Amid the hubbub over the Trump administration’s latest affront to the rule of law, it’s worth keeping in mind what the late great Anglo-American journalist Sally Belfrage had to say about the three rules of US discourse:
Never mean what you say.
Never say what you mean.
Belfrage, who died tragically in her mid-50s and whose McCarthy-era memoir, Un-American Activities, is still worth reading, was talking about teenage American girls. But she may as well have been discussing Democrats working themselves up into an entirely artificial lather over Attorney General William Barr’s veto of a recommended seven to nine-year prison sentence for alleged Russiagate mastermind Roger Stone.
The ever-righteous Adam Schiff declared that the AG is guilty of “a blatant abuse of power,” Elizabeth Warren says he “should resign or face impeachment,” while Hillary Clinton promptly accused his boss, Donald Trump, of “using the powers of the presidency like a tyrant.” Not to be outdone, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have both called for an investigation.
But what we know from Belfrage is that such words are not to be taken at face value. Schiff knows that the term “abuse of power” will raise eyebrows since he’s spent the last three years using his position on the House intelligence committee to drum up hysteria over nonexistent Russian collusion. But he figures that if he says it one more time, then maybe Barr will take notice. Warren is likewise aware that impeachment is a dead letter, but still hopes that the I-word’s magic is not entirely spent. Ditto Clinton, Pelosi, Schumer, and the rest of the impeachment chorus. They figure that if they raise another clamor, then maybe, just maybe, Barr will back off.
But since everyone knows it’s not going to happen, what’s it really about?
The answer has little do with a two-bit dirty trickster like Stone and everything to do with a goateed and balding federal prosecutor in Connecticut named John Durham. Durham is the guy whom Barr tapped last April to head up a second investigation into Russiagate – not collusion itself but how the investigation got started in the first place and why it dragged on so absurdly long. Previously, Durham was so highly regarded that he was entrusted with the most ultra-sensitive tasks. In 2002, he helped convict two retired FBI agents on charges of protecting a pair of notorious gangster informants named Whitey Bulger and Stephen Flemmi, helping them evade arrest and even murder a Tulsa businessman. In 2008, he headed up an investigation into the CIA’s destruction of torture videotapes, while in 2009 he took charge of an inquiry into CIA “enhanced interrogation” in general.
Leftists were not pleased with the latter two since neither resulted in a criminal charge. But as far as the establishment was concerned, Durham was above reproach. But then came the Russiagate investigation, and suddenly he was the opposite. Vanity Fair said the AG had gone “rogue” in appointing him to the job and suggested that he was “doing the partisan bidding of his boss.” Vox.com worried that “a hit job” was in the works and speculated that Durham was “trying to protect Trump politically and damage his political opponents.” The New Yorker accused him of entertaining “bizarre conspiracy theories” and quoted a disgruntled Russiagate investigator to the effect that the probe was “evocative of regimes in history that conduct purges for perceived disloyalty.”
Formerly a prosecutor’s prosecutor, he was now little better than a presidential hitman. But the real reason Democrats are up in arms over the Durham investigation is that they’re afraid it will undermine the one that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller concluded last March. Mueller is the Ivy League twit who covered up Saudi involvement in 9/11 and testified on the eve of the 2003 Iraqi invasion that Saddam Hussein’s WMD’s posed an imminent threat. In July, he stammered and mumbled his way through testimony before the House intelligence committee and didn’t even seem familiar with his own findings. Still, while his report concluded there was no evidence in support of collusion, it said that Russia had carried out a “sweeping and systematic” interference campaign in the 2016 election regardless, that “the Trump Campaign showed interest” in hacked emails that Russian intelligence allegedly fed to WikiLeaks, and that the Trump campaign had “multiple contacts” with individuals tied to the Russian government.
This was all Democrats needed to bash Trump and move ahead with impeachment. In their eyes, consequently, the Mueller report became the Gospels, the Qur’an, and maybe the Upanishads all rolled into one. That’s why, in the face of the latest threat from Barr and Durham, they’re girding themselves for battle in defense of the sacred text.
The fact that three of the four Roger Stone prosecutors who resigned in a huff over Barr’s veto were part of Mueller’s Russiagate team shows how the battle lines are being drawn. It’s Mueller versus Barr and Durham – maybe we should call them “Barrham”? – an investigation that ended ten months versus one that is still ongoing. The fact that no one knows what Durham will come up with is irrelevant. Since he works for Barr, his findings must be invalid and corrupt. He must therefore be stopped.
But since Democrat never mean what they say or say what they mean, they must dial up their outrage to show they’re really, truly sincere. One would never guess from such sturm und drang, meanwhile, that Stone is a two-bit hustler who tried to obstruct a House intelligence committee that Schiff had already turned into a three-ring circus of anti-Russian conspiracy-mongering; that not even Randy Credico, the New York radio host whose dog Stone threatened to kidnap if he spoke to the feds, took him seriously, or that seven to nine years behind bars for such a minor transgression is obviously over the top.
No, the republic is in danger, democracy is under threat, the rule of law must be preserved, and so on and so forth. When Durham at last comes out with his report, the outcry will start up all over again, louder than ever. But how much sound and fury can Americans take before realizing that it signifies nothing at all?