But we’re still wait­ing for In­spec­tor Clouseau

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - BY WES­LEY PRUDEN

Sooner or later, Robert Mueller, the last of the great white hunters, has to show what he’s got, ready or not. If he is held to his com­mis­sion, he’ll have to show more than in­dict­ments of a few Rus­sian of­fi­cials for out­stand­ing park­ing tick­ets in Moscow, or a kick in the pants of the usual ar­ray of Wash­ing­ton lawyers caught knee-deep in sleaze.

The Wash­ing­ton Post calls the great white hunter “the sec­ond-most fa­mous man in Wash­ing­ton,” and Time mag­a­zine says he was the sec­ond run­ner-up (to bor­row nomen­cla­ture from the Miss Amer­ica Pageant) to Per­son of the Year in 2018, sur­passed only by “cru­sad­ing jour­nal­ists” (no one ad­mires jour­nal­ists like other jour­nal­ists), and Don­ald Trump, the Old Re­li­able for ev­ery pun­dit in search of a sub­ject.

Mr. Mueller makes noise, though muted in cer­tain precincts, and jour­nal­ists live on a diet of noise. “Mueller’s si­lence has in­vited noisy spec­u­la­tion from par­ti­sans,” Time mag­a­zine says. “To crit­ics on the right he is an overzeal­ous pros­e­cu­tor drunk on power and roam­ing be­yond his man­date in a bid to drive Trump from of­fice. To lib­er­als, he is a cru­sad­ing hero who won’t quit un­til he brings the pres­i­dent to jus­tice.”

A fawn­ing por­trait in The Wash­ing­ton Post makes him out a master at draw­ing si­lent ap­plause and the more ef­fec­tive for it. He’s not like a cer­tain pres­i­dent fa­mous for blow­ing his own horn. Left un­said is that the great white hunter doesn’t have to blow his horn be­cause dozens of fawn­ing pun­dits, cor­re­spon­dents and wannabes are lined up ea­ger to pucker up and do it for him.

“Con­trary to ev­ery sin­gle thing that [Pres­i­dent Trump] tweets to­day,” says his ad­mir­ing bi­og­ra­pher, “Mueller is and al­ways has been prob­a­bly the most apo­lit­i­cal non­par­ti­san per­son in the city. He does ev­ery­thing that he can to avoid the pub­lic spot­light and any­thing even slightly re­sem­bling pol­i­tick­ing.”

This is his bi­og­ra­pher’s de­scrip­tion of the man at ground zero of the most po­lit­i­cal city on the globe, who has mas­tered the art of scratch­ing the me­dia in the places that itch most, rou­tinely de­scribed as a starchy WASP lawyer work­ing un­der the hand­i­cap of a se­vere case of rec­ti­tude.

Not every­body, how­ever, sees him quite that way. Joe diGen­ova, a for­mer U.S. at­tor­ney for the District of Co­lum­bia, cri­tiques the “pa­thetic state” of the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, which he has trans­formed into an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what seems to be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ev­ery­thing but Rus­sian col­lu­sion. Mr. diGen­ova reck­ons Mr. Mueller’s han­dling an “em­bar­rass­ment” and says there is “ab­so­lutely no ev­i­dence” in any of the cases he has brought.

But there may be method at work. “He’s charg­ing peo­ple with ly­ing so that he can say in his re­port, ‘I would have proved col­lu­sion but all these peo­ple lied and pre­vented me from do­ing it,’” Mr. DiGen­ova tells tele­vi­sion host­ess Laura In­gra­ham. “This is the new nar­ra­tive of Mueller. He’s not of course mouthing it, but his ac­tions prove con­clu­sively that his new nar­ra­tive is ‘if these peo­ple hadn’t lied to me, I would have been able to prove col­lu­sion.’ This is the new Rus­sian col­lu­sion theme now. This is what he’s go­ing to do. That’s go­ing to be what the re­port is go­ing to be about. There is ab­so­lutely no ev­i­dence of that in any of the cases that he has brought. That is why he is now fo­cus­ing on these side char­ac­ters to ac­cuse [the pres­i­dent] of ly­ing or per­jury be­cause his nar­ra­tive is go­ing to be ‘I couldn’t prove col­lu­sion be­cause they wouldn’t let me.’”

“This is where we are. This is the pa­thetic state of Mueller’s han­dling of this. This is an em­bar­rass­ment.”

And this is why the mighty or­gans of the main­stream/legacy me­dia are cel­e­brat­ing now. There might be noth­ing to cel­e­brate later. When Mr. Mueller turns in his special re­port, in­stead of the ev­i­dence the Democrats will need to make an im­peach­ment stick, the lib­eral pun­dits who have in­vested ev­ery­thing in the mis­sion to take the pres­i­dent out, won’t have the goods.

All the ev­i­dence we’ve seen so far would eas­ily con­vict Don­ald Trump of talk­ing too much, cul­ti­vat­ing a taste for the vul­gar, lik­ing the ladies too much for his own good (and maybe theirs, too), and in­dulging a Twit­ter ob­ses­sion to the max. On the other hand, he has demon­strated ex­cep­tion­ally good taste in Supreme Court jus­tices.

The crit­i­cism of the pres­i­dent is reach­ing a crescendo. Every­body ex­pects some­thing to pop, and soon. We’ve been here be­fore, sev­eral times. It’s al­ways pos­si­ble that Robert Mueller has found the smok­ing gun. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. Af­ter two years on the hunt, even In­spec­tor Clouseau oc­ca­sion­ally stum­bles on his man. But we shouldn’t count on it. Wes­ley Pruden is ed­i­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.


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