When it first came to my attention that Merrick Garland had a major announcement to make on Thursday afternoon I thought: Oh goodie, here it comes! Alas, it wasn’t what I had hoped. Instead, of telling us that he was handing down one or several major indictments naming Donald Trump as defendant or codefendant, Mr. Garland said he was appointing Robert Hur to serve as a special counsel to review classified materials found in President Joe Biden’s Delaware residence and the Washington DC office he once used.
It is a reminder of the times we live in. In a paradoxical effort not to appear political, the attorney general of the United States must make very political choices. I understand why it’s necessary, I just wish it were not. As I wrote in a recent article, President Biden did nothing wrong. But while the contrast between Biden’s innocent bureaucratic goof and Donald Trump’s months of lies and obstruction are obvious to any reasonable person, it’s not obvious to stupid people being manipulated by political hacks.
In short, there are times when we must make small concessions in order to drive home larger points. I have no doubt that Mr. Hur is an honourable man performing an egregious but necessary job. I just wish it wasn’t necessary. One thing you can bet, whatever conclusion Robert Hur reaches, unless it’s a screaming condemnation leading to an indictment of President Biden, it won’t be enough for the monsters of deception and hypocrisy that is today’s Republican Party.
Nor is this move likely to stop a series of Benghazi-like “investigations” being instituted by the new McCarthy-era 118th Congress. The only thing that could temper Republican zeal in their headlong drive to “get Biden for any reason at all,” is it’s going to make Republicans look very bad in a court of law. They may be able to convince most of their mallet-headed MAGA Trump-idolaters that Biden’s innocent slip up is somehow worse than Donald Trump’s criminal malfeasance and obstruction, but it’s going to be an almost impossible task to convince a judge and jury in court. And anything disparaging Republicans have to say about Biden can and will be used in a court of law.
I live in a country with a system of government much older than America’s. While it’s full of charming archaisms and anachronisms, the government of the United Kingdom at least managed to unite almost everyone, including most members of their own political party, to show two previous prime ministers the door. And both those prime ministers were Conservatives who committed offences far less egregious than what Donald Trump typically did on a good day.
We have no problem sending naughty politicians to their just rewards in Britain. It’s terrifying by contrast how long it takes to do the same thing in America. It’s frustrating beyond measure how careful the good guys must be and how sloppy and infuriating the bad guys can be — and get away with it. But it’s the situation we are in. Handling monsters and narcissists and psychopaths in today’s America requires poorly-fitting kid gloves. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.