Many were hoping for something better, more just, more final. But when the kangaroo court of Congress called former special counsel Robert Mueller to the stand, they didn’t get Gregory Peck playing Atticus Finch. They got an aging Washington denizen ready to hit the deck for a 10 count.
Inside hearing rooms choreographed for a lightning round, there was little fast or nimble about Mueller’s answers and non-answers. As members of Congress pressed for advantage and the nation pushed for answers, the former FBI chief and Marine of valor was outflanked by the moment and seemed overwhelmed by the consequences.
Halting and hesitant, Mueller conveyed the wear of one fight too many, one prosecution too far. With a less than vigorous demeanor and tired body language, Mueller had as much trouble hearing the questions as the nation had hearing what he had to say. Mueller was having his Joe Biden moment on live television, and there was nothing his protectors could do to limit the fallout.
The Russian interference in the 2016 election is serious, and any serious-minded American will not tolerate any foreign power dictating who will lead us. Yet the origins of this case of collusion were never fully investigated by those more concerned about how many times non-conspirators met in Trump Tower than about how often real conspirators met in the shadows.
What about the Steele Dossier proving Democratic mud merchants were out to muddy Team Trump? Nothing.
How about the “rumor” that ignited a collusion rush to judgment? Never investigated.
How could Mueller defend the integrity of his entire team when some openly dissed Trump and cheered for his electoral Waterloo? He didn’t.
Despite 19 high-powered government and private attorneys, 40 FBI agents, more than 2,800 subpoenas, and 22 months of exhaustive investigation costing America both money and focus, the Mueller Report was and remains clear: no collusion, and no determination of whether Trump committed a crime. Imagine anyone in Washington surviving a public inquisition like this, up against a phalanx of prosecutors out to win, and a restless media out to overturn the last election.
For those cheering for the downfall of the president, they reveled in a CNN headline – later negated by Mueller himself – suggesting Donald Trump was not exonerated on charges of obstruction, that impeachment was no longer lying in state but lying in wait down another congressional corridor.
Instead, for nearly a full day of televised theatre and predictable punditry, we heard about interviews that never happened and questions that were never asked, bearing on innocence that was never presumed.
This may be the most important takeaway, that somehow we’ve grown comfortable with a new staple of our social media-fueled society: that one’s guilty until proven, well, guilty enough.
Trump will always create waves, but should that be enough to hold a nation hostage for more than two years of investigative overkill amid a culture of reputational smearing? As Republican Rep. Joe Radcliffe of Texas opined at the House hearing: “Donald Trump is not above the law. He’s not, but he damn sure shouldn’t be below the law.”
For those who aren’t transfixed by Anderson Cooper’s rants against Trump, or Megan Rapino’s insults on America, or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s assaults of America, we recently got a reminder about what heroism looks like, feels like, acts like.
Last weekend, in one of America’s greatest traditions, the baseball world gathered in Cooperstown to induct six amazing players and human beings – one posthumously – into the Hall of Fame. Each sported a story of courage and character where their heroes were family, community, and country.
Mike Mussina, the brainy small-town kid who made it big time in the Big Apple.
Harold Baines, whose humility led him to play “for the name on the front of the uniform, not the back.”
Roy “Doc” Holliday, a lights-out pitcher killed in a plane crash, whose widow, Brandy, brought Roy’s two baseball teams together as one.
Edgar Martinez, the class act and batting champ from Seattle by way of Puerto Rico.
Lee Smith, whose huge hands led to a “huuugge” career as a world-class reliever.
And Mariano Rivera, the son of a poor Panamanian fisherman who became the game’s greatest closer, and one of humanity’s greatest ambassadors.
They were six players who, when it came to America, played as one.
Yet in Washington last week, it felt more like the final refrain from Casey at the Bat.
“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty (Mueller) has struck out.”
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.