Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why Barr’s summary of the Mueller report is a big win for America

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Andrew Sullivan, a conservative, writes in New York:

Why do I find the summary of the Mueller report by Attorney General William Barr to be something of a relief?

Firstly, I’m relieved as an American that a serious and dogged prosecutor deemed it impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the president of the United States had knowingly conspired with a foreign government to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election. It’s not exactly a high bar, I know, but we have been failing to reach the lowest bars lately, so count me a happy person. I’m glad, simply, that the worst doesn’t appear to be true. I prefer my presidents not to be traitors.

Second, we were able to hold an independent inquiry into a serious question of electoral malfeasance and see it to a conclusion, without Mueller being fired, or the inquiry blocked, or stymied. When push came to shove, the Congress protected Mueller, despite an avalanche of abuse and propaganda directed toward him. And the president didn’t fire him, which, let’s be honest, we were all fearing he would. We ducked that particular constitutional crisis.

More to the point, in what was an inevitably fraught political moment, Robert Mueller conducted himself impeccably. How thrilling to hear absolutely nothing from him. I don’t even know what his voice sounds like. The lack of leaks or grandstanding; the efficiency and obvious rigor of the process; the resistance to becoming the Resistance: Mueller single-handedly showed that the norms of liberal democracy and the rule of law can be upheld even as most of the political actors, especially the president, have been behaving like bit players in a banana republic.

Give it up for old-school WASP Republican values! And in this, Mueller is someone we should study if we want to see how to oppose this president effectively. You can’t out-tweet or out-insult the clinically narcissistic and characterologically disgusting. You cannot beat him at his own game. But you can consistently refuse to take his boorish bait and maintain your own standards of conduct. You can calmly stare down a bully, and you can let your actions speak louder than your words.

In a world of endless distraction, Mueller kept his focus. It is hard not to see the inquiry as an epic cultural and moral clash between the honorable American and the irredeemably ugly one; between the war-hero public servant and a draft-dodging liar and thug; between elegant, understated class and fathomless, bullhorn vulgarity. In a liberal society, it really does matter more that the rules are fair than that any side wins. Mueller walked that line — and did not fall off it, as, for example, James Comey did.

Above all, I’m grateful Mueller did not find a clear-cut case of provable treasonous criminality either on the president’s part or his family’s. The reason I’m relieved is that, however grave the crime, Trump would almost certainly have gotten away with it. In our current politics, there is simply no way for this Senate to convict Trump of an impeachable offense. And so there was always a real danger that this entire ordeal would end with an obviously proven high crime and misdemeanor, a thereby unavoidable impeachment process, and then an inevitable failure to convict in the Senate. And so Trump would become an openly criminal president, a walking inversion of the rule of law, leverage impeachment into his reelection, and our slide into strongman politics would have accelerated still further.

The other lesson to learn is that Trump would happily obstruct justice even if he knew he was as innocent as the driven snow. It’s his core instinct. He’ll always act guilty — whether he’s guilty or not. He cannot see the process of an inquiry as a way for the entire system to examine and fix itself — let alone exonerate him. He instinctively recoils from any independent challenge to his control. Letting the law take its course would require a modicum of appreciation of a liberal society, and an understanding that the world doesn’t simply revolve around him. And he is clinically incapable of either.

And so if Trump is charged or accused of anything, he has the identical reflex. Always deny. Always lie. Always undermine. Never concede. Accuse your opponents of doing exactly what they accuse you of. Even if you’re innocent. This is the Roy Cohn playbook, and it’s damaging when even a real-estate developer deploys that kind of tactic, but in a president, charged with the faithful execution of the laws, it’s potentially fatal. But it will also mislead others, as it may have in this case. Most people tend to assume that someone who is acting incredibly guilty probably is a little guilty. But that misses the particular mind-set of this particular president.

None of this is to say this is over. No one apart  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 4:18 pm

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