- - Thursday, July 25, 2019


Most of us have seen a bad play or two; even the Great White Way produces the occasional turkey. But it’s still striking to reflect that the congressional Democrats who presided over Wednesday’s hearings with former special counsel Robert Mueller actually rehearsed their roles beforehand. In the event, so bad was the performance that one wonders whether their rehearsals were straight out of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” — like Leo Bloom and Max Bialystock, it’s as if they were hoping to bomb.

Robert S. Mueller is a patriotic, deeply admirable American. Mr. Mueller, from a privileged background, nonetheless volunteered to serve in Vietnam and ended up a decorated Marine. After he returned home he began a lifetime of public service. He worked as a prosecutor, and as FBI director, confirmed by overwhelming Senate majorities. Mr. Mueller’s fidelity to our nation is undeniable.

So, too, alas, is that Mr. Mueller’s halting, seemingly confused performance before both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday was, to put it delicately, underwhelming.

Mr. Mueller,” this newspaper reported on Thursday, “during two hearings contradicted himself on key points, lacked familiarity with his own work and dodged roughly 200 questions posed to him.” Even prominent liberals were aghast: “Former top Obama strategist David Axelrod said Mr. Mueller didn’t appear to be very ‘sharp,’ and liberal star filmmaker Michael Moore called him ‘stumbling.’” the Times added.

Chuck Todd, the MSNBC newsreader, fretted that the “optics” of the hearing were bad for Democrats. Prominent liberal law professor Laurence Tribe called the hearing a “disaster.”

The House Democrats who convened the two hearings never made any secret of the fact their purpose was show business. They fret that too few Americans have read the 400 page plus “Mueller Report,” which, in their telling, describes any manner of misdeed by President Donald J. Trump.

The idea, then, was to put on a televised spectacle. Mr. Mueller, they hoped, would provide lurid details that would titillate American TV viewers and turn them pro-impeachment. They basically wanted to turn the dry book into a blockbuster movie. That’s why, multiple news sources reported, the Democrats rehearsed their questions together beforehand. They were planning on a boffo performance.

It’s unlikely they were counting on Mr. Mueller — in his defense, now a septuagenarian — to turn in such a wan performance. The great American’s feebleness on television only undermined the Democrat’s hope of galvanizing a new pro-impeachment movement among the masses. This can only come as a bitter disappointment, given that pure politics was the only reason to hold the hearings in the first place — especially considering that Mr. Mueller had made clear beforehand he would not discuss anything beyond what appeared in the report itself. The hearing existed only to be televised.

In a way, Mr. Mueller’s performance may have been so underwhelming that he may unwittingly done the Democrats a favor. Now, they can point to the Mueller investigation and claim, by virtue of the evident weakness of the man who presided over it, that it was not as thorough as it might have been. Indeed, Mr. Mueller’s performance has in fact given them the perfect excuse to keep investigating and investigating and investigating. As if they needed one.

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