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Captain Ahab rides again

Kenneth D. Gough • Apr 26, 2019 at 7:45 AM

Well, the Mueller report landed not with a bang but, as most reasonable people predicted long ago, with a whimper. To no one’s surprise, the Russians did their dead-level best to interfere in the election, although no Americans knowingly helped them. Unseemly acts were committed by naïve political neophytes and a few really-unsavory characters, some of which approached criminality, but which, we should be thankful, never crossed the line. At least, so say the professional prosecutors exercising their prosecutorial discretion, based on their professional judgment as to whether or not they can get a conviction.

The Friday after “The Thursday,” I got in the car, turned on NPR’s “Morning Edition” as I often do, and settled in for the drive to work. The guest was a former White House lawyer brought on to comment on the report. The anchor did his absolute best to get him to say what he thought the report “says about the president’s character.” Being a smart lawyer, he nimbly dodged the increasingly-frustrated reporter. He pointed out that legal advisers advise, and are ethically bound not to talk about it.

What he could say was what the report said, summarized above. What he didn’t say, but which was ably communicated by his circumspection, was that what he thought about the “president’s character” was protected by attorney-client privilege and no one else’s business, anyway. What counted was what the president actually did. Based on that, we can safely say that the president’s advisers did their jobs. No matter how much ranting and raving he did on Twitter and to his adoring fans, in the end he cooperated fully, held back nothing, did not perjure himself or suborn perjury (although it’s clear he would have, but had sense enough to bow to his lawyers’ insistence otherwise), and let the investigation run its almost-interminable course. He may have the impulse control of a spoiled 5-year-old and the instincts of a mafia don, but he isn’t stupid. (That last sentence, by the way, could have been written just as appropriately about Bill Clinton.)

This, of course, did not satisfy our intrepid anchor, who then turned to a reporter who duly pointed out that Mueller had uncovered lots of illegality, including a bunch of Russian trolls who had been indicted — at which point I burst out laughing and turned off the radio.

Those Russian trolls are surely quaking in their boots. Their indictments may preclude them from taking their kids to Disneyworld this year, but otherwise are badges of honor that will entitle them to all the rewards the Russian state can bestow. And should. They helped Vladimir Putin score an all-but-unbelievable victory over the U.S., with the active (if unwitting) assistance of much of the American press, the Democratic Party, and more than a few Never Trumpers on the right.

However, the “unwitting” claim becomes increasingly difficult to maintain as time goes on and more comes out. Unless we are to believe that all the aforementioned parties are in the tank for Putin — and that really is incredible — how else to account for their actions?

In Moby Dick, we last see Captain Ahab entangled in ropes, stabbing at the great whale with a harpoon and damning it to hell. If we could speak to Ahab in his watery grave, he would no doubt assure us that the death of Moby Dick was well worth the destruction of his ship, the loss of his crew, and his own life. He would be grateful that one man survived to tell his heroic story. And he would find any other view incomprehensible. His obsession drove him mad, blinding him to the awful, despicable truth of what he had done, the useless, criminal waste of it all.

Is that what we have here? I'm no admirer of Trump, as my readers will attest, but it seems to be the case. The conviction that he is evil and must be destroyed has gone well beyond the bounds of reason. Understandable, perhaps, of some of the crazier uber-partisans in our occasionally-crazy political class. In their case, the voters will render their verdict soon enough. But that it has consumed and continues to consume much of the news media — as demonstrated above — is beyond excuse or understanding.

What’s needed is adult supervision. Nancy Pelosi, to her credit, is trying to exercise some in Congress, although with limited success; a few of her committee chairmen simply refuse to listen or learn. But who is doing the job at NPR, MSNBC, the AP, et cetera? At this point, at least, it would seem, no one.

Alas, Captain Ahab rides again.

Kenneth D. Gough of Elizabethton is a semi-retired businessman.

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