Who is au­dit­ing the au­di­tors?

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY VIC­TOR DAVIS HAN­SON

The Ro­man satirist Ju­ve­nal, in a fa­mous pas­sage, asked, “Who will watch the watch­men?” That prob­lem of polic­ing the po­lice has trou­bled West­ern thinkers from Plato to the Amer­i­can founders.

The framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion set in place a bril­liant se­ries of leg­isla­tive, ex­ec­u­tive and ju­di­cial checks and bal­ances to thwart the abuse of power by the pow­er­ful. Their pes­simistic take on hu­man na­ture was that all power cor­rupts. In­evitably, elites will in­sist that they should not be sub­ject to the very rules they en­force on oth­ers.

The sex­ual-abuse crises within the con­tem­po­rary Catholic Church arose from the de facto ex­emp­tions from the law given to priests. Too many as­sumed that men of faith were ex­empt from pros­e­cu­tion be­cause as holy men they would be the last to vi­o­late the trust of mi­nors.

One of the ironic things about the Me Too move­ment was that some of the worst of­fend­ers were pow­er­ful pro­gres­sive men, such as Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Har­vey We­in­stein, NBC host Matt Lauer and PBS in­ter­viewer Char­lie Rose. They all ap­par­ently be­lieved that their loud lib­eral cre­den­tials gave them im­mu­nity from be­ing held ac­count­able for their ha­rass­ment.

Some of the fem­i­nist or­ga­niz­ers of the re­cent Women’s March, such as Tamika Mal­lory and Linda Sar­sour, have been linked to racist and anti-Semitic Na­tion of Is­lam leader Louis Far­rakhan. They ap­par­ently as­sumed that as sup­posed vic­tims, they could not be viewed as be­ing sym­pa­thetic to vic­tim­iz­ers.

Given Pres­i­dent Trump’s un­con­ven­tional back­ground, his wheel­erdealer past and the ha­tred he in­curs from the left, few ever give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt. The para­dox­i­cal re­sult is that his ten­ure in just two years has be­come the most in­ves­ti­gated, the most au­dited and the most closely ex­am­ined pres­i­dency in his­tory.

Half the coun­try ap­par­ently be­lieves Trump can­not be trusted. The re­sult is that ev­ery­thing he says and does is the ob­ject of push back, op­po­si­tion and au­dit.

In con­trast, his most fre­quent ac­cusers — the me­dia — have set them­selves up as the coun­try’s moral paragon. Jour­nal­ists now see them­selves as so­cial jus­tice war­riors who are im­mune from the scru­tiny to which they sub­ject oth­ers.

The re­sult of such sel­f­righ­teous moral ex­emp­tion has led to jour­nal­ism’s nadir, with an un­prece­dented lack of pub­lic con­fi­dence in the me­dia. “Fake news” now abounds, from CNN to Buz­zFeed.

Re­cently, Buz­zFeed (which first pub­lished the un­sub­stan­ti­ated Steele dossier) al­leged that there was proof Trump had or­dered his erst­while lawyer, con­victed felon Michael Co­hen, to lie. One of the co-authors of the hit piece, An­thony Cormier, ad­mits that he has not seen the ev­i­dence his sources cited. The other co-au­thor, Ja­son Leopold, was once con­victed of grand lar­ceny and has ad­mit­ted to sub­stance abuse and ly­ing. Leopold has been cited for past un­eth­i­cal jour­nal­is­tic prac­tices and been dis­avowed by a num­ber of his past em­ploy­ers. Buz­zFeed has stood by the story.

No mat­ter. Cormier and Leopold’s re­port­ing was pub­lished as an eth­i­cal take­down of the pres­i­dent of the United States based on sup­posed sources in­side the spe­cial coun­sel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Af­ter a few hours, the Buz­zFeed yarn drew a rare re­buke from spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s team, which dis­puted the ve­rac­ity of the story.

The De­part­ment of Jus­tice and the FBI are sup­posed to be our pre­em­i­nent guardians of jus­tice. But for­mer di­rec­tor James Comey, for­mer deputy di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe, for­mer gen­eral coun­sel James Baker and sev­eral other top FBI of­fi­cials have ei­ther re­signed, re­tired or been fired — and some may soon be fac­ing in­dict­ments them­selves.

On 245 oc­ca­sions in sworn tes­ti­mony be­fore Con­gress, Comey an­swered that he ei­ther did not know the an­swers to ques­tions or could not re­mem­ber the de­tails of events. Had any pri­vate ci­ti­zen tried such stonewalli­ng in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he or she would likely end up in jail.

But Comey ap­par­ently sur­mised that even fired FBI di­rec­tors are some­how still ex­empt from the sort of de­mands the agency makes of oth­ers.

With Mueller, the ques­tion is not whether he should in­ves­ti­gate pos­si­ble Rus­sian col­lu­sion in the 2016 elec­tion, but whether we need a spe­cial, spe­cial coun­sel to over­see the con­duct of Mueller’s team it­self.

Call it karma or at­tribute it to Neme­sis, the Greek god­dess of ret­ri­bu­tion, but when any­one as­sumes that they should be uniquely above all sus­pi­cion, they will even­tu­ally earn sus­pi­cion.

Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a clas­si­cist and his­to­rian at the Hoover In­sti­tu­tion at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

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