There’s a politically incorrect question hanging over Washington that it’s almost safe to ask: How much longer can Robert Mueller spin his client-for-life until even Nice People start asking questions?
Mr. Mueller has been hacking away at what was once called the “Russian collusion investigation,” now in its third year, and all we’ve seen so far is more evidence that a lot of shady lawyers do well in Washington. What is the paragon of rectitude up to?
Banging on Donald Trump is high sport in Washington, where there are rules about how everyone, even presidents, must behave, and the Donald makes up his own rules as he goes along. That’s frowned on if you’re not a member of the elites, or someone who stands still and wags his tail while an elite scratches his ears. Some of the press elites were taught, when they were learning their craft in the provinces, to be tough but fair to all. They learned in Washington that it’s OK to be fairer to some than to others.
The Donald probably makes his own life harder than it could be, with his vulgarity, his crudeness and his talent for telling stretchers that sometimes stretch into fibs, prevarications, exaggerations and even unto lies, which is an art perfected into a science in Washington. In addition, the Donald suffers from a permanently swollen ego — “stretchus enlarjus” in the Latin as taught in the more advanced medical schools. He is by no means unique; the emergency rooms are crowded with such cases in Washington when campaign fever advances on the land.
The question debated late into the night by Washington wiseheads, when the Wild Turkey or Jack Daniel’s begins to fall low in the bottle (there’s a mild ginger beer when a millennial joins the discussion), is whether the Donald could accomplish more if he could recall a few of the manners he learned at his mother’s knee, put his Twitter account on hold, and lower his voice. Or is it the brash manner, his endless tweets, the vulgarity he acquired on a hundred construction sites, that enables him to accomplish a remarkable number of things — big ones, mostly — in less than a full first term, and makes him so appealing to what Hillary Clinton calls “the deplorables.”
Probably not. If she had been elected and had Mr. Trump’s first two years behind her, there would be petitions to the pope (led by Nancy Pelosi) to declare Hillary Clinton the first Protestant saint. And why not? After two years’ time, the Trump economy is astonishing, with full employment, an expanding workforce, a broad economic recovery, 3 percent growth, two sterling Supreme Court appointments, and grudging respect abroad where they’re still trying to figure out what hit them.
The president’s greatest contribution to the nation’s politics is the deep impression he made with his boot on the rear end of some of the people who needed it most. Some of these people were at the FBI, where they put the pursuit of crooks and killers aside and set out to destroy Mr. Trump. The cabal tolerated by senior officials, including James Comey, was even charmed by an intramural romance between two senior members of the cabal, Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
The sweethearts of the crime scene came a cropper because in their passion they left text messages implicating themselves in a stop-Trump scheme, conducted on government computers. The agent and FBI lawyer, discussing the plot, lamented that after the FBI looked into the collusion accusation, they concluded “there’s no big there there.” Lisa Page later confirmed in testimony to a House committee that the “there” referred to the Russian collusion accusation.
The media has been searching for more than two years for the “big there” that would rid us of this president, but all we’ve got is a diet of vegetarian snacks that satisfies nobody’s hunger. The latest sirloin turned out to be a soy burger. It was a story in The New York Times that the FBI opened an investigation into Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey, which the agency thought was suspicious behavior. The story is still looking for the exit ramp to nowhere.
Now ABC News has reported that the big “there” is as elusive as ever. Correspondent Jon Karl says people who are close to Robert Mueller tell him that Mr. Mueller’s summary of his investigation is “certain to be anti-climactic” because there are no bombshells. Just another wet fuse.
Meanwhile, the beat goes on elsewhere. “The United States,” writes Conrad Black, an Englishman, in Canada’s National Post, “appearing to be disorderly, its establishment and media at war with the occupant of the White House, is demonstrating almost effortlessly how illusory is the idea that any other country can challenge [America’s] pre-eminence among the world’s nations.”
If America is not great again, it’s getting close.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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