That’s what we got with the Mueller hearings. And as a result, a lovely summer Wednesday was wasted. Frankly, it was sad to watch the former FBI chief, a decorated Marine, stuttering and sputtering his way through uncertain testimony before two House committees.
It quickly became clear that Mueller had been just the nominal leader of the investigation. The interviews, the research and the report were prepared by his appointees. The Mueller Report wasn’t really Mueller’s report. Consequently, Mueller was unable to answer many questions about what was in it. He looked miserable for most of the seven hours.
On top of that, the report’s been public for months. Most of us didn’t bother to wade through the 400-plus pages. Still, we knew the gist of what was in there and the hearings offered no new revelations.
Juan Williams, Fox News’ resident liberal quipped that this was one of those times when “The book was better than the movie.”
I’m writing this in the afternoon, as the hearings wrap up and will not be watching either FOX or MSNBC tonight - book club, sorry - to hear the spin masters at work. So I will make a prediction: Trump supporters will say Mueller looked like he needed a nap and a can of Ensure. Democrats will say that Mueller left open the question of whether the president obstructed justice.
Sure, pundits and the press were glued to the hearings. Normal people? They have jobs, thanks to the roaring economy. Most were too busy working to watch the soporific proceedings.
It would be nice if Congress would get back to work and do something constructive.
The hearings were tedious. They provided a succession of five-minute opportunities for Republican and Democratic gasbags to bloviate. The politicians tossed a few questions Mueller’s way, but he needed the queries repeated over and over and sometimes seemed baffled by what was being asked.
Once it was apparent that Mueller didn’t remember much of what was in the report, the political orations grew longer. Questions became perfunctory. Or simply leading, “As a prosecutor, wouldn’t you agree...”
It was boring. Yet, I watched.
It took an entire pot of coffee and pitcher of iced tea to keep me awake. And I had to take a brief break from the spectacle to clear my head.
This was certainly not the coup de grace that Democrats prayed it would be. One that would lead to a President Pence. It was also not the explicit and complete exoneration of Donald Trump that the Republicans wanted.
But it did showcase Mueller’s weak grasp of the issues. That’s a pity. Robert Mueller has a long, distinguished record of service to America. Sadly, many will only remember him as an elderly man, unprepared for a congressional hearing.
I know, I know. I’m a conservative. Of course I believe Mueller was terrible.
See for yourself.
And here’s a smattering of reactions from Trump detractors and members of the mainstream media:
David Axelrod, Obama White House strategist, on Twitter: “This is delicate to say, but Mueller, whom I deeply respect, has not publicly testified before Congress in at least six years. And he does not appear as sharp as he was then.”
Axelrod, later: “This is very, very painful.”
Chuck Todd, Meet The Press “On optics, this was a disaster for House Democrats because they were looking for this dramatic moment that would capture the imagination."
Juan Williams: “This is a sad moment for Bob Mueller...he seemed uncertain of the facts.”
Lawrence Tribe, Harvard Law professor, relentless Trump critic: “Much as I hate to say it, this morning’s hearing was a disaster. Far from breathing life into his damning report, the tired Robert Mueller sucked the life out of it. The effort to save democracy and the rule of law from this lawless president has been set back, not advanced.”
Movie director and left-wing activist Michael Moore: “A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions...I said it in 2017 and Mueller confirmed it today — All you pundits and moderates and lame Dems who told the public to put their faith in the esteemed Robert Mueller — just STFU from now on.”
Finally, ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran declared, “Impeachment’s over...the problem with Mueller’s testimony on this issue is that he had to carry the ball for them some way, whether he wanted to or not, at least by being a vigorous, strong, rock-solid prosecutor.
“And he looked like somebody who’d slowed a step or two, and perhaps, as the Republicans are starting to put out there, maybe he wasn’t in control of all those angry Democrats, maybe he’s a figurehead, somebody from the past that they put there so they could do their dirty work.”
It was the Titanic of congressional hearings.
The American people have moved on. Time for Congress to do the same.