When The Bar Is Low Enough…

In a recent column for The Atlantic, David Frum reacted to the Barr version of the Mueller Report by pointing out that the special counsel’s task was limited to investigation of legal liability.

And as he noted, absence of clearly prosecutable criminal behavior is a pretty low bar.

Frum was a speechwriter for George W. Bush; in my view he has substantially if not totally redeemed himself with a series of thoughtful columns intensely critical of the current occupant of the Oval Office. This column made several important points after a satisfyingly snarky initial paragraph:

Good news, America. Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help, the president did not conspire or collude with his helpers. He was the beneficiary of a foreign intelligence operation, but not an active participant in that operation. He received the stolen goods, but he did not conspire with the thieves in advance.

Frum focuses in on the important question that Barr’s summary suggests remains unanswered, although the actual report may shed some light on it.

The question unanswered by the attorney general’s summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report is: Why? Russian President Vladimir Putin took an extreme risk by interfering in the 2016 election as he did. Had Hillary Clinton won the presidency—the most likely outcome—Russia would have been exposed to fierce retaliation by a powerful adversary. The prize of a Trump presidency must have glittered alluringly, indeed, to Putin and his associates. Why?

Frum considers some of the possible reasons: Trump’s distaste for NATO, his contempt for the rule of law, or (my own guess) the possession of information with which they might compromise him. Whatever the reason, the conclusions to be drawn from what we do know are now to be acted upon by Congress and the voters.

The 2016 election was altered by Putin’s intervention, and a finding that the Trump campaign only went along for the ride does not rehabilitate the democratic or patriotic legitimacy of the Trump presidency. Trump remains a president rejected by more Americans than those who voted for him, who holds his job because a foreign power violated American laws and sovereignty. It’s up to Congressto deal with this threat to American self-rule.

Mueller hasn’t provided answers, so much as he has posed a question: Are Americans comfortable with this president in the White House, now that they know he broke no prosecutable criminal statutes on his way into high office?

This American isn’t.

We learned during the Nixon debacle that “I am not a crook” is an insufficient qualification for the office.


  1. My memory is admittedly foggy on this issue but; during the 2016 Trump campaign, didn’t he accuse President Obama of using phone taps to spy on him? Didn’t that prove to be a legitimate phone tap on a Russian businessman/agent/dignitary which led to the infamous Trump Tower Meeting which seems to have faded into obscurity due to current chaos regarding the Mueller report? “Spying” is a term Trump would naturally latch onto and cling to as a life-preserver during the current hectic (unending bullshit) situation his administration has this country currently embroiled in.

    The United States of America, our government and all Americans will never be free of Trump’s infectious system of governing by lies, chaos and the White House revolving door of government administrators. These Trump appointed administrators last only as long as they totally agree with his ever-changing, paranoid, baseless beliefs; the Trump “bar” is moved at his whim…keeping us in limbo and off-balance.

  2. “Are Americans comfortable with this president in the White House, now that they know he broke no prosecutable criminal statute on his way into high office?”

    There is something very sick in the minds of Trump supporters at this point in time. They take a kind of pride in their staunch stand with a man who “got away with it”. It is the same hero worship bestowed upon others who got away with it from celebrities and sports figures to Wall Street moguls and industry giants. “Getting away with it” seems to be the goal in Trump’s society where values and character have been replaced by avarice, and even if you don’t amass a fortune, at least you put the screws to the system you blame for your failure.

  3. The Americans who support 45 are comfortable with him even if he does break prosecutable criminal statutes. He was absolutely right when he said he could shoot somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any support.

    The real question is, “Will Democrats put aside their bickering and hurt feelings, no matter who wins the primary, and vote for the good of the country?”

  4. “They take a kind of pride in their staunch stand with a man who “got away with it”. It is the same hero worship bestowed upon others who got away with it from celebrities and sports figures to Wall Street moguls and industry giants.”

    Theresa; your comment above immediately took me back to the love-groupies who were enthralled with Ted Bundy, The Night Stalker and other serial rapists and murderers who drew them to support their “hero”. Both of those named married one of their followers. What kind of mind-set draws the support of blatantly dangerous people whose criminal acts are deplorable? Racism and bigotry in all its ugly forms is obvious with Trump; but they don’t seem to be aware they are supporting the destruction of their own government and their own country. How low is their bar set…do they even have a bar or is it an “open border” between hate and human rights?

    I used to ask if we, as Americans, have at times set the bar too high with our expectation of our Presidents. I will no longer question that; prior to Trump we demanded they have standards equal to that bar to strengthen this country. Barr has lowered that bar publicly with one statement which Trump has attached himself to and he won’t let go. It is another Friday with another Trump issue to chew on over the weekend as he plays golf.

  5. I just saw the new Netflix movie “The Highwaymen”. The last scenes were very telling. The shot up car with the bullet-riddled bodies of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow was being towed through Arcadia , LA and crowds of people surrounded the car clutching at the bodies for souvenirs. Earlier, it was made clear that these two cold-blooded murderers of innocent people and police officers were folk heroes to the “oppressed” masses at the height of the depression. Could it be that poverty, or the fear of destitution be the force that drives people to criminals like Bonnie and Clyde or Donald Trump?

    Is it that people who aspire to be rich are smitten by the flouting of laws that they feel also oppress their opportunity to live the high life? There is something about wealth that turns people from normally community organisms (See the Hoovertowns in the movie too.) to self-serving lunatics who will follow any siren song of wealth and status? I remember a guy in a town near San Diego winning the lottery – this when the California lottery was still new to the world. He vowed to just keep doing what he was doing, buy his mother a house and put aside money for his kids’ college fund. That fantasy lasted about 18 months. By two years after getting his big check, he’d pissed it all away in Las Vegas and ended up being broke.

    Money and wealth can be a siren song indeed that can lead anyone to crashing on the rocks of self-serving dementia. Hell, 25% of our nation’s people are doing the same thing regarding Trump, except they’re getting screwed and still cling to their dreams. Pathetic.

  6. I would remind all that we will need more than just Democrat voters to beat The Duck in 2020. And, with a mighty beating, we could send a message to our kids, grandkids and the world that America is Great Again!

  7. Frum: ” Russia helped install your president. But although he owes his job in large part to that help….”

    Let’s stick with the facts. The latter is unknowable.

  8. Once again this time another “singer” so to speak, David Frum in this case sings out the Lyrics – It must have been the Russians. Hillary would have won, If only the Russians had not intervened. Frum adds in his column:

    “The 2016 election was altered by Putin’s intervention, and a finding that the Trump campaign only went along for the ride does not rehabilitate the democratic or patriotic legitimacy of the Trump presidency.”

    Where is the proof for this statement??? What did the Russians do???

    The other side of the coin is as I have pointed out here before – The USA has been interfering, many times with deadly consequences in the Sovereignty of foreign countries for over a century. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.

  9. Vernon, once again, we are on the same page. I immediately thought of America’s love affair with gangsters. Or, is it gangsta?

    Especially during the depression era. Our current economic inequality is nearly worse than the great depression. I keep waiting for a modern-day gangster to emerge. Instead of bullets, they’ll use computers to hack into corporate networks.

    Peggy asks, “The real question is, “Will Democrats put aside their bickering and hurt feelings, no matter who wins the primary, and vote for the good of the country?”

    It depends. Are you referring to the Corporate/Wall Street owned Democrats or the Democratic Socialists who are wanting to the power away from Wall Street and give it back to the people?

    The future of the party is with Democratic Socialists. Nancy Pelosi had to make a deal with Republicans to keep her seat because she didn’t have enough votes to retain her Speaker’s position. She’s against Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Why?

    She gets sizable donations from Big Insurance and Big Oil. Nancy represents the olde democrats who’ve contributed to our massive economic inequality.

    Joe Biden thinks the Democrat Party, “Needs him.” No, we don’t. He had his chance as Obama’s VP and whiffed horribly. In fact, their actions worsened inequality and left us with an even bigger and more concentrated financial burden. They were both clearly in Wall Street’s pocket.

    Here’s an easy prediction…if Joe Biden or another Wall Street shill wins the primary…which the media will push for, Trump will get another 4 years in office. Choose wisely.

  10. It’s interesting that despite the indictment of Russian nationals many Trumpanistas still say that only a court conviction of Russian spies would prove Trump is in office through their efforts. That may be the standard for jail but is it reasonable to hold to that standard in the case of who is our President? If it is, that opens the door wide open to all kinds of political tricks that work but we may not have laws against yet. In other words it opens the door wide open to us becoming the largest 3ird world banana republic the world has every known. Anything and everything goes.

    Of course one of the reasons that we are worrying about that for the first time in our history is that the results of the effort are on display every single day in the unending stream of lies, incompetent governance, self serving maneuvering, person over party, party over country that the news reports daily. One surely has to ask, can democracy really result in this? Is what we have been counting on for 250 years to protect our freedom that fragile?

  11. JoAnn says it well today. I am impressed with her takes. Like Sheila, I have forgiven Frum his days of Bush apostasy as he sees the current situation not as a political game but rather as an existential threat to America. He is right; it is. He is also right in noting that Mueller was and is constrained by his mandate to Russian interference in our election and that he (so far as we know per Barr) found no prosecutable crime (unless we detect one or more when we finally get a look at Mueller’s unredacted efforts in, say, 2023, or thereabouts, and the applicable statute of limitations has not expired).

    The good news is that Mueller (we’re told) has brought factual grounds for several possible crimes to light (unless Barr plays censor) that he couldn’t prosecute but that need fleshing out by jurisdictions unconstrained by his Russian interference mandate, with the result that Trump is far from out of the woods at this juncture despite his premature claims of exoneration. If so, and if such possible crimes result in Trump’s indictment and that of his inner circle and he attempts a mass pardon and succeeds in such venture, he and his inner circle are still subject to state indictment for various crimes as defined by state law, most but not all of which will have occurred in the State of New York, and he has no power of pardon for state crimes.

    As for Barr, he is the AG but he is not the Attorney General for the State of New York or the AG for other states where Trump and his cronies’ New York crimes may have spilled over, giving such states jurisdiction to indict, so I have concluded that what we are hearing on the tube today is not the end but rather prelude to the beginning of this far from over saga – so let’s stay tuned – secure in the fact that the criminal standard of proof (beyond a reasonable doubt) does not apply to legislative impeachment proceedings, whose finding(s) are not subject to appeal in any court. As Yogi noted, it’s not over till it’s over.

  12. Theresa Bowers nails it. Americans have always approved of those getting away with it. Just ask any follower and supporter of Ted Kennedy.

  13. Todd > ” I immediately thought of America’s love affair with gangsters. Or, is it gangsta?”

    Actually our “love” for gangsters or anti-heroes so to speak goes back to at least Robin Hood. I suspect other cultures had their own versions of Robin Hood. Speed ahead to modern times the Gangster Al Capone set up a soup kitchen in Chicago.

    Al Capone’s intentions were an effort to clean up his image. “120 000 meals are served by Capone Free Soup Kitchen” the Chicago Tribune headlined on December 1931. Al Capone’s soup kitchen became one of the strangest sight Chicagoans had ever seen. An army of ragged, starving men assembled three times a day beside a storefront at 935 South State Street, feasting on the largesse of Al Capone. Toasting his health. Telling the newspapers that Capone was doing more for the poor than the entire U.S. government.

    Like it or not Candidate Agent Orange had an anti-hero attraction, even though he was more of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

    I agree in total with your statement on Nancy Pelosi, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, I would say.

    The Wall Street Democrats and their puppets on MSDNC and CNN are doing their best to delete any opposition to a Biden.

  14. Sheila’s blog post could have been titled, “When the Barr is Low Enough.” If Trump can’t pull off his criminal takeover of America with the backing of the Attorney General and the Leader of the Senate, he’s not the talented and experienced mobster and tax cheat we all perceive him to be. He has surrounded himself with like -minded people who share his values, such as Ross and DeVos, and personally taken control of so many government decision-making processes, that his goal is in sight. If he can’t turn the job of Commander in Chief into the money-making machine he always hoped for, it will be because of his limited intellect, not because the institutions of democracy found a way to stop him. We need an amendment to the Constitution that takes into account how awesomely vile a rogue leader can be, and includes steps to stop him from having his way with us.

    Frum is no bum. His critiques rank alongside those of fellow Republican Steve Schmidt for insights into the black hole that is Trump’s soul. Now I’ll work on forgiving him for the $3.5 trillion he helped Bush squander in Iraq.

  15. Trump’s willingness to believe Putin rather than oor own intelligence and military agencies, to defer to Putin, and to share top secret intelligence with the Russian ambassador in the oval office itself have been a greater concern to me than whether Trump technically violated a !aw. He continually and publically puts Putin first.

    Interestingly the infamous Steele dossier said that while the Russians had compromising info on Trump, they never had to use it because Trump was so eager to please Putin without any such pressure.

    Trump has wanted to build a very visible Trump high rise in Russia for many years. That and the money it could generate could be motivation enough to Trump who was willing to promise a multi- million dollar penthouse suite to Putin to gain project approval. But the dossier says Trump was promised a 19% share of the Russian oil company if he would lift the sanctions that have pummeled the Russian economy (and the incomes of oil oligarchs and their payoffs ro Putin). Those oil company shares would amount to $12 billion according to the Russian stock exchange last summer. That’s more money than Trump has EVER been worth. Does anyone doubt that Trump is HIGHLY motivated by money? It doesn’t take a former Russian KGB agent to determine Trump’s sweet spot. Putin has Trump’s number.

    Retired Indy attorney Jim Beatty has connected all these and other dots and posted them on trumpbribe.com. One more point – a bribe is an explicitly impeachable offense in our constitution.

  16. How low does the bar have to be when obvious criminal offenses are read nationwide on TV and then at the end of that reading where everybody is thinking Hillary is going to be indicted for obstruction of justice for outright bleaching a server which is extremely complicated and expensive and the restriction of 30,000 emails that had classified information which showed more than negligence by any means. The people stood by and watched in dismay and went out a few days later and cast votes against her. That’s how a man who groped women, shorted people in business deals, and owed other people’s money to create a fortune who never was elected before became President

  17. Thank you Sheila,

    All of you have touched on what is to me the most confounding aspect of all that we’re dealing with right now. How do otherwise sane and thoughtful people and up being such rabid supporters of Donald Trump and his totally off the wall presidency? People that I’ve known for years cannot make anywhere near a thoughtful comment regarding anyone that disagrees with their support of him without making a hateful or inflammatory comment in the process.

    While I am far from being a psychologist perhaps Vernon has really hit on something. Perhaps all of the chaos we see every day that we suffer through thanks to Trump’s totally aberrant way of governing has triggered in some people what is close to puerile interest. As Vernon described the public’s reaction to the parade of Bonnie and Clyde Barrow’s remains and their car we actually see this on display all the time whenever there is a car accident. People purposely slow down so they can perhaps get a view of the gore which slows down traffic and makes additional accidents much more likely as a consequence. My late father, being a police officer, would pull over in our car, often with us with him, and get out and direct traffic until the accident police cars would arrive just to keep traffic going. He would always tell us to stay in the car and to not get out obviously wanting to spare us from seeing what could be and often was a terrible site.

    Perhaps what we’re experiencing, behavior from otherwise normal acting people, whatever normal really is, is a variation of this where a version of childishness is present, sort of common denominator thinking that replaces logic and thoughtfulness. I would love to know what it is since I am tired, very tired, of being called hateful whenever I say anything that is contrary to what Trump is doing in trying to explain how far what he is doing is from normal established practice in regard to governance. I often slip into a “Joe Political Science” persona which I know irritates these friends I have because they don’t want to hear it and tell me that they have the right to think the way they do which is true. The rub is that it is so contrary to the open mindedness I thought that I had observed in these folks for decades and yet overnight almost been turned into completely closed minded, anti-immigrant, just about the anti-everything people. It makes no sense.

    I am left wondering if they were this way all along or if something or some sequence of events and, of course, propaganda as triggered this in them. It makes me wonder how the social scientists living and Germany 90 years ago that prided themselves on being objective observers of human behavior kept from losing their minds given the utter chaos that they were seen around them and also very likely from their friends and colleagues that bought into what was going on.

    What was the trigger? Is it the collective angst that a great number of Americans have right now given their socioeconomic standing and watching it slip? Is it the engrained fear of people that are not like themselves or that do not share the same social and religious values that they do? Who did such a skillful job of manipulating them to think the way they do or was it the convergence of all of the above with the help of skillful propagandists that has led to what can only be described as a societal tragedy?

    Inquiring minds that are still free to think not only want to know but need to know how this has happened. Of all the various things that we’re dealing with today that I read or hear about multiple times a day given this president’s proclivity for twisting things inside out, telling obvious lies over and over, and his radical deviation from established norms of governance, this is the part of it that is the most confounding to me. I don’t think I’ll ever have access to enough aspirin take care of the headaches it gives me. No aspirin however, will take away the heartache that I feel watching my country and my countrymen, including dear friends-often lifelong friends. appear to lose their freaking mines.

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