One of the handful of instances in my life when I wished I could have been a political advisor was when, in the 1988 presidential debate, Michael Dukakis was asked whether he would support the death penalty should his wife, Kitty, be raped and murdered. If his deadly dry and academic response about how he opposed the death penalty didn’t kill his chance at victory in 1988, it certainly wounded it.
His response should have been something like, “I’d want to personally castrate the bastard with a rusty tin can lid and choke the life out of him with my bare hands, of course. It’s fortunate for me and you and everyone who lives in our wonderful country that our laws are not founded on our private passions but the presumption of innocence and the sacred guarantee of due process — for everyone, no matter how loathsome they may be.”
I think that would have been a much better response, don’t you agree? It would have been a human response. It might have even saved us from the putrid continuation of the Reagan legacy in the form of Bush 41. It also happens to have the virtue of being true.
So, as frustrating as it may be to me and all of you, brothers and sisters, we should thank our personal gods and the Constitution that American justice is slow. Indeed, you can probably gage the depth and breadth of any tyranny by its velocity from suspicion to firing squad. Slow is good. When it comes to justice, always prefer the tortoise to the hare. You may find yourself one day at the receiving end of the hand of Lady Justice and you’ll be glad her steps are careful, measured and deliberate.
So the good news is Manhattan’s district attorney has convened a grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump. But — and this is the hard part for a lot of us, including me — the panel will sit for three days a week for six months. In other words, we are going to have to wait for this one. And while we wait it’s going to seem to a lot of us that Trump is winning, or Trump has won, or Trump has gotten away with something. So it’s a good idea to occasionally stop and reflect that American justice is slow and magisterial for a reason.
In its glacial progress toward justice, the investigation by New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr of the former president has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. By empaneling this new grand jury, Vance indicates he has found evidence sufficient to obtain a criminal conviction. It’s important to remember that Vance doesn’t need to empanel anyone, he could charge Trump right now. But a grand jury indictment carries more weight, and it carries with it the inescapable implication that the charges have merit.
We are all familiar with disappointment at the end of a long wait. My personal public disgust with Robert Mueller can be found in the archives of Palmer Report. But this time is different. There is no heavy hand of the Trump administration, no Bill Barr to meddle. Whatever comes from the secret depths of the grand jury’s deliberations will be unsullied by interference for a corrupt purpose.
In the movie “The Verdict” Paul Newman reminds us that a court of law doesn’t guarantee justice but a chance for justice. The investigations into the criminal activities of Donald Trump represent the people’s chance for justice. I think this time we just might get it, too. But we will have to wait for it. As my grandma used to say, good things sometimes take time. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.