Gov. Huckabee had a link in Wednesday’s Evening Newsletter to an article in Vanity Fair that actually expressed doubt that Mueller’s final report would please Trump-haters (that is to say, Vanity Fair readers). Heresy! I had to check this out for myself.
Sure enough, Vanity Fair has published an article by T. A. Frank called “Is This It?: A Trump-Hater’s Guide To Mueller Skepticism.” It turned out to be a fascinating case study for me in the thought processes of anti-Trumpers in media, and I would like to share my findings with you.
First of all, commentary that doesn’t blindly assume Trump is a traitorous collaborator with Putin and that together they somehow stole the election from Hillary does stand a small chance of being printed if three conditions are met:
1) It can admit some of Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings, but it stops short of saying she committed crimes. (“It is sleazy, but not criminal, to pay a guy to go to Russia to put together a dossier of dirt on Trump.”) Actually, in paying Perkins Coie to get this done, she may have been laundering campaign funds, which would be violating election laws. And Mr. Frank doesn’t bother mentioning any of the clearly illegal things Hillary has done, behavior for which regular people would be prosecuted.
2) Any criticism of Mueller has to be balanced with condemnation of Ken Starr. (“But the reports we’re starting to see suggest a man who’s fallen prey to the same state of mind that warped Ken Starr --- namely disgust over the people you’re investigating and a desire to justify the sunk capital.”) This is the way Democrats always excuse Mueller for his apparent lack of limits. If Ken Starr started out investigating Whitewater and ended up with Monica Lewinsky, the reasoning goes, Mueller gets to go anywhere HE wants.
The thing is, though, Starr didn’t take it upon himself to investigate the Lewinsky affair. As he reminds us today, the attorney general assigned it to him. His job was to write a report. Obviously he didn’t much believe in editing, as I understand he put EVERYTHING IN. The problem with that whole mess, as I see it, is that Paula Jones’ civil suit against a sitting President was allowed to go forward; that’s what led to Bill Clinton being deposed and lying under oath. If we don’t want the disruption of having a sitting President indicted in a criminal case, it seems odd that a civil case would be any different. I know Republican leaders wanted it at the time (Dems aren’t the only ones capable of overreach), but, really, that was an unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court. It should have waited until he was out of office. Can’t get in a time machine and change it, though. Back to the subject at hand...
3) It still offers some meat to the Trump-loathing readership, so they don’t all decide to stop reading Vanity Fair and go to their safe spaces. (“If it’s any consolation to Trump-haters, we can say this much: the special counsel’s office is going to put together a hell of a report...Trumpworld won’t fare well under a bright light.”)
Other than the three considerations above, this piece could have appeared in the Washington Examiner. It is stunning in its honesty about Trump haters, Mueller, and the state of the investigation, yet it’s in Vanity Fair.
It compares the frenzy of “Russiagate” to the believers in India who flocked to see a statue of Ganesha, the Hindu deity of good luck, that was purported to “drink” milk from a spoon. (Remember that story? The effect came from the porous stone absorbing the liquid, until it just couldn’t absorb any more.) The so-called blockbuster special counsel stories, Frank says, have the same rhythm as that mass hysteria: “big news, then frenzy, then comedown...followed by an unspoken agreement to wait for further reports...”
“People sense the big shoe is about to drop,” he writes. “’This is it,’ people are saying. ‘This is the big one!’” But it always turns out to be just the next cycle of hype. Frank even admits that the evidence-free story in The Guardian about Paul Manafort meeting three times with Julian Assange “seems to be based on nothing at all.”
Frank makes fun of people who bought the idea that Vladimir Putin would move into a free $50 million penthouse provided by a U.S. presidential candidate. “You have to wonder if they were hitting each other on the head with bricks.”
“Those who hope that Mueller reveals a shambolic operation with a lot of rascals engaged in sleazy and embarrassing behavior will be happy with the fruits of his labors,” he writes. “But those who hope for an unveiling of documents linking Putin and Trump in a grand conspiracy have no more reason to celebrate than they did a week or a month ago.”
The piece takes a few swipes at President Trump, to be sure, but it tempers them with a realistic assessment of others’ morals, including those on the Democratic side. “Certainly, Trump’s ethical standards are low,”’ Frank says, “but if sleaziness were a crime then many more people from our ruling class would be in jail.” You know, I’m not so sure they would. Many people from our ruling class, notably from the previous administration, HAVE committed crimes and have thus far managed to avoid jail. This reality is where Frank dares not go.
Frank reminds his readers that the purpose of the Mueller investigation is to find evidence of a conspiracy –- a plan by Trump staffers to work with Russia on a criminal effort to affect the outcome of the election –- and says it’s just not panning out. (Of course, he doesn’t mention that we DO have evidence of collusion with Russians involving Hillary’s campaign.) He takes a gentle shot at Rachel Maddow and her viewers, saying that this conspiracy theory is “the one that’s been paying the bills at ‘Maddow’ for a couple of years now.” He even makes fun of SNL viewers who love the songs praising Mueller and his accomplishments. Love it! Wish he’d kept going; he forgot Joy Behar.
Frank acknowledges there have been unintended consequences from all the Democrats’ anti-Russia hysteria, notably Trump’s decision to put in place “arguably the harshest set of policies toward Russia since the fall of Communism.” I guess we’ll never know if Trump would have treated Russia the same way if his opponents HADN’T made up a fake conspiracy between him and Putin.
One of the best things about this piece is that it shows concern for precedent, something Democrats hardly ever seem to care about. “That was then, this is now” is their typical modus operandi, and they can turn on a dime. But Frank worries about the legacy of this special counsel: “...Trump won’t always be in office. The weapons you create for your side today will be used by the other side against you tomorrow.” And he asks the question that doesn’t normally occur to people blinded by Trump-hatred: “Do we really want the special-counsel investigation to become a staple of presidential life?”
Wow, after seeing this piece, Vanity Fair readers must look as stone-cold glum as Hillary Clinton sharing a pew with the Trumps at a Bush funeral.