This Unholy Mess


No Time to Be Tiptoeing

Not much doubt that we are all drowning in the various to-and-fro commentaries concerning the FBI search warrant served at Mar-a-Elba on 8 August. From the paranoid, delusional MAGA crowd, it’s all pretty much what you might expect: It’s a hoax! The classified documents were planted! The DOJ, the FBI, the court system–they’re all corrupt! Look! Over there! Look what Obama did!
It’s a reasonable bet that, along with the Con-Artist Formerly Known as “President,” the people making comments like these have no notion whatsoever of the institutional guardrails that define the functioning of the Department of Justice and the FBI. It’s even more likely that none of them have a clue about the process involved in obtaining a search warrant.
If this noise weren’t so dangerous to our nation’s institutions and the individuals who maintain them, it would be kind of cute to see MAGA’s corroded collective brain desperately rifling through possible excuses and explanations that might deflect from the potentially criminal activities of the former “president.”
I have to say, though, one of the most disturbing aspects of the whole case is one particular response from some commentators of a more-or-less moderate stripe, including the much-respected David Brooks and George Will. The argument is that it was a mistake for the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, to greenlight the search because it only added heat to the already-simmering cauldron of social unrest. Was it really worth doing if it causes a further cratering of what is already pretty precarious domestic tranquility? I think George Will expressed the argument best when he said that the search only served to provide the former “president” with another chance to pull the press down into the mud with him, “where he has home-field advantage.”
Note that these commentators are not saying the search was illegitimate or unlawful, but that it was somehow unwise as a strategy. They are saying it might not be worth risking setting off some heavily-armed loonies who have no interest in facts or the rule of law.
This is unsettling for a number of reasons, the most significant being that it smells like they are advocating appeasement. Appeasement of a know-nothing mob that blindly follows the blustering of a former “president” addicted to the kind of kamikaze self-aggrandizement that can only be sated by the most lavish and constant lying. Do these commentators believe that this mob will just go away if the rest of us tiptoe around them long enough? Will they stand down if we allow their Dear Leader to get away with lawbreaking that would elicit a law-enforcement response to the same actions from a lesser public figure?
Hah, I say.
In fact the search was not just advisable, it was vital. Not to have done it would have been to abandon the rule of law that has seen us through our entire history—and abandon it why? Because of intimidation. Because of a preference to smooth things over. Because of a desire to offer special treatment to a former “president” who, though insisting last spring that he had “cooperated fully” with the National Archives and the Department of Justice, still had more than twenty boxes of records at Mar-a-Elba, some of them highly classified.
The truth is, the rule of law has taken a terrible beating in the last few years, even before this issue of archival documents arose.
Rejection of the rule of law is also at the heart of the absurd election fraud claims perpetrated by the former “president” and carried on, blissfully free of rationality, by his mob. They carried on their objections to the election results even when those objections had all the authenticity of Rudy Giuliani’s Jiffy Lube hair color. Even after all the courts—including SCOTUS—had dismissed the claims of fraud or technical violations of state election statutes, about a third of all voters brushed past those valid, dispositive legal decisions. Their resentful, evidence-free “feeling” about the election results took precedence over all else. Does this mean the rest of us should accede to their fantasies at the cost of the rule of law? Do the rest of us, those who want to see laws enforced fairly and equally, want to give the former “president” a mulligan on his illegal stashing of classified documents because we are worried about possible mindless violence? For the sake of the future of our unique, ingenious form of government, I hope not.