by Bruce Thornton
The dire urgency for an investigation into the investigation.
“Mountains struggle to give birth,” the Roman poet Horace wrote, “and a ridiculous mouse is born.” After 675 days, $25 million,19 lawyers, 40 FBI agents, 500 interviews, 2,800 subpoenas, and 500 search warrants, Special Counsel Mueller’s “dream team” comprising Democrat partisans, as Reddit called it, has confirmed what at least half of Americans already knew from common sense and public information: the Trump campaign did not “collude” with Russia to steal the election from Hillary Clinton.
More serious than its puny findings, however, is the import of the investigation’s creation in the first place. The president justifiably feels vindicated by the report, and conservatives are no doubt savoring the schadenfreude from witnessing the Dems’ bitter tantrums of disappointment. But the corruption of our public institutions that the investigation and report bespeak is no laughing matter, and will continue to produce toxic fallout as we head for the 2020 presidential election and beyond.
First, the media have graphically confirmed that they are hired publicists for the progressive Democrat party rather than neutral reporters of fact. The last two years have been the culmination of a process that began with the biased and selective reporting on Viet Nam and Watergate, continued with the demonizing of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and made a quantitative leap with the coverage of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and two terms. The media’s “slobbering love affair” with Obama, as Bernie Goldberg put it, threw off all the last vestiges of even the pretense of the media’s objectivity and professional ethics, and made clear they were rank ideologues choosing sides.
This casting off of the media’s “just the facts” self-justifying camouflage was best illustrated during the 2016 campaign by The New York Times’ media reporter Jim Rutenberg: “If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?” Rutenberg’s catalogue of begged questions implicitly justified the abandonment of objectivity as an act of public service: “If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.”
The coverage of the Mueller investigation and the just released report definitively illustrates that most of the media have now agreed that biased and even fabricated news are acts of civic virtue rather than signs of professional corruption. The dream of progressive Walter Lippman that public news media would become a discipline and profession based on “scientific” truths has gone the way of progressivism’s other flights of fanciful scientism––mere cover for ideology and partisan advantage.
We can expect that the media, embittered by the dashing of their dreams of destroying Trump through the Mueller investigation, will double down on their hysterical lies as the 2020 election heats up.
Next, the behavior of the Democrats for the last two years has illustrated that the party has completed its descent from the center-left into the hard-leftist swamps of power-lust and “any means necessary” amorality that history shows always ends in totalitarian tyranny. One of those “means” on display over the last two years is the shameless and blatant hypocrisy and double-standards of the Dems’ conduct and rhetoric.
Examples are legion. Particularly significant for the Mueller investigation has been the decrying of “Russian interference” and “hacking of the election,” and Trump’s “collusion” with Russia,” when Obama had promised Putin “flexibility” and pursued a feckless “reset,” even as he ignored the intelligence demonstrating Russian interference and cyber-hijinks until he was half-way out of the White House door.
So too are Hillary’s pay-for-play State Department, which delivered 20% of our uranium resources to a Russian company, and her campaign that paid for Russian fabricated opposition research that fueled the initial FBI investigation and eventually birthed the Mueller probe. And isn’t it the height of hypocrisy to spend two years on the lurid and never substantiated rumors of the Steele dossier, while Hillary’s manifestly felonious use of an unsecured server to transmit classified information is brushed away by an FBI chief who on order from Obama’s DOJ usurped the AG’s prosecutorial power in order to let Clinton off the hook?
Another particularly blatant example is Hillary’s dudgeon over Trump’s statement three weeks before election day that he wouldn’t uncritically accept the outcome or give up his right to challenge the results: “It was horrifying,” Clinton thundered, “what he said on the debate stage tonight. Our country has been around for 240 years, and . . . one of our hallmarks has always been we accept the outcome of our elections.” This civic piety was immediately followed after the election by Clinton, the Democrats, the FBI, the DOJ, and most of the left-wing media refusing to accept the outcome of the election, and ginning up preposterous conspiracy theories about Russian “collusion.”
Going forward, we will see the Democrat-controlled House, egged on by the media, abuse its investigative powers to continue their desperate search for something, anything upon which to build yet another false narrative of Trump’s and the Republicans’ evil. Indeed, we’ve already had a foretaste of things to come in the extremist antics of the new generation of Democrats like socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and in the rush of old-school Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden to prostitute themselves to these Jacobins.
This brings us to perhaps the most important consequence of the sorry spectacle of the Mueller investigation. The leftist “mantra” of “any means necessary” embraced by Democrats now includes the corruption of agencies armed with enormous power to surveil, investigate, subpoena, and arrest with lethal force American citizens, in gross violation of their Constitutional rights.
Strong evidence suggest that this abuse of federal police and investigative powers started with Obama, the same Obama who in 2004 said of the Patriot Act, “The act goes too far in violating our fundamental notions of privacy, thus seriously eroding the very ideals at the heart of our country’s greatness.” This is the same Obama who before he left office multiplied the number of deep-state functionaries allowed access to surveillance intelligence, which led to illegal leaks. And this is the same Obama who did nothing about the clear evidence of Russian interference in our election until he could weaponize it to harm Donald Trump.
With the example of their boss, is it any wonder that numerous FBI and DOJ functionaries violated their oath of office and turned their investigative and interrogation powers against U.S. citizens, powers that they wielded without oversight and, it seems so far, without accountability? And while NeverTrump hysteric Bret Stephens demands an apology from Mueller’s critics, what about demanding an apology from Mueller for the thuggish tactics he used in his investigation, like laying specious perjury traps, threatening Michael Flynn’s son, and going after the sexagenarian Roger Stone in a predawn raid by a 29-member heavily armed SWAT team? How about the millions of dollars that those caught up in Mueller’s inquisition had to spend to defend themselves and their reputations? All these tactics, more suitable for an investigation of violent gangsters, were aimed at bullying witnesses into rolling over on Donald Trump, probably because Mueller already knew he had nothing substantial on the president.
And this is the most important takeaway from the investigation and its report: the unaccountable power that unscrupulous, unethical, and rabidly ambitious or egomaniacal prosecutors drunk on their own power can bring to bear against their fellow citizens. This problem, of course, predates the Mueller investigation. Remember Patrick Fitzgerald’s despicable hounding of Scooter Libby even as the prosecutor knew who had leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name? And unless checked, this abuse of power will continue, and the present abuse be left as unpunished as Libby’s persecution has been.
That’s why the Mueller report is not the end, but should be the beginning. We should hold those accountable who, entrusted with such power, abused it and the Constitution by meddling with a legitimate presidential election the results of which didn’t suit their ideological prejudices or careerist ambitions. As the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, who has been stellar in analyzing these abuses, writes,
Americans now deserve a full accounting of the missteps of former FBI Director James Comey and his team—in part so that this never happens again. That includes the following: What “evidence” did the FBI have in totality? What efforts did the bureau take to verify it? Did it corroborate anything before launching its probe? What role did political players play? How aware was the FBI that it was being gulled into a dirty-trick operation, and if so, how did it justify proceeding? How intrusive were the FBI methods? And who was harmed?As Strassel suggests, step number one will be full disclosure of all FBI and DOJ documents related to the initial investigation that metastasized into the Russian collusion canard, so we can identify, investigate and prosecute the guilty men and women complicit in the soft, slow-motion coup d’état.
Finally, we should remember that “democratic norms” and other obsessions over Trump’s personal style are not central to our Republic’s foundational principles that protect our political freedom. Two of the most important are the equality of all citizens before the law, and the accountability of government agency officials to the citizens whom they are supposed to serve. The compromising of both those principles is a necessary step for those who, like the current crop of Democrat presidential candidates, seek to dismantle that order and replace it with a regime that will move us even farther down the road to tyranny.
Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.
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