Part 1—First though, reading Mueller: Many people will spend time this week reading James B. Comey.
Some are already reading Comey, thanks to the mysterious process by which major news orgs get copies of ballyhooed books before the book goes on sale.
Comey's book, A Higher Loyalty, goes on sale tomorrow. People will be reading Comey all week.
For the record, people will be "reading Comey" in two different ways. In the more literal sense, people will be reading Comey's book to see what the god has to say.
In a more figurative sense, people will be "reading" Comey himself. They'll be assessing Comey the person, based on what the person has said in his ballyhooed book.
Here at THE HOWLER, we'll be reading Comey all week. First, though, it might make sense to spend one day reading Robert Mueller.
Mueller hasn't written a book, nor does he give interviews. That said, mainstream pundits constantly "read" Mueller the person in a highly uniform, perhaps unhealthy way, the same way they used to read Comey.
For members of the mainstream press. Robert Mueller is one of the gods. In yesterday morning's Washington Post, Joe Scarborough offered part of the script:
SCARBOROUGH (4/15/18): Mueller, who led a Marine rifle platoon in Vietnam, has been awarded a Bronze Star, two Navy commendations, a Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After being shot through the leg, the young Princeton grad continued leading his troops in battle. Later he would continue his service in Vietnam even after he was given the opportunity to go home.Mueller's service in Vietnam occurred in the 1960s. Using those distant events to assess his behavior today can perhaps be filed under "more prejudicial than probative," even if we assume that Scarborough's accounts of his service are accurate.
Such bravery and dedication to the United States could never have been shown on the battlefield by the miserable crew who lined up to attack the special counsel [last week].
That said, the rules are clear whenever mainstream pundits read Robert Mueller. Mueller is one of the establishment gods—the latest man to be assessed as The Most Upright Person Now Living, if we might borrow from Plato's assessment of Socrates in The Seventh Letter.
A word of warning. Before his peculiar conduct during the 2016 presidential campaign, James Comey was uniformly presented as The Most Upright Person Now Living. He joined a motley crew of public figures so assessed by the mainsteram press, not excluding Paul Ryan, Paul Krugman's "flimflam man."
Comey was once the press corps' Most Upright Person; Robert Mueller still is. History tells us that this type of childish group assessment has often turned out to be disastrously wrong. Common sense suggests that lionization of this type may tend to produce the kind of hubris which may lead these lionized figures astray.
More on that as the week continues. For today, let's look in as Alan Dershowitz performs a public service by "reading" Robert Mueller. The assessment was offered yesterday on CNN's Reliable Sources.
During his interview, Dershowitz stressed the fact that he voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election. When it comes to Donald J. Trump, "I am not a supporter," Dershowitz said. "I am not a defender of Donald Trump the person."
Dershowitz isn't a fan of Donald J. Trump, but he also hasn't been blinded by the dust of stampede. Early in his interview, he made a rather obvious point—at the present time, a lot of people "want to get" Donald J. Trump.
In our view, Dershowitz was stating something which is blindingly obvious. True to mainstream "cable news" form, Brian Stelter, his CNN host, headed for the fainting couch in response to these statements:
DERSHOWITZ (4/15/18): I think the key point is to make sure that in an effort to get Trump, we don't diminish our civil liberties and create bad precedent—Is it true? Are "a lot of people trying to get Trump?" Do a lot of people "want to lock up Trump?"
STELTER: Oh, who's trying to get Trump?
DERSHOWITZ: Oh, a lot of people are trying to get Trump, a lot of radicals, a lot of lefties. A lot of people, a lot of my friends—
STELTER: You're throwing out words, you're throwing out words now.
DERSHOWITZ: —a lot of my friends and relatives are furious at me because they want to get Trump and I'm in their way, and I'm standing in the way of getting Trump by raising Article Two issues, civil rights issues, civil rights issues. If you don't think there are people out there trying to get Trump, just like they were trying get Hillary Clinton, people were trying to get Hillary Clinton, lock her up—
STELTER: I think many people are opposed to President Trump, but when you say "get Trump," it implies to me some coordinated, almost conspiracy, "Let's go out and get him." Is Robert Mueller trying to get him?
DERSHOWITZ: When they said "get Hillary," there was no conspiracy. Just a lot of people wanted to lock her up. A lot of people want to lock up Trump.
Dearest darling, use your heads! Few statements could be more obvious.
Dershowitz was making obvious statements; Stelter recoiled in shock. That said, along the way, Stelter had asked a useful and important question:
"Is Robert Mueller trying to get him?" That's what the cable host asked.
Is Mueller trying to get Donald Trump? We think that's a useful question. Beyond that, we think Dershowitz's reply supplied a useful corrective to the era of lionization which has saddled us with deeply flawed poobahs like Comey:
STELTER (continuing directly): Do you think Robert Mueller is a part of that?Does Robert Mueller want "to get Donald J. Trump?" Does he view Trump "as a target" in an unhealthy or even improper way?
DERSHOWITZ: I think Robert Mueller has a target that he's after. When you're a special counsel, you don't want to come away with nothing after you spend millions of dollars.
STELTER: He's already got plenty.
DERSHOWITZ: So—no, I don't think he has plenty. I think he has low-hanging fruit, and right now, if he could get Trump, it would be a great feather in his cap, just like Ken Starr wanted to get [Bill] Clinton. That's what special counsels do. Their object is to get—
STELTER: You're saying it's about ego almost.
DERSHOWITZ: No, it's about reputation. It's about their perception of integrity. In the end, ego plays a role. But it's the role of the civil libertarian to make sure that they don't use means to justify their ends that lie around like loaded guns that can be used as precedents against all of us.
Is it a matter of reputation for Mueller? Does ego play a part?
We don't know how to answer those questions. We also don't know why Dershowitz seems inclined to think such things about Mueller, if he actually does.
That said, of course it's possible that Mueller is something less than a flawless moral god! Of course it's possible that his personal feelings may lead him to make imperfect decisions as his probe continues.
Over the course of the past thirty years, the mainstream press corps—people like Stelter—have anointed a series of morally upright gods. Paul Ryan was one such selection. So was Comey the god.
No matter how many times the children are wrong in these group assessments, they just keep inventing new moral gods to lionize. These moral gods are often played against official mainstream press corps demons. This is not a healthy, intelligent process. Again and again and again and again, it has turned out extremely poorly.
In our view, and stating the obvious, citizens should regard Mueller with a normal degree of skepticism. The same process should have been followed with respect to James B. Comey, AKA Comey the god.
Instead, silly children all over the press made James B. Comey the new Socrates. This led to disaster in 2016, even as our favorite liberals refused to speak in opposition to the behavior of the establishment god.
We'll be "reading Comey" all week. For today, a spoiler alert:
In our view, James B. Comey, Comey the god, seems almost as nutty as Donald J. Trump. But so it has gone, again and again, when the children of the press corps decide to give us new gods.
Tomorrow: Reading Comey! Kakutani's true belief v. Lozada the skeptic
What Plato is said to have said: In his famous alleged Seventh Letter, Plato described the political events of his young adulthood, around 404 B.C.
Despite his brilliance, Plato spoke no English. In our view, Professor Lee probably has the translation just about right:
PLATO: The existing constitution, which was subject to widespread criticism, was overthrown...and a committee of Thirty given supreme power. As it happened some of them were friends and relations of mine and they at once invited me to join them, as if it were the natural thing for me to do. My feelings were what were to be expected in a young man: I thought they were going to reform society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. I found that they soon made the earlier regime look like a golden age. Among other things they tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright man then living, by sending him, with others, to arrest a fellow-citizen, and bring him forcibly to execution; Socrates refused, and risked everything rather than make himself a party to their wickedness. When I saw all this, and other things as bad, I was disgusted and withdrew from the wickedness of the times.The democracy was soon restored, but Socrates was brought to trial on “a monstrous charge.”
Was Socrates "the most upright man then living?" We don't know, but the press corps' attempts to name successors have routinely led to disaster and are profoundly unwise.
Mueller is their current god. We'll try to read Comey all week.