As a daughter to two Berkeley hippies, I have always been fascinated by politics. 2016 brought an addiction I hadn’t yet fully succumbed to, only to be compounded by the move to D.C. in 2017.
Most days are peppered with hits of governmental news, starting with my morning launch of The Daily Podcast. The NYT Upshot is plucked out of my Inbox once I hit the computer. At lunch, conversations with my Mom often veer to yesterday’s WaPo headline, and by 4 pm, I make dinner with Nicole Wallace in the background. PBS Newshour after dinner leads to a break for Jeopardy, but as I’m heading upstairs for bed, Mom flips to MSNBC to watch Rachel twirl through ironic quips and dramatic pauses.
Shane has suggested that I am too focused on politics (as he scrolls through Twitter), so why did I spend my precious afternoon reading time underlining the 728 pages published by WaPo reporters who added dozens of documents and articles to enhance the raw text of the Mueller report?
Because I need to know that heroism in government lives still. For two years, a team of more than 40 brilliant, workaholics unscrambled computer code, interviewed 500+ witnesses and translated Russian emails. Every day for two years, Trump was ‘Breaking News,’ while a silent team of experts was working in an unidentified office building with a loading dock. Like a duck coasting on the water, Mueller was mute, while his minions were toiling. Trump is our daily nightmare. I needed to balance the equation of my attention and honor the behind-the-scenes investigation, even if I knew the final ‘verdict’ didn’t satisfy my need to see the SOB de-throned.
We all see the lies and deception. But what was powerful about reading the report was that I, a mildly bored mom in the Virginia suburbs, could read the work of an army of people who worked for months to systematically document facts for public consumption. Trump communicates by tweet. Mueller communicates with a tome, and despite what Barr might think, Mueller wrote it for us.
Mueller and his team wrote this legal treatise as a story. He absolutely intended it to be read not by pundits but by the masses. In 448 pages, I found ONE typo (thanks Mom for all those grammar lessons). [On page 147 of Volume 2, when describing Cohen’s state of mind as he begins to turn on Trump and Trump threatens him and his family, Mueller added an erroneous possessive.] Can you imagine if we were given access to the daily output of any department within the White House? Mom’s red pen would be bone dry.
If you take the long-view, and as an optimist and formally-trained historian, I must, the American system is working. Yes we might have a constitutional crisis, Trump might squat in the White House until there is a coup and Kava-nope might give us 5.5 more years of this nightmare. But 10 years from now, 50 years from now, our democracy will be stronger for it. We will have persevered through shadowy times, just as we did through the Civil War, and World War II. We will endure Voldemort dressed as an orange-haired clown with a long tie and a MAGA hat, just as we endured savagery and cruelty before.
For all the complexities of legal codes, the intrigue of Russian spies and oligarchs, the texts messages exchanged between wealthy sycophants in the Seychelles and wealthy sycophants at Mar-a-lago, I am buoyed by the mere existence of the report. As Americans, we live in a society where I can read the texts of spys while sitting in my rocking chair, waiting for the oven to pre-heat. That’s a society most people can only dream of living in.
It is argued that Putin’s main purpose in waging election warfare was to prove to his own people that Western democracies are just as untrustworthy as Russia and not enviable. Just as the Berlin wall collapsed 30 years ago this summer, that false idea will collapse again. The ways to bring about that collapse and persevere include paying attention. Trusting the government will get it right over the long haul. Trusting an open and free society to work through struggles.
Reading the report is one way to prove to both Putin and Trump that Americans aren’t suckers. We are watching and we will vote November 3rd 2020. Tick tock mother fuckers.