Foul play beats fair

The Tribune (SLO) - - Opinion - BY MAU­REEN DOWD

Sorry, James Comey. You’re wrong again.

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 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 last week, 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 all­white, 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.

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.)

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 thenFBI 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.

And fi­nally, we have the un­for­tu­nate Robert Mueller, who took a tor­tu­ous route to de­cide not to de­cide on ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. Barr then 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.

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.

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