Along with American leadership: Today, we'll struggle to recover from yesterday's gruesome example of "American carnage."
Tomorrow, we'll try to pull our award-winning series, In Hoc Signo Vinces, back together again. For today, we'll skim the surface of the demise of American systems and leaders.
Yesterday's hearings helped display the headlong demise of our American systems and our American leadership cadres. We'll start with the depressing passage shown below.
In this morning's print editions, this passage appears at the very top of the New York Times' front page. In our view, this passage is depressing and alarming:
LAFRANIERE ET AL (7/25/19): Soon after the special counsel’s office opened in 2017, some aides noticed that Robert S. Mueller III kept noticeably shorter hours than he had as F.B.I. director, when he showed up at the bureau daily at 6 a.m. and often worked nights.The reporters are possibly being too kind with that speculation about Mueller's painful response to that "poorly worded question." (The question seemed straightforward to us. It was presented by a Democrat who assumed it would be answered quickly and easily.)
He seemed to cede substantial responsibility to his top deputies, including Aaron Zebley, who managed day-to-day operations and often reported on the investigation’s progress up the chain in the Justice Department. As negotiations with President Trump’s lawyers about interviewing him dragged on, for example, Mr. Mueller took part less and less, according to people familiar with how the office worked.
That hands-off style was on display on Wednesday when Mr. Mueller testified for about seven hours before two House committees. Once famous for his laserlike focus, Mr. Mueller, who will turn 75 next month, seemed hesitant about the facts in his own 448-page report. He struggled at one point to come up with the word “conspiracy.”
At one excruciatingly awkward moment, he stumbled over a poorly worded question about who was president when he served as a top federal prosecutor in 1986, apparently assuming the questioner meant his subsequent Justice Department post.
Based upon that piece of reporting, the fact that Mueller was no longer himself has been known, behind the scenes, for at least the past two years.
Presumably, this unfortunate fact was also known to the congressional Democrats who had been promoting Mueller's appearance so heavily.
Implicitly, they'd been promising the latest magical defeat of Donald J. Trump without the need to find the way to defeat him at the polls. As for us the people, the unfortunate fact was sprung on us early in yesterday's hearings.
Mueller shouldn't have been there. Based upon his performance, he should no longer have been functioning at the top of our leadership cadres.
(In fairness, every pseudo-liberal insider hack would have been allowed to continue saying that Mueller is an ex-marine and "a patriot." But he himself should no longer have been cast in the "miracle savior" role our cable hacks have been pimping to us for the past two-plus years, driving up company profits as they goose us along.)
As for the Democratic leadership cadres who insisted on yesterday's appearance, we'll let you decide about them for yourselves. In fairness, there's no miracle cure for the eternal problems presented by human nature, but our basic thought about them would be this:
They don't know how to address the stranger. More on that theory tomorrow.
At any rate, American systems have been falling apart for the past decade or so. Consider a few examples:
The Electoral College: Our peculiar Electoral College system has plainly started to sputter and wheeze.
Respectable analysts have been suggesting for the past month that Donald J. Trump could imaginably lose the popular vote by more than 5 million votes next year, yet still win re-election.
That would mean that losing candidates would hold the White House for sixteen of the 24 years from 2001 through 2025 (we're counting both Bush terms). It's hard to believe that the public will continue to tolerate this.
The Supreme Court: Our Supreme Court system has already broken down, due to its politicization along with its life terms. As the Court has become a partisan political body, presidents have begun to select rigidly reliable Justices who are also youngish or young.
Mitch McConnell's decision to adjust the date of Justice Scalia's death only made this growing system failure more fully apparent.
Senate math: Our system of Senate math gives remarkably disproportionate power to voters in small rural states. With our smaller states increasingly adopting one particular partisan cast, this is creating another fairly obvious system failure.
On a much smaller scale, the congressional hearing system, in which every committee member gets to showboat for the cameras for his or her sacred five minutes, was on display again yesterday.
(In fairness, the Democrats had made the rare effort to get organized as a group. They also seemed to know that Mueller wouldn't be able to function well. Each member was prepared to read the text of particular portions of the Mueller report which the author couldn't seem to recall or discuss.)
Here as elsewhere, this 5-minute system failure reflects the grasping nature of our culture, in which each individual strives to maximize his or her financial and career gain, full stop, even on cable TV.
Does this reflect some sort of broad cultural change? Check the rise in CEO pay over the past seventy years.
Our American systems are falling apart, but so are our leadership cadres. That includes our journalistic leadership cadres. Even on "liberal" cable news, these ridiculous, bubble-wrapped guilds have become an unvarnished joke.
Everyone knows to criticize Fox, but liberal viewers are persistently conned by the multimillionaire TV stars on CNN and MSNBC. If you're a liberal who doesn't yet know that, so these things have always gone, all through the annals of time.
We started planning this site in 1997 because we thought this type of journalistic carnage could no longer be tolerated, even way back then. Even then, we were stunned by the press corps' lack of intellectual tools, but also by its members' desire to run in packs slandering targeted pols in the dumbest possible ways.
These types of moral and intellectual carnage now define "cable news" and our journalism as a whole. We have no idea where the off-ramp from this particular carnage lies, but in our view, the problem tracks back to a basic human deficiency, one we'll touch on tomorrow.
Are you your brother and sister's keeper? Are you inclined to respect the stranger—the "stranger in a far land?"
Are you inclined to respect the Other, even when the Other is so racist that he may say "colored," instead of "of color," when he's 82?
Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves (TM) keep telling us, despondently, to consider these questions. They glumly insist that, based upon our inherited natures, the answer to these biological questions may turn out to be no.
Is it "all anthropology now?" So these experts ruefully told us, more than two years ago.
The ultimate example: Our president is visibly insane. Our press corps decided, two years ago, that they mustn't discuss that fact.
Every pundit plays along. Careers hang in the balance!