Matt Bai’s Political World
Fire the special counsel. Please.
Matt Bai April 12, 2018
Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: AP, Getty
Let me put it to you this way, Mr. President. Who are you going to listen to — the voice of the stable genius inside your head, or the timid voices of experience, the ones that said you’d never win?
You know what you want to do. Just do it already.
Oh sure, all the sour-faced pundits are warning of a national crisis if you follow through. All those bed-wetting Republicans on the Hill are counseling patience and caution. Your senior staff is glued to their Twitter feeds, praying you won’t hit Send on something you can’t take back.
But they’re not the ones who sit in that swivel chair, are they. They never in their lives registered so much as a blip in the Nielsen ratings. Paul Ryan’s so smart that you gave him the biggest tax cut in the history of civilization and he still can’t hold his seat in Podunk, Wis.
Go on, Mr. President. Fire Bob Mueller. Please.
Don’t stop there, either — fire the rest of them, too. Sessions will be useless. That Boy Scout Rosenstein won’t have your back, either. There must be something in the halls of the Justice Department that causes people to suddenly grow a conscience, like some goiter sprouting on the soul.
Burn it down, Mr. President. Do what you really came here to do. Let’s see how those Ivy League lawyers like taking orders from Attorney General Laura Ingraham and her new deputy, Michael Cohen.
You said it yourself: This latest raid on Cohen, your most trusted personal lackey, was an attack on America. I couldn’t agree more. The first image that jumped into my mind when I heard the news was Pearl Harbor.
Many years from now, our grandchildren will mark the day of the Stormy Daniels Raid with little shoebox dioramas of federal prosecutors marching into Rockefeller Center.
What were they really after, anyway? Payoffs to paramours? Campaign finance violations? No, Mueller’s aiming higher than that.
Prosecutors sometimes talk about “tickling the wire,” by which they mean purposely freaking out witnesses who might be under electronic surveillance. You rattle the dumpster a little, and then you sit back and listen as the rats inside panic.
My guess is that Mueller is onto the real stuff now: loans from Moscow laundered through European banks, clumsy backchannel connections to your meathead son-in-law, bullying from the Oval Office that might cross the line into outright obstruction.
He’s crossed the moat and breached the castle now. He’s rummaging through the Hall of Armor.
And what he’s doing now is goading you. Tickling the wire. Pushing your buttons to see just how reckless your cronies can get.
You and I know who Mueller is, Mr. President. Born in Manhattan, schooled at St. Paul’s and Princeton. He played high school hockey with John Kerry. He even looks like John Kerry. He might be John Kerry, for all we know.
The newspaper profiles never fail to mention that Mueller joined the Marines, fought in Vietnam, got himself covered head to toe with medals for valor. Meanwhile, you described your own version of combat, after all those deferments, as having dodged venereal diseases while hopping from one bed to the next.
Can’t anyone around here take a joke?
No, Mueller isn’t just a prosecutor; he’s the stand-in for all the bluebloods and public service types who never respected you, who never thought you belonged, who always thought you too coarse and outer-borough, too much of a carnival barker, to join their clubs or sit on their boards.
He’s trying to destroy you, Mr. President. He thinks you’re beneath the office.
And if you’re going to stop him, what better time to do it than now, just as Jim Comey’s big memoir hits the virtual shelves? You don’t need me to tell you what getting rid of Mueller would do to the Comey Sanctification Tour. This is what you’re better at than anyone alive — commandeering the news cycle.
This isn’t hard. Look at all the people you’ve already fired. Priebus, Flynn, Tillerson, Price, McMaster — the list goes on.
Of course, you didn’t actually fire them, eye to eye. That’s something you only do on TV, when people are watching and you get to humiliate some wannabe TV star. Your style is more to let them know on Twitter, or in the fake news.
Which is why I’ve theorized that you’re a man of show business, not of action. I’ve said that other world leaders sense your insecurity and walk all over you. I’ve never bought the storyline about you as an aspiring tyrant because, when you get down to it, I don’t think you really have the steel.
So prove me wrong. Reprise Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre. Find your Robert Bork.
Because here’s the thing, Mr. President: All these responsible people frantically warning of a constitutional crisis if you do this — they’re afraid. They don’t think the institutions of American democracy and jurisprudence are strong enough now to withstand the assault. They think the Republican Party you’ve annexed will prostrate itself in your presence, as it has for the entire last year.
Even more than that, they don’t believe in the voters. Their faith is shaken. They fear that Americans are so angry at the system, so dimwitted and disillusioned, that we’ll accept anything that comes disguised as anti-elitism.
They worry that you’ll win, and America’s claim to being a nation of laws will be lost.
I don’t. If I’m being straight with you, I think firing Mueller is your Waterloo. And this kind of clear-cut crisis may be exactly what we need.
I think there are more than enough Republicans who genuinely believe in the bedrock principles of American government (and, not for nothing, who can see what your leadership is about to do to them in the midterm elections), and a solid majority of patriotic voters who won’t stand by and watch another president try to strong-arm the judicial system.
I think trying to shut down the special counsel and seize control of the Justice Department will be the thing that brings this entire Legoland of an administration crashing down on itself.
So enough bluster, Mr. President. It’s time to walk the walk.
Because I’m pretty sure that all you’ll have left, when Mueller and Rosenstein and Sessions are all back at law firms basking in the public’s admiration, are enough unshakable, reactionary supporters to just about fill a park in Charlottesville.
Everyone else in your party will have moved on to President Pence.