Donald Trump does not eat “your soul in small bites,” as you wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed. He devours the entire thing in one big gulp.
The transformation of William Barr from respected establishment lawyer to evil genius outplaying and undermining his old friend Robert Mueller is a Grand Guignol spectacle.
At many of the most consequential moments in American history, I have watched officials bend over backward to be equitable, only to end up faltering and doing enormous damage to the Republic.
It is possible to be “fair” in a way that is not at all fair. It’s simply bad judgment, ceding the ground to malevolent actors who use any means to achieve their ends, including flattening and sliming the proponents of “fairness.”
I first saw this dynamic during the scalding week of the Thomas-Hill hearings. It was infuriating to watch the Republicans play to win as the Democrats halfheartedly tried to get at the truth.
Now that Joe Biden is running for president in a post-#MeToo era, he says he always believed Anita Hill. But as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he acted more like a Republican collaborator. He shut down the hearing without calling the three women who worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with Thomas, women who were ready to puncture the phony image of a prim and proper boss.
Biden implied on “The View” recently that one of those women, Angela Wright-Shannon, had been a reluctant witness. But she came to Washington set to testify and then got worn down by all the obstacles thrown up by Biden. In a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday, she wrote that she wants an apology from Thomas, not Biden, adding: “I understand why Biden turned into a prattling, ineffectual lump of nothingness.” As she told The Times last year, “He tried so hard to be ‘neutral’ when the situation called for anything but neutrality.”
With Biden cringing at Thomas’ “high-tech lynching” charge and Teddy Kennedy cowering because of his own indiscretions, Hill had no champion on the all-white, all-male committee, leaving the Republicans in merciless control.
They calumniated the dignified professor in front of her parents, calling her a liar, a fantasist, an erotomaniac and a vengeful scorned woman. I remember chasing Arlen Specter, the usually moderate Pennsylvania Republican, down a hall of the Russell Senate Office Building after he slandered Hill as a perjurer.
Priding himself on his comity with his Republican colleagues, Biden set up the rules to favor Thomas. First, Hill says, he reneged on a promise to let her testify first. Then he agreed to go along with Republicans’ contention that the judge’s behavior outside work was not relevant, which prevented testimony about Thomas’ taste for porn.
Yet Biden let Orrin Hatch, the Republican Savonarola from Utah, imply that Thomas could not possibly know the vocabulary of porn and suggest that Hill had gotten the pubic hair line from “The Exorcist,” which she had never read. (This, even though reporters had Thomas’ porn rental list from a video store.)
Biden was striving to be “fair” to his vicious, duplicitous Republican colleagues who were jamming an arch-conservative liar onto the Supreme Court.
Comey also got tangled up on the issue of fairness, with disastrous results. Afraid that he would be blamed if it was discovered that the FBI had been secretly investigating the woman expected to be the next president, the then-FBI chief violated his own agency’s norms to announce that he was reopening the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s emails on the cusp of the election.
But he did not tell the public that the FBI was also looking into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. As The Times has now revealed, the FBI was worried enough to set up a honey trap, sending a comely government investigator posing as a research assistant to draw out George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, in a London bar.
President Barack Obama got similarly wrapped around the axle when he stayed mum on his administration’s investigation into Russia’s sabotage. Obama choked after the diabolical Mitch McConnell warned the White House that, if it acted on a plan to publicly shame Moscow, he would regard it as a partisan act.
And finally, we have the unfortunate Robert Mueller, who took a tortuous route to decide not to decide on obstruction of justice. Like Comey, Mueller believed in his own purity so much that he was blinded to his naïveté.
Barr helped the White House by outmaneuvering the mute special counsel in shaping the narrative about “my baby,’’ as the attorney general called Mueller’s report. Barr ground his wingtip into Mueller’s throat on Wednesday during his Senate testimony. He spoke of Mueller dismissively, like an errant errand boy who threw a silly snit after failing to complete the task he was given.
Mueller’s trust in Barr led him to miss the moment when Trump gobbled up the attorney general’s soul like a midnight snack — in one bite.1