Foul play beats fair
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.