I’m almost as tired of the Mueller saga as Mueller is

The first screen of The Post's homepage was all Mueller...

The first screen of The Post’s homepage was all Mueller…

At one point this morning, I Tweeted this:

But I wasn’t done with the Mueller hearing, or perhaps I should say it wasn’t done with me. There it was, wherever I turned — on social media, on the radio in my truck, even when I tried listening to NPR.org while I was getting some steps in in the middle of the day. (Fortunately, there were podcasts on other subjects.)

All of it was awful — the bits I heard, anyway:

  • I found it tiresome to listen to the Democratic questioners, because they were so eager to establish… what? OK, so they want to make sure that the public, which isn’t going to read a 400-page report, knows all the ways that it shows Donald Trump to be an ethical nightmare. But then what? Are you really convinced that this is going to change things so that impeachment proceedings are a good idea, one that leads to electoral success in 2020? I’m not sure how you could be.
  • It was far, far worse to listen to the Republican questioners. At my age, I’m more than tired of waking up each day and discovering that human beings can sink to depths I previously did not suspect. But hearing these guys adamantly, furiously, relentlessly trying to twist things so that Trump doesn’t come across as a slimeball is just so disheartening, so depressing….
  • Finally, it was pretty awful hearing Mueller himself, who sounded just as weary of it all as he looked when I saw him on that screen with the sound off this morning. The man’s done enough for his country. Let him go to his rest…

I just want to fast-forward through this time in our history. I want to skim ahead to a time when Joe Biden has secured the Democratic nomination (and if the future holds something else, let me skim past the next four years of politics as well). No more enduring absurd “debates” with Joe on stage with a score of people, each of whom knows his or her way to victory lies through tearing Joe down, and not one of whom holds out much hope of doing what I think Joe can do — beat Trump.

Let’s just get on with it. Because the country’s one real chance of putting Trump behind us awaits us in November 2020.

Oh, and if you doubt that Joe is the guy to beat Trump, let me tell you about this one podcast I listened to while walking.

It was brought to my attention by this Tweet from Third Way, which seems to be published by Democrats who have not lost their freaking minds:

So I went and listened to The Daily, and I heard some home truths laid out, including the mathematically obvious one mentioned in the Tweet. None of it was mysterious or anything. It was stuff like this:

  • The persuadable people Democrats have to reach, and flip, to beat Trump are white working-class (and to a lesser extent middle-class) voters in the Midwest, people who voted for Obama in 2008 but for Trump in 2016.
  • Right now Trump is positioned to possibly do slightly better in those areas — places such as the environs of Milwaukee — than he did in 2016.
  • Of course, he remains unpopular as ever, and may lose the national popular vote by even more than he lost to Hillary, but…
  • There’s this thing called the Electoral College (and rail about it all you want, Dems, but the rules of the game are not changing between now and Election Day next year), so all Trump needs to do is squeak by in those places that are neither entirely red nor blue.
  • Democrats are doing better in the Sun Belt than in the past, but not so much better that the Democrat will win there, and most states are Winner Take All in the Electoral College. So… back to the swing states…
  • So… what are you gonna do to reach those persuadable white voters in Flyover Land?

And the whole time I’m listening, I’m thinking the only thing you can possibly do if you have a lick of sense is nominate plain ol’ Joe from Scranton, PA.

And in fact, Michael Barbaro, the host of The Daily, finally has to just ask Nate Cohn — the guy running through the math — outright, So… you mean the Dems need to nominate Biden, right?

Cohn, if I recall correctly, was kind of noncommittal in his answer, but there really is no honest answer but this one: Right….


61 thoughts on “I’m almost as tired of the Mueller saga as Mueller is

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Of course, it you still want to talk about the Mueller hearing anyway, I like Max Boot’s take on it:

    After watching more than six hours of congressional testimony Wednesday, here is my tentative conclusion: If Robert S. Mueller III had been FBI director in 2016, Donald Trump would never have been elected president. And if James B. Comey had been appointed special counsel in 2017, Trump might well have been impeached by now.

    It is impossible to imagine someone as reticent and publicity-shy as Mueller holding a news conference to upbraid Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server even while announcing that he was not recommending an indictment. Even more importantly, Mueller surely would not have sent a letter to Congress announcing he was reopening the investigation just 11 days before the election — a move that may well have tipped a very close election.

    On the other hand, Comey would not have been so terse and tight-lipped in presenting the findings of a special counsel report that painted a damning portrait of a president who (as Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) skillfully established with his questioning) actively sought Russian campaign help, lied about it and repeatedly tried to obstruct the resulting investigation. Since being fired by Trump, Comey has turned into an eloquent and unsparing critic of the president — and an impassioned defender of the FBI. In a Post op-ed on May 28, Comey denounced Trump’s habit of “ranting about treason and corruption at the FBI” and called the president “a liar who doesn’t care what damage he does to vital institutions.”…

    1. Scout

      It’s true. I had that same thought. I think Comey and Mueller must be at opposite poles of the Intuitive – Sensing spectrum. Comey is so N that he is connecting dots nobody else even sees and feels a moral compunction to tell you about his connections in extended narrative from. Mueller is so S that he will only deal with verifiable facts that are immediately right in front of him or immediately relevant in a very limited scope and feels no compunction to elaborate on any other possible connections.

      Listening to Mueller seemed a little bit like talking to a computer where you know the information is in there but you are not going to be able to get it out unless if you have exactly the right question with exactly the right syntax.

      I feel like something else is going on here, but I don’t know enough about Mueller to really know. Is he always so guarded and rigid with information or is it because of some strategy or fear that he feels he must be very careful with what he says here.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I think he’s being very careful to do the job ethically and not be subverted by anyone’s political agenda.

        But I’m going to go on a tangent here, in response to “like talking to a computer where you know the information is in there but you are not going to be able to get it out unless if you have exactly the right question with exactly the right syntax…”

        You have to be a certain age to remember when computers were like that — so painfully literal that a single wrong keystroke would keep you from finding what you want.

        I certainly remember it. And I’m impressed with how far computers have come in trying to be intuitive — or rather, in crunching data in a way that apes intuition.

        They have a long way to go, but the progress is impressive.

        I went to a Fireflies game last night, and someone asked whether they’re still a Mets farm team, and I said I thought so, and decided to Google to check. I typed “Columbia,” and Google offered “Columbia Fireflies,” probably based on my location.

        You see how the ones and zeroes are doing it, and you know it’s not magic, but it’s still a neat trick, and way beyond where computers were a short time ago…

  2. Phillip

    My takeaway on today’s testimony is that I’m doubling down on my prediction that if Trump loses in Nov 2020, he’ll resign between the election and Jan 20 2021 so that Pence can pardon him.

    1. Doug Ross

      How would that pardon work? Wouldn’t there have to be some charge to pardon him for? If there’s no impeachment, no charges, does Pence just say he pardons Trump for anything known and unknown between 2015 and 2020?

      1. Phillip

        Well there had been neither formal impeachment by the full House nor any criminal charges made against Nixon at the time Ford pardoned him: it was a kind of proactive pardon, I suppose Pence could try the same thing.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Here ya go:

            By the President of the United States of America a Proclamation

            Richard Nixon became the thirty-seventh President of the United States on January 20, 1969 and was reelected in 1972 for a second term by the electors of forty-nine of the fifty states. His term in office continued until his resignation on August 9, 1974.

            Pursuant to resolutions of the House of Representatives, its Committee on the Judiciary conducted an inquiry and investigation on the impeachment of the President extending over more than eight months. The hearings of the Committee and its deliberations, which received wide national publicity over television, radio, and in printed media, resulted in votes adverse to Richard Nixon on recommended Articles of Impeachment.

            As a result of certain acts or omissions occurring before his resignation from the Office of President, Richard Nixon has become liable to possible indictment and trial for offenses against the United States. Whether or not he shall be so prosecuted depends on findings of the appropriate grand jury and on the discretion of the authorized prosecutor. Should an indictment ensue, the accused shall then be entitled to a fair trial by an impartial jury, as guaranteed to every individual by the Constitution.

            It is believed that a trial of Richard Nixon, if it became necessary, could not fairly begin until a year or more has elapsed. In the meantime, the tranquility to which this nation has been restored by the events of recent weeks could be irreparably lost by the prospects of bringing to trial a former President of the United States. The prospects of such trial will cause prolonged and divisive debate over the propriety of exposing to further punishment and degradation a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty of relinquishing the highest elective office of the United States.

            Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974.

            IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of September, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and seventy-four, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and ninety-ninth.

            GERALD R. FORD

            1. Doug Ross

              Thanks. That was interesting. I suppose the same language could be used in Trump’s situation.. BUT… I wonder if there is a way to go after acts committed BEFORE he was President during the campaign which might be classified as not against the United States. Would Pence have to extend the date back to when Trump announced his decision to run?

              1. Mark Stewart

                Good, so we are agreed that President Trump’s actions before he was sworn into office were criminal.

                If Pence were to pardon Trump, someone would have to figure out what the longest possible statute of limitations would be for Trump and use that date for Pence’s pardon.

                It’s hard to believe so many people don’t register how obscene this situation is.

                1. Doug Ross

                  No, we don’t agree. I don’t know whether he is or not. Nothing that has been put out there has made me think he did anything worse than Hillary’s campaign did.

                2. Mark Stewart

                  What am I missing here? You don’t know what Trump has done that fits the definition of high crimes and misdemeanors – and what those he has selected as his inner circle have done? And you believe Trump’s actions are no worse than other political campaigns?

                  That’s amazing, Doug.

  3. Doug Ross

    With the debates next week, is it more likely that Biden will drop, rise, or stay the same in the polls? If someone passes him before the end of the year, will he risk the embarrassment of losing for a third time?

    I don’t get the sense he’s been out there campaigning too hard.

    1. David T

      If Biden drops out it means that the Democrats have committed to an early start to trying to beat Pence in 2024.

        1. David T

          Well things aren’t exactly going as planned for Biden, there are stories out now that he had to use paid seat fillers for a 98 seat union hall auditorium the other night. I’m not going to put a link up because I’ll get blasted that it’s a biased source, so if you want to read it yourself just Google Joe Biden seat fillers and take your pick. This is not that much different than Hillary speaking to half-full gymnasiums and town hall auditoriums.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      I certainly HOPE Joe’s not “campaigning too hard” this early.

      Of course, what you see and what’s really happening aren’t necessarily the same thing. Joe was campaigning pretty hard in Charleston last October when I spent part of a day with him (and knew that after he left us, he was out there campaigning elsewhere, for other people).

      I recall you kept saying you weren’t seeing anything this time a year ago, when James and Mandy were out there killing themselves campaigning, and I was in the process of losing 20 pounds due purely to stress pumping out information about the campaign.

      I blame my dear friends in the working media, who were more interested in process stories (and OBSESSED with finding out when potential presidential candidate, such as Biden, were coming to SC to campaign) than they were in covering the actual campaigning.

      Of course, part of that was our fault. We weren’t inviting reporters to our fund-raisers, and those tended to be our best campaign events. I was particularly frustrated one day when Andy Shain asked to come to a fundraiser we were having on Main Street, just a couple of doors down from his office, and I wanted him to come, but my colleagues said no. From that moment, I lobbied to get that policy changed, and eventually we started inviting reporters to fund-raisers. I really, really wished we’d started doing that earlier.

      OK, that sounds like an “If only they’d listened to me” complaint. Which is unbecoming, and far too generous to me. The thing is, it’s fairly conventional wisdom among political professionals to keep press out of fundraisers. I wasn’t and am not a political professional, but someone who will always be a journalist. Reporters can be an absolute pain, but I am prejudiced in favor of granting them maximum access. The pros might be right, but I still want to say “yes” to reporters as much as possible. It’s sort of my default mode…

  4. Doug Ross

    Mueller is two years younger than Joe Biden… And the general consensus was he was showing his age yesterday.

    1. Scout

      It’s a very interesting question. It certainly could be seen that way. It’s really hard to know without knowing more about how Mueller is in normal exchanges. That was very much not a normal exchange. Possibilities that went through my mind for his manner were…

      – he is very nervous and uncomfortable
      – he is more of written word guy and it helps him to see the language to process longer questions with complicated syntax. I think it would have been a courtesy and would have helped them manage their precious 5 minutes – if they had provided him a written copy of their questions, since they were obviously reading them – not in advance but in the moment. Because seriously, those were not like normal sentences in a typical spoken exchange. Add to that the impact to your processing ability that the stress of being the center of national attention in that moment could add, depending on your tendency to be affected by that sort of thing. which again, I do not know.
      – he takes a little longer to formulate verbal responses. Again that could be his normal or it could be related to the stress of the situation. I don’t know. In this setting, it was problematic and looked bad for him because they kept cutting him off instead of giving him time to actually answer because of their precious five minutes.
      – He is having some hearing loss
      – He is being intentionally guarded in what he will say
      – He is having trouble understanding the questions – again possibly because of the syntax and stress, possibly because of hearing, possibly because of the beginnings of some kind of age related cognitive change, which I think may be what you are suggesting. I think cognitive decline is the least likely out of all those possibilities because of the sharpness of some of his other answers.

      Another possibility just occurred to me is he may be someone who is just very particular about language and details. That would explain wanting to be very clear what exactly was asked and wanting to take time to formulate exactly the right response.

      It really is hard to know, but there are lots of possibilities.

      My best guess right now is he was being intentionally guarded and legitimately needed to hear some things again either because of hearing, stress, personality preferences, or the length/complexity of their questions.

      Yes, I do know I overthink things. 🙂

        1. Doug Ross

          Right, that was what every comment I read said – he was not up to his past performances. So it is either natural cognitive decline due to aging, illness, or just a desire to get out of there yesterday without saying anything that hadn’t been said before.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      That’s funny, because I looked at the same facts and drew a very different conclusion from the one you’re implying.

      I thought, “He’s younger than Joe, but you NEVER see Joe have such low energy levels.” I didn’t attach a lot of importance to it, but that was the thought that crossed my mind.

      Anyway, I think Mueller was showing less his age and more the fact that he didn’t want to be there. And I don’t blame him…

      1. Doug Ross

        It’s unlikely Joe has done anything as difficult as Mueller has done over the past few years. Joe is in the “shake hands, slap backs, read a speech someone wrote” phase of his political career. He struggled on the debate stage for two hours last month.

  5. bud

    “The persuadable people Democrats have to reach, and flip, to beat Trump are white working-class (and to a lesser extent middle-class) voters in the Midwest, people who voted for Obama in 2008 but for Trump in 2016.”
    I’ve seen that a lot but not buying it just yet. Young people are never going to come out for Biden but will for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Mayor Pete. It’s new voters not Obama/Trump voters that hold the key.

    “Right now Trump is positioned to possibly do slightly better in those areas — places such as the environs of Milwaukee — than he did in 2016.”
    Not sure why people conclude that. The 2018 election saw the ouster of long time political gadfly Scott Walker in WI. PA also saw big gains by the Democrats. Most approval polls in the region show Trump under water.

    “Democrats are doing better in the Sun Belt than in the past, but not so much better that the Democrat will win there, and most states are Winner Take All in the Electoral College. So… back to the swing states…

    The Democrats absolutely CAN win in the sunbelt. They won an important senate race in AZ. Beto only lost TX by 2.5 points and TX is getting bluer and bluer with each passing day. Puerto Ricans are pouring into FL. Plus they have the ex felon law that will be in play. NC, like TX is getting bluer all the time. Heck, Durham is as Democratic as San Francisco. Other tarheel cities are very Democratic. The GA governor’s race was likewise close, probably decided by voter suppression. Lots of young, hipster types moving south from the rustbelt. Which will make winning the rustbelt harder. Perhaps dems should focus on the sunbelt.

    I’m not entirely dismissive of Brad’s thinking on this. Polls right now show Biden winning in OH while other Dems lose. But I also find the math fuzzy with this type of argument. The voters Dems need are moving south in droves. The Dems really don’t need to win Trump voters so much as they need to reel in NEW voters and retain Hillary voters. Also, Biden is really old. As pointed out he’s even older than Mueller. And he’s showing it. For now I have an open mind on this math issue. But not finding the winning-the-rustbelt-as-the-only-way-forward argument persuasive just yet. It has the air of fighting the last war about it.

    1. Doug Ross

      “The voters Dems need are moving south in droves”

      Why is that? Could it be the oppressive taxes that have been implemented in liberal states like NY and NJ?

      1. Mark Stewart

        I don’t ever hear people in NY & MA complain about their taxes. That’s a thing low economic energy areas complain about…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I don’t either.

          I HAVE heard an extremely conservative transplant from a LOW-tax state complain, though.

          I really enjoyed it when my boss, publisher Fred Mott, moved up to Philadelphia and later told me over the phone that he would never again complain about South Carolina taxes. For years when he was here, he’d complain about how high taxes were here, and I’d always tell him that no, our taxes were below average. It felt the opposite to him because before he was here he lived in Florida, where there is no income tax.

          Fred was a great guy, and was very supportive of me: Hhe’s the one who promoted me to the job my whole career had a been a preparation for — editorial page editor of The State. We got along really well. But we had a lot of political arguments…

          The tax that really bugged him was a special one charged to people like him who lived in the suburbs but worked in downtown Philadelphia. He thought that was particularly onerous…

        2. David T

          I’ve lived in NY for a short period of time, I can tell you that people up there do complain about their high real estate taxes and fees. When your 1600 sq. ft. house is paid off and you still are paying $800/month to the county people will complain.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “It’s new voters not Obama/Trump voters that hold the key.”

      Well, that’s the precise opposite from the point Nate Cohn was making, and I think the data is on his side. To quote him directly: “When you flip a voter, it’s twice as important as when you turn a new voter out.”

      It’s a twofer. You win one, and your adversary loses one…

      1. bud

        Chon is making the same mistake so many pundits make – that political decisions really matter. Not really. The election will be decided by the last 3 BLS jobs reports leading up to the election. And sheepishly I have to acknowledge I fall into that trap too. Biden looks old and dated to me so I find reasons why he can’t win. To Brad Biden looks like the savior of the liberal world order thingy and so he’s golden. But really we’re just having a discussion because it’s kinda fun to bandy this stuff about. At the end of the day none of this stuff matters much.

  6. bud

    It was far, far worse to listen to the Republican questioners. At my age, I’m more than tired of waking up each day and discovering that human beings can sink to depths I previously did not suspect. But hearing these guys adamantly, furiously, relentlessly trying to twist things so that Trump doesn’t come across as a slimeball is just so disheartening, so depressing….

    Sigh. What is really disheartening is to keep reading people describe this situation with such crystal clear clarity yet fail utterly to grasp the obvious conclusion. The Republican party is just a swamp invested criminal enterprise that needs to be defeated. Yet people will still consider voting for Republicans and waste endless time discussing the so-called problems with the “Squad”.

    1. Mark Stewart

      I’ve been a life-long Republican. I didn’t vote for Trump and I never will. I will vote for whoever is left standing who can beat him (which ought to be the lowest bar imaginable if voters across the country have any sanity).

      Reducing politics to binary choices is the most self-destructive impulse – and it has been a strategic plan conjured up by “Republican” operatives. But they aren’t Republicans; they are reactionaries – fascists is the closest word we have for this impulse even though it’s so ridiculously loaded. What we need is an arresting word to define this malignancy within the Republican party; so we can sweep it away. And it can’t be something offered up by the “socialists,” which is another laughable term of nonsense. We all need the centrists to say “I’m made as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” That’s the only way to save our country from itself. We really are at this existential place. I think a lot of people wanted Mueller to just save us from Trump – or the courts or something where we can all just pretend this isn’t happening and we really don’t have skin in the game. But it won’t be that easy. It is going to take the kind of protests Brad (and myself, too, frankly) has total antipathy for. We are going to need to see people by the millions surround the Capitol and the White House. And we will need to see these massive gatherings spread across the country. That’s the only thing that is going to move the political needle.

      Our Founding Fathers would be absolutely appalled at Trump. Every single one of them. They would tell us he is exactly what they feared might arise. They did tell us; they left us a Constitution. We all need to reread it.

      We need to activate the Constitutionalists. We need a civic revolt, not a political one. We need to energize a third way which is inclusive of both Republicans and Democrats, an apolitical uprising to reclaim our country, our ethics and our birthright. This is America. It isn’t MAGA time, it is We The People – now and forever.

      1. Doug Ross

        “We need to activate the Constitutionalists. We need a civic revolt, not a political one. We need to energize a third way which is inclusive of both Republicans and Democrats, ”

        Hmmm… I wonder which party embraces the concepts of the Constitution more than any other? It already exists. A party based on freedom and liberty. Liberty… Libertari… Libertarian! That’s it!

        1. Mark Stewart

          We don’t need another party. We don’t need more divisiveness. We need an apolitical idea that nonetheless generates civic engagement. Almost every American (we have unfortunately found there are some who put politics before country) can get behind the idea of the Constitution as the way forward and out of this present morass.

          1. Bill

            Hell yeah we do,baby boy! We need a big swinging party down the line(bring your own lampshade)…

  7. David T

    “Our Founding Fathers would be absolutely appalled at Trump. Every single one of them.”

    Even the slave owning/raping ones?

      1. Doug Ross

        I mean, all Madison and Jefferson ( a sitting Secretary of State) did was fund and anonymously write for a newspaper they founded to attack the Federalists like Hamilton. It would be like Trump dressing up in a disguise to have his own show on Fox News.

        They were men, not gods.

            1. Bill

              Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
              Sold in the market down in New Orleans
              Scarred old slaver knows he’s doin’ all right
              Hear him whip the women just around midnight
              Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good
              Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should

      2. Mark Stewart

        Because they negotiated a brilliant, forward-looking and downside-minimizing document full of governmental checks and balances. They created a framework to enable us to govern ourselves – and we are mucking it up by playing petty politics.

        We are on the one path the Constitution cannot protect us from, we have a Pied Piper problem; the siren song of a despotic con man.

        1. David T

          It would be interesting to see what an updated Constitution would look like if written today. A document that was written over 200 years ago and we’re having to guess at how some what they wrote should be implemented today.

          They’ve created a modern version of the Bible, a one page document shouldn’t be all that difficult.

            1. David T

              So are you implying that it’s fine to rewrite the Bible as it would be written today, but the Constitution is off limits? I”m not saying you have to implement the thing. I swear everything I write sets off one or two of you here.

                1. Barry

                  To correct you, that isn’t the Post’s opinion. That is the opinion of Trump’s favorite skirt wearing super cheerleader Marc Thiessen.

                  Right wingers are the ones pushing the convention of the states to rewrite the constitution. Some of those wingers show up on my Facebook news feed ever so often.

              1. Bill

                And,once again,you’ve reminded me of a fabulous song…Please indulge me(power pop at its finest…I love YOU!;)
                It was that scene where he parted the waters…

          1. Scout

            We argue over how things written yesterday should be implemented today. That is just the nature of people and perspectives and language. I think it is generally accepted that the Constitution has been a fairly resilient document that has remained relevant and has stood the test of time well….. at least thus far.

        2. David T

          I’m far from a Constitutional expert, but didn’t it leave a lot of the decisions up to the individual states? I doubt those who wrote it would recognize this country period in 2019. The country has matured, the document they wrote has stayed basically the same. None of these men could see that far into the future.

        3. Doug Ross

          There never has been a period of the government nirvana you claim is falling apart. Every generation has had its terrible moments of leaders choosing to ignore the Constitution. Every single one. It’s all just recency bias mixed with media saturation with a heaping helping of eating crow in terms of Trump actually winning the Presidency. Pundits who were so sure, so very, very sure that Trump could never win have to come up with SOMETHING besides admitting they weren’t very smart.

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