Politics & Policy

Prelude to a firing, &c.

Robert Mueller on Capitol Hill in 2009. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Trump, Mueller, Moore, Putin, the NFL, bees, amour, and more

Over the weekend, Patrick Chovanec tweeted, “He’s going to fire Mueller. It’s just a question of when. And then we will see what our country is made of.”

This reminded me of a post I wrote in early August. It was headed “The Mueller Firing: A Prescripting” (and can be found here). My message was, essentially: It’s going to happen. Why doesn’t everyone just say what he thinks of it now? Why wait?

I believe I can predict everyone’s statement. I could pre-write every publication’s editorial. I could speak for every talking head.

I’m exaggerating, of course (a specialty of this column). Yet the point is serious.

The Left will howl in outrage. There will be angry calls for impeachment. The Trump Right will exult and pump its fist.

Anti-anti-Trump people will dwell on the Left’s “hysterical” reaction to the firing, and they will also say things like, “Isn’t the special counsel’s team a nest of Democrats?”

A few conservatives will contend that the White House has turned Nixonian. (They will not mean it as a compliment.) They will be dismissed as NeverTrumpers who simply disapprove of the president’s table manners.

More than a few conservatives will say, “It looks bad, yeah. But, you know? Mueller overreached. He should never have gone into Trump’s finances. Also, obstruction of justice is not that big a deal. This is the penny-ante stuff they got Martha Stewart on. Plus, the question of Trump should be settled at the ballot box, and will be, in coming elections. So, let’s move on.”

That was a common phrase from the 1990s: “move on.” In fact, some Democrats formed an organization of that name.

So, what will you say when Trump fires Mueller? (I should really say “if,” in safer, and less cynical, fashion.) Are your lines rehearsed?

‐For decades, conservatives like me slammed “moral equivalence”: the equation of the Soviet Union, for example, with the United States. The moral equivalence was regularly coming from the Left.

“Oh, yeah?” they would say. “Well, the Soviets may have a Gulag, but look how we treat black people! And what about Japanese internment?” That sort of thing.

You hear moral equivalence today — from Trump & Co. During the 2016 campaign, Joe Scarborough told Trump that Putin has journalists killed, when they trouble him. The candidate said, “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe.”

After Trump was elected, Bill O’Reilly called Putin a killer. The president said, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”

Now we have the Republican of the Hour, Roy Moore. A reporter mentioned to him that Ronald Reagan once called the Soviet Union “the focus of evil in the modern world.” Moore said, “You could say that very well about America, couldn’t you?” The reporter thought that was curious. Moore explained, “Well, we promote a lot of bad things,” citing homosexual marriage. The reporter noted that Putin makes the same argument. Moore responded, “Maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”

I’m sure he is. I’m also sure that the American Right is a different beast from the one I knew, back when.

Daniel Hannan, among others, has written about this bracingly, in a column headed “The Republicans’ astonishing, Orwellian change of heart on Putin.”

‐A friend of mine was saying that attendance at NFL games was down, and he was saying it with joy in his eyes: He wants the NFL punished for the players who kneel during the national anthem. Others want the NFL outright boycotted.

Obviously, this is a matter of personal taste. You can watch what you want, support what you want, avoid what you want, denounce what you want — sweet freedom.

I myself love the NFL, especially when the Detroit Lions are winning (which can’t be counted on). When Matt Stafford is tossing completions, I’m in heaven. When he goes awry, I’m in agony.

I don’t like the kneeling. I like the national anthem. (I’ve even sung it — solo — before a fairly big-time game. How ’bout you?) But also, I’m not a Communist. I don’t demand conformity. And I don’t want to be a 24/7 political animal. I don’t want politics to drive my every moment. It is, in fact, one reason — a big reason — I became a conservative.

When I was young, the Left politicized everything: the food you ate, the music you listened to, the very breath you drew. They had an expression, “The personal is the political.” I never bought that. I thought there should be space — acres of space — outside of politics.

Some years ago, a friend and I were debating whether we should eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. They were a lefty company, and we were righties. We decided that we would eat and enjoy Ben & Jerry’s — because it was excellent ice cream, and we were not Communists. Let others base their eating on politics. We did not want to be like that.

As soon as Colin Kaepernick started to kneel, I counseled benign neglect. Let him kneel. What skin is it off our nose? Most people were not kneeling. Let’s just play football. But lots of people could not let it go.

They called themselves patriots (although some prefer “nationalists”). But the truth is, there is plenty of political gain in the issue. Also, there is truth in this: Some people like to be worked up, 24/7. Some people like the grievance, the emotion.

From time to time, I have been tempted in that direction. But what a lousy way to live, and exhausting.

So, I say: Boycott the NFL if you want. Cheer the decline of the NFL if you want. But when Stafford’s hummin’ the ball in there, I’m in heaven, even if Megatron (Calvin Johnson) isn’t around anymore to catch it.

‐Stick with Detroit sports for a minute — because Stan Van Gundy, the coach of the Pistons, said something that made my heart jump. He confirmed an old point of mine (and who doesn’t like that?).

When your team loses, you tend to dwell on what your team did wrong — how your team blew it. You kind of ignore the other team on the field (or court or whatever). Same in political races. When your candidate loses, you dwell on what he did wrong — how he blew it. You kind of forget that there was another candidate in the race, trying to win.

Anyway, here’s what Stan the Man said: “The real issue is the other teams are trying to win too. That’s the part that everybody always leaves out. ‘Why are you losing?’ Some of it is the other team.”


‐You know the concept of “multi-tasking,” and I’m certainly not opposed to it — but come on: “A suburban New York City woman has sued a doctor, claiming he used his cellphone to take a language test while operating on her.” (Full story here.)

‐Torsten Liljeberg is a buck-oh-one — 101 years old. In his life is written much of the story of Finland. Read about him, and it, here.

(Just one line from the story: “‘You can say sports saved me after the war,’ Liljeberg said, adding that many war veterans took up drinking and failed to adjust to civil life.”)

‐Would you like to hear Mark Helprin on bees? On bees and men? He speaks of “a divine matrix in which we work like bees, doing what is ordained, not quite knowing why, but with satisfaction and gratitude. I love bees (not Killer Bees) because they work tirelessly in the sun doing good things, they concentrate so well, and (unlike the last two presidents) they’re so wonderfully modest.”

‐I know a young man who started dating a girl almost three years ago. He had asked her out four times. Four times, she balked. Finally, she did not — but she was not acknowledging them as dates.

On the second date — unacknowledged by her — she was in the passenger’s seat, and leaned over to unlock his door. At that moment, it occurred to him that he loved her and wanted to marry her.

Later that night, he wrote her a letter — confessing his love and asking her to marry him. Then he mailed the letter — to himself. It came back to him, naturally: postmarked, sealed, etc. He had heard that this was the poor man’s way of patenting something, or making something official: You mail it to yourself, and the postmark is an imprimatur.

Two years and eight months passed. He had the letter lying around. He asked her to open it and read it. She did. It said things like, “By this time, I should be down on one knee.” Long story short — wonderful story short — she said yes.

He has a great imagination, and a great heart — always has. Mazel tov.


Forget Collusion. Can Mueller Prove Russia Committed Cyberespionage?

Donald Trump & Mueller Investigation – Embarrassment to America

Roy Moore’s Defenders Betray Conservative Women

A word to the wise: National Review has started a new podcast, Jaywalking, in which Jay Nordlinger presents what is essentially an audio version of Impromptus. Go here. Also, to get Digging In: Further Collected Writings of Jay Nordlinger, go here.


The Latest