Rectitude. A word one doesn’t hear much. Even the sound of it strikes one like a quaintness from the past. And yet, it’s a word I’ve heard quite a bit lately in reference to now ex- Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. That is the image that the media has seized upon in its narrative. Bob Mueller, the straight arrow. The guy who plays by the rules. In some versions of the narrative, he is portrayed as a tragic figure, a man no longer of these times. I suppose in some sense that is true. But I think the more valid perception is that this is more a commentary upon the times than of the person.
From the progressive side of the Great Divide, Mueller was to be the savior, the bringer of the truth. And we thought that the truth, once revealed, would be determinative. In that sense, those of us who believed / hoped that were also out of step with the times. Truth and facts, fade in significance among the cacophony of other “facts” and misinformation and misunderstandings and half-truths and lies, and knowingly and easily discarded when they do not fit one’s desired or expected narrative which competes among dozens of other narratives. Truth and facts have become menu items where there are apparently no bad choices, all are equal, and there are no discernible consequences for bad choices.
This consideration has some bearing upon the current Democratic debate about whether or not to impeach. Although the Constitution calls for at least hearings, the current political realities cautions against that Constitutional function. The hope has been that once the truth is revealed, the American people will respond. But that was the past.
Mueller, a marine veteran, 12-year head of the FBI, has chain-of-command honor etched into his being. To maintain that kind of dedication, one must retain a tremendous faith in the system that one serves, a faith in justice, that in the long run, the values embodied by that system will win out and show itself to be worthy of such devotion, worthy to the individual and to the greater society.
But those who play by the rules are often in a weaker position when facing those for who those rules have no meaning or who understand the advantages of having an adversary whose hands are tied by his honor, by his rectitude. Playing by the rules only works when there are refs who are there to enforce the rules, to hold all the participants accountable. Without them, rules become less significant, the system loses its integrity.
In this case, the refs should be the American people. But the American people no longer value these qualities, do not see an advantage to submitting to rules that might call for an outcome different from their desire. In this environment, Mueller’s rectitude has no impact, no significance. In fact, it leaves him looking a bit naïve, his previous image of all-conquering hero down-sized by these times to that of a good (for whatever that’s worth) but impotent non-factor.
Bruce Springstein’s “The Promise” contains this line:
“When the truth is spoken and it don’t make no difference,
Something in your heart goes cold.”
The common modern response to that is that there are many truths, many aspects to the story, that it depends on whose truth one is referring to. But that’s not what’s really going on. It’s not simply a matter of selecting one truth over another. It is a diminishing of truth itself. Truth is a box that is easily checked off without much effort or analysis, as long as it is consistent with one’s beliefs. There is no seeking the truth, no great hunger to know what really is, no motivation to accept a notion that weakens one’s certainly in a world in which there can be no real certainty. Truth is an inconvenience stripped of its power by tribal rationalizations, and then safely disregarded.
Something in our hearts has gone deathly cold. I don’t know if Mueller understands that or cares about that. Much respect to him if he does know and continues regardless. That naivete takes much moral strength and also a faith that in the end the system will right itself, that those values will win out, will prove to be enduring.
But in the meantime, he is operating in a void in which Barr / Trump has used what are perhaps the man’s greatest virtues against him. They have been emboldened to declare that hot is cold and up is down and black is white with impunity. They look us in the eye and tell us that what we read and heard are the opposite of what Mueller wrote and said. They know that the one man who could put the lie to their efforts will not do so because of his honor and devotion to a code they have no regard for. They have somehow managed to play him, played him by his own rules.
We observe this, remark upon it, and then go on with our day, yet another aspect to our ideal of what is the norm and what is acceptable eaten away by these troubling times and this corrosive regime.
Excellent points, observations, and sound rationale.
All the while I was reading your words an image of John McCain, old school Republican, kept flashing in my head. He too played by a different set of rules: Of honor; respect; dedication to service; and to his fellow man–in the tradition of Abe Lincoln the great emancipator. Trump came along and threw daggers through the dying man’s heart. Told him he was not a hero, and in many ways suggested he was an enemy of the State for hot supporting him. These words coming from the mouth of a man who never served under the duress of war–and it’s live bullets.
Seems the sting of his words would have been so upsetting that other ranking members of the Republican Party, or other traditional supporters of the party , would step forward (like George Will has done) and denounce the actions of Trump and his nationalist fan club, but so far it has been a no go.
To see McCain’s daughter agonize over Trump’s continued panning of now deceased father is enough to make one wonder how long will even she continue to try to steer the sinking ship that is her party to safe shores. Sadly, she probably will not do what’s best for the country and admit the ideals her father and Mueller were willing to serve their nation and die for are now, for sure, better served by those operating to the left of center.
I know it has to hurt Mueller, himself a registered Republican, to accept that the party of Lincoln is essentially no more, (IMO) only the name remains. It is a brand that has been co-opted by the Tea Party Populist (another name to which they don’t
live up to), Libertarians (also a linguistic farce) and Nationalist (supremacist). Yet, with all of this obvious truth staring him down he still, for the sake of longed for fair play and–I suspect–party continuity, chose not make an exception to the code because doing so may jeopardize the system, the process–outdated–he is sworn to honor. Even though it now seems the same process seems incapable of determining whether of not the President, as a then candidate or president elect, acted as an enemy of the State or not.
We are living during a time of great change and great reveals. It is taking longer for these truths, these realities, to sink in than this writer would have thought. Sadly, though he may be a great tactician, crossing T’s and dotting I’s, Mueller is not a Visionary. For that reason I am disappointed in him.
Welcome to PlanetPOV, misapope, and such an auspicious arrival! Wonderful article, so many points right on target!
One thing I heard said about Mueller is that he played this as he always has, by the book and with deference and respect for the institutions…but in a situation where the subject of an investigation is the president and has vested himself in destroying respect for institutions and those who act out of principle, it’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight.
Mueller seems to have expected that once his report was made public, everyone would read it and Congress would pursue impeachment since the evidence he presented should trigger that.
Old School has come up against the Trump Era and it has met its match. I’m not saying Mueller’s report has been successfully thwarted by Trump, just that, as you point out, truth is no longer a universally respected thing, tribalism comes first for far too many, especially the GOP.
What we could have used in this era is someone who recognized that playing by all the rules religiously when facing off against someone breaking all the rules, handicaps one side in a conflict. Mueller is who he is, he’s not the one Dems had hoped for (then again, how many Dems kept repeating like a mantra, “Oh, Ivanka and Jared will temper Trump’s worst impulses!”?). People wanted a hero and in Mueller but he acted as he has in the past, as a dedicated, precedent obeying employee at the DoJ. That’s not a bad thing, it’s better than a toady like Barr.
The way Mueller’s investigation succeeds is if Democrats put duty above political expedience and begin an impeachment inquiry. They can use the report as a solid basis for charges of obstruction of justice against Trump and build on it. There are also the many referrals of cases Mueller made to SDNY and other districts that have yet to ripen and could be devastating. And tangentially, the investigations in the State of New York into crimes Trump and his crime family have committed.
So Mueller’s work and his performance as a good soldier to the institutions may have ended up less impactful in this era than they would have been in previous eras but this isn’t over by a long shot.
Hello Ad, thanks for the warm welcome!
The nightmare scenario would be for the House to impeach Trump, the Senate decline to vote him out, and the country buys the argument that the Dems are just “out to get” Trump. And unfortunately, that nightmare scenario seems very likely. In that case, impeachment would serve as yet another example of tribalism winning out over truth and long-held values.
The best scenario, and one that would give me so much hope for the future, is that hearings would do what the written word could not do: Explain and show the truth to the American people. And once they have actually heard the truth, they will respond the way the America I once knew would respond.
It’s hard to know how much of what Trump has been allowed to get away with is because of the true hardening of the hearts and souls and minds of a substantial segment of the population, and how much of it is because of divergent world views shaped by a fractured and imperfect media. I tend to think that the rule of law compels the Dems to move forward, but politics warn that if they do so, it better be with skill. They need to have a clear understanding of how to get their message across through what would surely be a blizzard of GOP distractions.
So, how do you effectively present the truth in this current environment? And if you succeed, will that truth have the power to move the American people? I’m not sure of the answer any more.
Mueller clearly is trying to extricate himself from the role of savior, the role that we all want him to play. I find it frustrating and see him now as a bit too precious, yet at the same time I admire him and even feel glad there is still an adult operating in the arena. Remember when most people in government behaved like that? It wasn’t that long ago. Before Trump turned our country into a circus.
I don’t think Mueller can save us with a hearing, but he could sure help. It’s obvious that very few people have or will read the report but hearing him speak the words feeds the important details back into the headlines. Still, other members of the Mueller team can be interviewed. And I have a lot of faith in Schiff, Nadler, SDNY, lawsuits, judicial decrees, journalists. The effort that has been mobilized against Trump is monumental. And to steal an annoying phrase from the fake president himself, it’s the greatest biggest most amazing effort in history!
The other side is playing so dirty, it doesn’t even matter if it’s just Democrats pushing the investigations. TrumpCo dismissed Mueller’s team as “12 angry democrats” anyway. They will twist and turn it into “fake news” no matter what happens or who speaks up. Look at all the people who have already spoken up. His personal lawyer, the former FBI director, the former FBI attorney (Baker), the former AG, and on and on. None of these shattering public statements has convinced Republicans to find a spine and speak up publicly against President Caligula. Look at all the dirt that has come out about Trump. Look at the guy’s daily behavior.
I accepted many months ago, long before the report came out, that we would have to get rid of Trump at the ballot box. It’s up to Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats to frame the narrative over the next year and a half so that we can make that happen. I have faith in them. I can’t imagine the alternative. Of course, I couldn’t imagine the alternative back 2016 either.
I think if they can get Mueller to testify in public hearings it might at least serve to educate the public on the contents of his report since most people obviously have not read and will not read it.
I’m still of 2 minds about actual impeachment hearings. “Rule of law” demands it. But rule of politics warns that there are grave risks. If they proceed, Dems would have to do so very skillfully. Not sure if they can do that.
We the People have most definitely not lost their values or their ability to comprehend the truth. Whether through the Idiot in the White House, the groveling GOP in Congress or the GOP puppets throughout this nation – there has been an almost daily abuse of power in government with both cruelty and ignorant absurdity. Actually, a significant majority of citizens respond with an increased resistance. And there is a strengthening resolve to work together to end this Machiavellian madness…..much like the resolve of Democratic voters that won the majority of the House of Representatives seven months ago.
As for the impeach now sentiment, much has been fueled by the MSM with criticism against Democratic leaders. This has also merged with discussions regarding Mueller’s impact or lack of impact. There has been an abundance of air time devoted to the squawking of opinions as to what the “spineless” Democrats should do or “democracy will be doomed forever.” – To not impeach now does not mean to never impeach. – And to each and every pundit squawker…..go home and write the Articles of Impeachment yourself, tonight or even right now. Reality might just come crashing down and prove that this is a tad more involved than easy words of rhetoric.
Impeachment is indeed inevitable. And of course, there is more than enough evidence as provided through the diligent and excellent efforts of Mueller to attain both an impeachment and a conviction. – However, there has to be a consideration for not only the exacting details that are required…..but also for the current Senate majority held by the GOP. The question right now is will there be enough evidence to shame enough GOP in the Senate to vote for conviction.
It is significant to remember that the truth may be far different than what is portrayed by the MSM. – As the Articles of Impeachment simply cannot be written overnight, it is quite likely that the House Judiciary Committee is already in progress with writing some of the preliminary components for impeachment and has been for weeks. – Yet remember that only the redacted Mueller report has been provided to the House as well. – And it is quite frustrating when the halls of justice have the doors to full evidence slammed shut over and over again. For the time it takes to appropriately get those doors open, there will still be plenty of pundits 24/7 to squawk about what should or should not be done by whoever in this unprecedented quagmire.
The immensity of the criminal and treasonous actions by the Idiot in the White House cannot be underestimated. – The GOP in the Senate remain smug in their arrogance of a majority in the Senate. Yet with the comprehensive and factual evidence as presented to the entire nation in actual impeachment proceedings, they must each choose whether to convict or to be complicit. – Enough may not remain so smug and arrogant with the ever increasing prospect of getting kicked out of the Senate by We the People in 2020 for his/her failure to fulfill their sworn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Very much in sync with your obvious caution about the MSM. Their conflicting motivations, especially the attraction to the sensational, tends to narrow the scope of their reporting and analysis. At the same time “the truth” is a very broad universe composed of many “facts.”
I have recently engaged in a debate about the Mueller report and the dangers Trump poses to the country at another forum with a Trump supporter with whom I have frequently debated in the past. I have come to respect his integrity if not agree with his opinions. In my conversation with him, it occurred to me that he sincerely believed what he was saying but came from a perception shaped by the media source he has chosen to consume. My perceptions have been similarly shaped.
How does one navigate this media environment to determine what is really going on? How do we know what facts are really relevant? How do we piece together all of the many streams of info to get a true picture? I’m not talking about weeding out lies, but assembling all of the many fragments of truth into something coherent and real and actionable.
Based on the awareness you are displaying in this post, would love to hear your thoughts about that. It’s a question that has taken a prominent position in my considerations lately.
Hi, misapope – The navigation through the devolving of the MSM regarding politics into a panel of opinions rather that a discussion of the known facts depends on common sense and a willingness to ignore speculative hyperbole. There are too many times to even count when so-called news statements/questions include the words: might, could, perhaps, what if and the oft repeated what-do-you-think.
Then the opinions become repeated and further discussed as to the how and why one agrees or disagrees – what is conveniently and rarely addressed is that the original topic was only an opinion. Journalist hosts themselves state conclusions that are ultimately only their own opinion. – I take much of the MSM regarding politics with a rather large grain of salt. 😉
I always check the educational background, expertise and experience of whoever is doing the “talking”. Merely as an example: Rep. Adam Schiff(D), age 58, has a BA in Political Science from Stanford University and a law degree from Harvard University. He first worked as a prosecuting attorney in the Los Angeles branch of a federal district court, then later as an Assistant US Attorney. After four years serving in the California State Senate, he has now served in the US House of Representatives for over nineteen years. He has served on the House Intelligence Committee for over four years and became the new Chair of this committee on January 3, 2019.
There is a distinctive hunger for headlines and getting news scoops by the MSM as well as with the current state of communication technology. – The reality is that much has to be validated first. And much of the actual work in Congress is being done on committees behind closed doors which is not going to be instantly available. When seeking truth, no facts are irrelevant. – History is unfolding in front of us, sometimes there is simply not a clear and open pathway to the future. – Nice to meet you. 🙂
Nice to meet you too! Very much looking forward to future conversations!
I don’t believe the Senate GOP will ever vote to impeach. McConnell has already said so and I believe him. McConnell may not be a screaming goon like Trump but he has completely abdicated his separate powers as Senate Majority Leader. He does what Trump tells him to do. There is no separate power of the Senate right now.
Hi, escribacat – The future remains unknown, only time will bring the answers to so many questions in this quagmire. – Good to see you. 🙂
Well said, Escrib, The Senate is just a Trump Cheerleading Team now (led by Lindsay Graham in his cheerleading outfit).
Hey Aquarius! Nice to see you!
I am one of those who thinks the Congress has a Constitutional duty to impeach when they become aware of a president committing high crimes or misdemeanors. Like a cop who witnesses a crime, their job is to police the presidency.
What I’d propose to argue against the view that impeachment is only worthwhile or successful if 2/3 of the Senate votes to convict, is to note that The Senate didn’t convict Nixon either. It was their televised Watergate Hearings, publicizing Nixon’s crimes, that created a majority of support for impeachment and caused Nixon to resign. When they started those hearings, Nixon’s approval was in the high 40’s…whiile Trump’s current approval remains much lower, around 40%.
Since The House is the only part of Congress that will hold hearings now and since Trump is stonewalling regular hearings like The Watergate Hearings, preventing witnesses to testify and documents to be provided, the option that would allow Watergate-type hearings would be impeachment hearings.
And the goal should be publicizing Trump’s criminal acts and accomplishing the same popular swing the Watergate hearings caused by publicizing Nixon’s criminality.
It’s expecting things to work backwards to wait for a big majority of the public to demand impeachment hearings, it works the other way around. Televised hearings will inform the public and change minds…even in the GOP if they look at a big swing in public support against Trump and have to consider their re-election in 2020 with a majority of voters wanting Trump impeached.
That’s when the GOP could collapse in on Trump and out of self-preservation, want to cut him loose.
Hi, AdLib – Of course, there are always the constitutional duties of Congress to fulfill including impeachment as written in our Constitution. The only ones promulgating the worthiness/unworthiness of impeachment are the media pundits with 24/7 air time to fill with opinions/analysis from everyone and anyone – a rather significant portion do not have a law degree and have not served in Congress yet presume to have so-called solutions.
In reality, there is no debate whether or not to impeach – it is blatantly obvious that crimes have been committed. To use your analogy of the policeman as a witness to a crime, I would take that one step further. The crime must then be prosecuted by legal professionals who are experienced with specific courtroom proceedings as well. It would not be advisable nor responsible to appear in that courtroom unprepared without full evidentiary facts.
There are both intended and unintended consequences for every action regardless, nothing is guaranteed with absolute certainty for future outcomes. There will be criticism by media pundits no matter who does what…..I can already hear them say: “These impeachment hearings are taking too long, why didn’t someone do this or that – democracy is doomed!” 😉 Please see my additional commentary below, especially the last paragraph.
Great new Planet, Ad Lib! 🙂
Hey Aquarius, it is indeed annoying and I have reduced my viewing of cable news as the punditry drives this divide on impeachment. With Trump tearing up the Constitution and Democrats having the Mueller report providing all the evidence they need to at least begin an impeachment hearing, the decision to impeach seems pretty clear cut…unless you’re politically over-calculating Dem leaders.
Agreed on Dems in the House needing the best and most convincing evidence they can have if they prosecute impeachment in The Senate. However, they have the evidence and report from a 2 year investigation that Mueller has already declared in Special Counsel Speak, proves obstruction of justice. So they already have all they need to proceed with an impeachment inquiry and during it, they could uncover more and more evidence.
There is no need to wait. Remember when the first Dem Leadership stall tactic was, “We have to wait until we get the Mueller Report before we decide about impeachment”? Now that that’s happened, they move the goal posts again and claim hearings are now needed before impeachment. And as the frustration of Dem voters builds, they keep trying to hold the impeachment door closed.
As you mentioned, they seem a bit unaware of what the blowback could be with Dem voters if the party they elected into power in 2018 to put a check on Trump, refuses to do so out of self-interest. It might be another case of Dems grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.
Yep, there will always be the pundits who have to prove how smart they think they are by criticizing whatever they think might get them more airtime. We don’t need that, we need as many people as possible working together to protect our democracy from the danger it’s currently in.
And thanks so much, so glad you like the new Planet!!!