Watching the Mueller saga is like watching the final season of Game of Thrones. It’s frustrating, it’s boring, and there are so many holes that you know will never be filled and plot lines that will never lead to anything. At its eventual conclusion, however it ends, we’ll all feel ragged and unsatisfied, but at least we’ll be able to put it to rest – until 10 or 20 years from now when someone dives more deeply into a very specific aspect of it, exposing hidden meanings in what so-and-so said and introducing new theories for what this and that actually meant, and then we all get sucked back in and watch documentaries and listen to podcasts about it.
As of me writing this, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has completed the first part of his testimony to Congress concerning the findings of his investigative report in the 2016 presidential election, specifically with regard to Russian meddling.
Here’s the thing – Mueller never wanted to testify before Congress because he said his report spoke for itself. He stuck to that in his testimony today, frequently and to the chagrin of congressional members on both sides of the aisle yielding to whatever was in the report in lieu of answering many of the questions asked of him.
Mueller understood the scope of his work to be thoroughly, accurately, and meticulously documented within the report, so he was unwilling to speak to anything outside of it, including some things that were inside of it. Sometimes this was because him speaking on certain matters could damage ongoing investigations, and other times it was because he nor his department directly investigated the matter in question.
Beyond that, there were a few things Mueller said from the outset that he would not discuss, yet Republicans in particular seemed adamant about questioning him on exactly those things. They would ask questions they were told not to ask and then get mad at Mueller for not talking about the things he already said he wouldn’t talk about. It seems that if you only had a few minutes to question someone about something, you’d make each of those questions count so that you could contribute to the interrogation in a meaningful way. After all, we’re all just trying to get to the bottom of…whatever we’re trying to get to the bottom of.
Why are we doing this today? Why is Mueller being questioned about a report he took years to put together and should really stand on its own?
The Democrats want a sound bite. The Republicans want a different sound bite and a “Gotcha!” moment.
Many see this testimony as the Democrats’ chance to get verbal and public confirmation of the allegations in the report and their implications from Mueller, himself. It’s also a way to highlight some of the details of the report to a public who, largely and understandably, did not read it.
This is also seen as a concerted effort to garner public support for impeachment proceedings. While the public doesn’t need to support impeachment for the House of Representatives to proceed with it, public support never hurts, especially when House members’ re-elections are on the line (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – why aren’t there term limits for these people?).
The Republicans, on the other hand, tried to tackle this in a few different ways. First of all, they spoke a lot about the Clintons, and not just Hillary this time. They kept bringing up Ken Starr’s investigation into Bill Clinton, an investigation which resulted in Clinton’s impeachment, but not his removal from office. Why are the Republicans always so concerned with the Clintons? It’s not about them. Their attempts to make the Clinton investigation relevant fell short, to say the least.
With that, they seemed to talk more about what wasn’t in the report rather than what was actually in it, again, largely regarding the Clintons. To these lines of questioning, Mueller was pretty non-responsive, again asserting that the report speaks for itself and sometimes claiming that certain aspects of the investigation were or are being handled by other departments.
There were a few instances where they came for Mueller’s credibility, which given his professional career and years of service to the country, was a ballsy move. They alleged that he was biased against the president, which is a stretch considering he’s long been affiliated with the Republican Party. They brought up questions regarding potential conflicts of interest, the credibility of the prosecutors on Mueller’s team, and whether or not Mueller really wanted the job of FBI director (again) but instead got stuck leading an investigation.
I guess…sour grapes?
Watching these congressional hearings can take a lot out of you, but not just because they can make you distraught, hopeless, or incredulous. They’re mentally tiresome.
Not only in these hearings, but in the news, on social media, and even amongst groups of peers, there’s so much effort made to trick or mislead us. The onus is put on us to break through all of the chatter, bullshit, biased memes, strategically edited photos and videos, and now deepfakes (if you don’t know what those are, they’re terrifying).
The “influencers” we follow on Instagram have fake everything, from their eyelashes to their noses to their butts, but they’re presented to us not only as if they’re real, but as though we should all be striving to attain their level of plastic.
The actors we idolize are branded to a T, but when they slip up and break from their brand – because “human” isn’t a brand – we get mad at them for it, when really, we’re just being forced to confront our own disillusionment.
Our politicians say they care about X, Y, and Z issues, but most of the time it’s just a façade, a thing they say to keep their electorate voting them into office and their donors giving them exorbitant amounts of money.
We’re craving authenticity and we’re running out of places to find it. We can hardly even find it within ourselves.
Everyone’s trying to manipulate us, confuse us, fluster us, and trick us, but what we need to be is asking is why are they trying so hard to trick us?
Not to be inflammatory or conspiratorial because I don’t think this is really a controversial statement, but our government, including our elected officials rarely have our best interest at heart unless our best interest happens to align with their own personal interest. Sure, some of them appear to have some bit of empathy and compassion, and not all of them are heartless. There are a few that I really like and generally trust, and I’m sure you have a few of your own. But make no mistake – many, if not most of them are only there fighting for you because we pay them to do so. That, and/or they have some other specific motive, usually somewhere along the lines of power, influence, and clout.
People who really want to make a difference in people’s lives don’t always go the government route to get things done. They do it through activism and charity work. It’s the same reason why Oprah said she’d never run for office. She can do so much more without all of the legal proceedings and pageantry and political correctness that comes with being a government official.
Again, I’m not saying that everyone who runs for office is power-hungry, greedy, or a sell-out, and I think that’s an important point to drive home. Especially with this most recent batch that ran for office and won during the midterms, so many people across the country, including several that I know personally, were motivated to get involved at the congressional level because if not them, someone worse would be taking up that seat in either the House or the Senate…and that’s a completely valid reason to run for office.
As someone who didn’t run for office, it felt good to vote for someone who wasn’t entirely skeezy or bought out, even if their chances of winning weren’t great.
But as I mentioned this in my Lion King article, the thing that surprised Obama the most once he was elected president was how little power he actually had. However positive a new official’s intentions might be, the government is not a simple thing to navigate. It’s painstaking, rooted in precedent and constitution, subject to the whims of the public, and more often than not paid for by the Koch brothers (or the like).
Everyone has an agenda. It’s just a matter of whether or not that agenda lines up with your own. For instance, Trump is no Christian, not by any stretch of the imagination apart from the fact that he identifies as one. Still, Christians support him and embrace him as one of their own because his personal convictions don’t matter to them as long as he still pushes the issues that are important to them.
Hypocrisy be damned.
On a positive note, Jon Stewart and 9/11 first responder John Feal got a bill passed in Congress that would guarantee compensation to 9/11 victims and responders. They couldn’t have done it without help from supportive and sympathetic members of Congress because ultimately, they were at the mercy of the Senate. Could you imagine how much easier they’re fight would have been – an ongoing nearly 20-year long fight during which people died from lack of funding required for medical treatments – if there were less horrible and corrupt people obstructing proceedings, shirking responsibilities, and casting deciding votes?
Bringing it back to Mueller’s testimony, if you choose to watch it for yourself, just keep in mind the motives of the people doing the questioning. The Democrats’ reasons for calling the hearing seem fairly clear, but the Republicans who keep trying to discredit the investigation and its head investigator rather than actually delving into what was actually discovered within it?