to work with them probably avoids the dismissal of his account as just more partisan spin. I would love to have been able to ask him if he really was surprised by their behavior or if he knew who they were all along. We probably would have had to ask that off the record.
On the other hand, he is a lawyer, worked for the DOJ, and has been in Congress for twenty years. A certain amount of faith in the system and it’s actors probably comes with his record of service.
The story that sticks with me along those lines is that plane conversation he had with Kevin McCarthy shortly before the 2010 (?) midterms. McCarthy told the press the next day that Schiff had admitted to him that the Dems were going to lose. Of course Schiff had said no such thing, but his fellow Dems were all over him — “What’d you say that for?” So he confronted McC, accused him of lying about their conversation, and Kevin just shrugged and said “That’s the way the cookie crumbles” or words to that effect. I think that experience was a real eye-opener for Adam.
Dorothy A. Winsor
I thought zoom worked well. In my experience, author events usually don’t involve a lot of discussion between audience members anyway.
I didn’t get to the zoom meetings because I have a standing Wednesday night commitment, but what I appreciated from the book was the clarity with which Schiff told the story of the impeachments and the insurrection. I knew most of the facts but learned them in bits over time. He pulled it all together for me.
My favorite part of the book was his description of what it was like to be in the capital building on Jan 6
In terms of questions I wish we had asked him, I would have liked to spend time talking about his experience in Czech Republic and how that influences his concerns with what is happening here.
@SiubhanDuinne: It was a great story but not too surprising to me since we’ve seen a lot of McCarthy’s heartlessness and ruthlessness since then. We’ve watched the poison spread. It’s as though membership in the GOP gang requires killing something less powerful, like honesty and hope.
I loved watching both Zooms of the Book Club. Being pre-retired I am not as familiar as a lot of peeps with Zoom, so I am always a bit distracted by seeing Real People when they start, but that’s on me.
What struck me in the book and the meetings was how Rep Schiff is so warmly optimistic at the same time he is genuinely distressed at the state of Congress, the Executive (incl. DOJ), and the Judiciary. He’s a Really Good Guy (look up Really Good Guy in his dad’s dictionary and you’ll find a pic of Adam).
Bottom line for me from the book is a feeling that we, as a country, truly have slipped off the trail into a bog of disinformation, lies, bigotry, and willful ignorance. We’re gonna hurt from this for a while, some more than others because that’s what we do. But, in the meantime, we also do better where and when we can. Rep Schiff did an amazing job at reminding me of that.
The Jackalariat has proved him right.
@Dorothy A. Winsor:
Dorothy, I don’t know whether you have read, or plan to read, Jamie Raskin’s book Unthinkable, but he pretty much begins with being at the Capitol on Jan 6. I read Schiff and Raskin more or less back-to-back, and the two books in tandem provide a fascinating, horrifying, and intimate look at the political arc of the last two years. It doesn’t hurt that both men are really good writers, and both are particularly skilled at weaving public and political events with their personal life experiences.
That’s an excellent description of him, and goes for a number of Jackals too. And I agree with you about his being a Really Good Guy (aka Mensch).
You will recall, he volunteered (the second time he was with us) that he’d like to join us again. I hope he does. That would be a great opportunity for you to ask the question and allow plenty of time for a nuanced answer from Adam.
Dorothy A. Winsor
@SiubhanDuinne: I haven’t read Raskin’s book, but it’s on my radar. Especially if BJ does it in the book club
Read the book, watched the Zooms. What I liked most about the book was how it wove together all the things I had seen reported – either in the main stream or in little, out-in-the- woods blogs – into one coherent, cohesive chronological thread – a historical view. Surprised that Schiff was surprised by their venality. Definitely reinforced my views of Devine Nunes.
I was caught off guard by Schiff’s descriptions of Representative Jerry Nadler. Though kind, they seemed critical.
I was trying to remember the name of the GOP Congressman who made a comment during the Jan 6 Coup attempt about how Schiff would be treated as opposed to him. To me that indicated that every fucking GOP member knew what their rhetoric was unleashing.
@CCL: Schiff’s critique of Nadler seemed thoughtful but I didn’t find a little honest anger by one Rep. too damaging. The GOP saw the torches and pitchforks and said gimme more! They have declared war on the things that made American exceptionalism, despite the warts, seem genuine. The land of opportunity is not so for many minorities and for many TFG supporters who have bought the line that attacking others suffering will make things better.
Yes, I was also a bit taken aback by Schiff’s descriptions of locking horns with Nadler. I think there’s a lot of mutual respect there, but they both have a stubborn streak!
I’m sorry I missed the zooms, but I watched the first one and really enjoyed it. I actually only finished the book last night; I listened to the audiobook, which I don’t usually do for nonfiction, and I loved it. Schiff has a really nice voice and tells his own story so well. I know so many people who don’t pay attention to politics who really have no understanding of how bad things are, and this would be an excellent introduction for them, if I could only get them to read it/listen to it.
Now that you mention it, I’m trying to remember too. Maybe later I’ll do a text search of the Kindle book and see if I can track it down.
@SiubhanDuinne: Is that toward the beginning? If so, I don’t think he names the person.
Adam Schiff knows who he is and he’s not an attention whore, he’s a public servant who is aware of the costs of public service that his family has borne. He is a patriot who has seen his Country in relation to the world and in relation to his countrymen. He is willing to give down fighting and he knows what rodeo clowns populate the other side of the aisle. He knows that trump was an active agent in undermining any/every aspect of the presidency- and that if not stopped, trump would never voluntarily left office.
I don’t know. I can’t remember, tbh. But if I search through all the times he references January 6, perhaps it will refresh my memory — and then I can refresh MomSense’s!
That’s a very nice comment. I bet Adam Schiff would be chuffed and honoured to see that.
I would actually not be at all surprised if most republican congress people knew what Jan 6 was from the get go. Yes there were and would be those republicans who may want the same or similar things but would never think an insurrection would be in any way a reasonable path to get there and wouldn’t have been informed. But the chodes in the republican party, led by the head chode, would not think twice about if an insurrection was realistic or not, they are just too damn stupid and too damn wrong to understand reality. They have had their bullshit sold to them for too long, they have white grievance (the concept that they are being persecuted for being white – which is how they see the world. And that idea gives them permission to be racist, it is the justification for them being and staying poor, it makes them see the cities as worse than the rural areas they live in for every reason a deluded mind can think of and it’s reenforced daily by faux “news” and their republican politicians.
This very dangerous game has been going on since the country was founded, got worse in the 1800s and then even worse in the late 60s and on. And every time those in power in the republican party loose a little ground they up their game. At some point it will come to a head, and the party will either totally lose or will destroy the country. Our concept of government, our lives and those of ALL of our fellow citizens, but especially those with obvious risk markers, the color of their skin, their gender decisions, their sexual orientation will be treated worse if we lose the concept of an actual democracy. Which is the goal of the right. They like Vlad because he runs a country that they think is what they want. But it’s not even close. Even Vlad likely doesn’t want that. He wants power and money, if he though he could make more with a real democracy, he’d do that. Vlad doesn’t think that and neither do conservatives.
@SiubhanDuinne: ? hopefully, he’d overlook my couple few wrong words and such.
One main thing I took away from the book is that Schiff is very realistic about the current future situations we face, and that he manages to hold onto the basic optimism that is almost necessary for a Democratic politician without becoming a Pollyanna or seeming to ignore just how far down the GOP has sunk. Obviously, a member of Congress can’t be like “Welp, we’re fucked, let’s pack it in,” but he also never seemed to downplay the danger posed by the modern Republican party. It’s a difficult line to walk and I think he does it well.
Regarding Zoom stuff: I think it went super well when Adam was on with us, and was impressed with how smoothly that was organized and pulled off. I do think, as mentioned somewhere above, that perhaps a little more Zoom etiquette might be needed for when it’s just the jackals, because there were times it got a little frustrating. People not muting themselves when it’s been asked 10 times that they do, people not putting their hand up and/or forgetting to put it down after they’ve spoken, etc. In the first meeting especially, there were a couple folks who kept just leaping into the discussion repeatedly and had to be specifically told to stop talking over others and let other people have a chance to contribute. I think some of this is just the nature of the beast with such a large group – other Zoom book clubs I’ve done have had maybe a dozen people, max – and I understand not wanting it to be super restrictive when it’s just us…but letting it be too much of a free-for-all isn’t ideal, either.
The “wrong words” are minor in the extreme. I’m sure he’s seen much worse, including from some of his highly-educated colleagues. Anyhow, he’s a mensch.
Speaking of Adam Schiff, it’s his wedding anniversary today. I just saw his Instagram post with a sweet photo.
Awww. Happy anniversary to Adam and Eve!
ETA: I hadn’t realised that today is their 27th anniversary. I’ve been feeling slightly melancholy all day because my father died 27 years ago today. Adam Schiff has made February 19, 1995 a date that’s not completely terrible.
It’s not really a criticism of Schiff – because I admire him so much.
I guess I was mostly a little surprised by Schiff’s choice to include some of it in the book. Parts seemed important to the story, but a couple of items seemed unnecessary (and I can’t remember which ones struck me so at the time). Nothing major, but enough to stick with me.
@SiubhanDuinne: I think that the democratic members of congress are going to have to start calling out these deceptions, in real time. I don’t think that they can wait for committee results, because they (republicans) will bury the results. They got stuffed by the republicans in congress, and Bill Barr. Why Mueller didn’t get loud, I couldn’t understand.
Thank you so much WaterGirl and moderators, the book club was a great experience! I was frankly shocked that Zoom meetings with so many people could work at all, you pulled off quite a feat. I enjoyed having different moderators with their own styles, good idea. There was one meeting where we tried not raising hands for a while and I don’t think that worked very well, the discussion flowed better with hand raising. I agree with others that some guidance on Zoom etiquette would be helpful.
I was just finishing the book when the Zooms must have occurred. That must of been a great experience. I found this when looking for questions about the book because I am facilitating a book club discussion about it. You did not record the Zoom to share did you?
@Sally Simpson: Yes, we did record the two sessions with Adam Schiff.
There is a link to all of the book club posts in the sidebar, but I have copied it here for you as well.
Midnight In Washington Book Club
Click that link along with all the other posts, you can find the two sessions with Adam Schiff. Look for (Video) in the post titles.