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Politics

Making a point with high-volume quiet

By Bob Franken on

In a toxic national environment that usually rewards loud, hateful bluster, it warms the heart to listen to points rendered far more effective by being delivered in an understated manner. "If you really want to be heard, whisper," so the saying goes. When you need living proof, look no further than now ex-special counsel Bob Mueller, who joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in delivering quiet jabs that do enormous damage to their antagonists.

Much has been made of Nancy Pelosi's ability to clobber in such a demure way. A reader reminded that me that Pelosi's daughter Alexandra put it this way: "She'll cut your head off and you'll never know you're bleeding." We're reminded that Mueller is another one who gets a rise without raising his voice. He was retiring while retiring.

He broke his long silence with the public announcement that he was officially ending his term as the special counsel investigating all things Donald Trump. Well, he sorta broke his silence, coming close to mumbling his way through his statement. In the process, he laid waste to Trump's "no collusion, no obstruction" bleating, and left little doubt that a man who wasn't president of the United States would have been prosecuted for obstruction of justice: "If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so," he said in the hushest of tones. There are Justice Department constraints, he murmured, on pursuing criminal action against a chief executive.

That's the job for Congress, he went on, almost imperceptibly placing himself in the raging House Democrat debate over whether to "impeach this motherf-----," as one of them indelicately put it. Mueller, by contrast, was the epitome of delicacy: "The Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing."

And what is that process? Could it be IMPEACHMENT?! Well, that's "certainly on the table," Pelosi allowed, which, as always, is the platitudinous way that leaders utter fighting words without really meaning them. As speaker, Pelosi has done everything she could to tamp down the spreading flames of so many in her party who are demanding that she and they lower the boom on Trump by starting the process aimed at removing him from office.

Except it wouldn't, she argued, for reasons that have been widely discussed. Besides, there really isn't time before the election to fire him, even if that was possible, which it isn't. All it would serve to do is further inflame the resentments of Trump's supporters, inspiring them to follow him to the ends of the earth -- and risk falling off, if you know the flat-earth thinking of some of them. More importantly, she contends, his hordes would follow him into the voting booth, while the rushed crush of anti-Trumpers would stay home, turned off by the petty infighting of their party's contenders. So the impeachment process to remove him from the White House would fail and paradoxically make it more likely that Trump would prevail and stick around for another term if voters got disgusted by all the games. Those are the arguments that are quickly losing ground among impatient Democrats, who have now been further energized by Bob Mueller and his low-energy rendition of "Take This Job and Shove It."

 

Adding to the ennui was Mueller's impression that he would really, truly prefer not to testify in public. How do we know that? Maybe it was when he muttered, "The report is my testimony."

Still, House Democrats want him to appear before them, knowing full well what a spectacle that would be, and a televised one at that. The lone Republican who has been pushing impeachment, Rep Justin Amash, offered his own cliche: "The ball is in our court, Congress ..."

Actually, it probably is not. What he should have said was, "The ball is in our court, voters." Said quietly, of course.

(c) 2019 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

 

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