Muellering It Over
Well, I was absolutely right about one thing -- Robert Mueller was taciturn...
I heard a LOT of analysis about Mueller's day testifying, and the best of it, I thought, was that which recognized there was a great deal going on at different levels. The worst were those that said it was on thing or another.
It's difficult not to say that the morning sessions was borderline disastrous. I set the alarm for 6:30 AM in Los Angeles, and even though half-asleep could tell within 90 seconds that things weren't going to be good all day. "That's not within my purview" and "The report speaks for itself" made that absolutely clear.
But the thing is, I thought it was disastrous for a reason different from what most analysts said. Yes, it was problematic because he wasn't getting across damning points as one would wish. But for me, the far-bigger issue was the massive imbalance it created. Democrats were limited to reading passages from the Mueller Report themselves, which came across as much more partisan than if Mueller quoted them, and Mueller would say, "Yes." On the other hand, I think Republicans soon realized that they could say pretty much anything they wanted -- lie even, and outrageously -- and Mueller wouldn't tell them off. At most he'd say, "I hear your question" or "That's not within my purview."
Then we had the afternoon session. And while not remotely great, it had many extremely good parts and overall was respectably okay. Hardly high praise, but not at all disastrous. (A friend asked why I thought Mueller was so much better in the afternoon. My sense is that as problematic as obstruction is, to Mueller the fact of Russia cyber-attacking the United States, and the Trump campaign encouraging it was a national disaster and significantly more of a serious problem.)
And those "extremely good parts" were very important and stood out -- Mueller saying that most of Trump's written responses didn't appear to be forthright. And not only agreeing that accepting assistance from a foreign power during an election was immoral, but him adding "...and criminal." And mentioning that there was still an FBI investigation going on. And more.
But in between all this, I realized something else, and wrote about it on social media. It's that the people who watched the hearing already had their minds made up, regardless of what side they were on. But most of the country -- who were either undecided about all this, or who didn't know much about the Mueller Report, didn't read it, didn't follow the details -- didn't watch. Which of course was why they were undecided about all this. And so they -- the ones who didn't know and didn't watch -- would get their news from the highlights. So, they'd miss all the disappointing parts of "Yes" and "That's not in my purview" and occasional stumblings -- and instead get what was actually newsworthy. All they'd see were the clips of Mueller saying that Trump wasn't forthright. And that the actions of the campaign were not just immoral, but criminal. And that the FBI investigation was still ongoing. And the other damning high points.
In addition, think many analysis are reaction to Mueller's testimony being so disappointing because either they had read the Mueller Report (as did I) or they read a great deal about it, followed it closely on the news and knew most of the salient points, so these people, the analysts were disappointed that there was "no new information" revealed. (Even FBI Director Christopher Wray yesterday acknowledged that even HE hadn't read the report - although obviously he knew all the details.) But probably 80% of the country likely had little clue of what was actually in the Report, so the highlights were, in fact, "news" to them. “Ohh, the Report said that???!” “Ohhh, Trump did that??!!”
To be clear, none of this makes it a Great Day. It was disappointing and even a bit disturbing that it was so low key to the point of tedium. And that gave Republicans the ability to push their narrative early in the day's news. But by the end of the day, I think the "watching the highlights" factor kicked in, and that will be important in the long run.
Also, in fairness to Mueller, I thought that he spoke with such a limited focus because he was giving those guidelines by the "Attorney General." While I wish he made that clear in his testimony, it seemed to be a substantive factor to me.
I’m not defending Mueller’s performance, it was not good, just opening up the perspective a bit wider than I think the view of many is.
In the end, this is not the end. Nor even close. And I have the sense that the focus on Russia attacking the U.S. and the Trump campaign openly accepting the help and encouraging it, while not necessary "illegal," made it more clear to many of reprehensible, immoral and -- in some cases, as Mueller said -- criminal that it will push the case for those wanting impeachment hearings.
But there were so many perspectives through the day flying all over the place that I don't honestly have a clue what actually will happen next. But having read the Mueller Report, the crimes and reprehensible immorality are there, they're not going away, and it is a very leaky ship without any serious artisan who can patch it.
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor