June 18, 2019

The Exemplary Conservatism of Mueller

“This week, two eminent Republicans did something quite novel in 2019. They committed conservatism. By conservatism, I mean a philosophy of limited, constitutional government, individual rights, trust in tradition, love of country, prudence in foreign policy and restraint at home. Restraint means not doing something that you could. It means conceding the right of your opponents to run the country for a while — for the sake of the common good. It means admitting that sometimes you’re wrong. It means give as well as take. It often means compromise.

First up, Robert Mueller. I think it’s worth reiterating how impeccably he has behaved in what has become an extremely tense constitutional moment. He kept his cool and maintained his silence in an era of massive and deafening oversharing. His bland affect is attuned to the role he plays: as a neutral enforcer of the rule of law. He strikes me, in this sense, as a classic conservative — dedicated to existing institutions and liberal democratic norms. And he felt the need to explain this week, in the wake of the obfuscations and misdirections of William Barr, what his report actually outlined, its reach, and, most importantly, its limits.

Any objective reading of the report would come to the conclusion that the president clearly obstructed justice — several times. In fact, Volume II is proof of the president’s multiple attempts to rig, stymie, pressure, and prematurely end the investigation into Russian interference in our elections — including witness tampering, and alteration of documents. Mueller did not need to go into all this, but he restated why it matters: “When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.””

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