Home National Politics The Smear-Job Against Mueller Must Be Countered—Vigorously and Right Away

The Smear-Job Against Mueller Must Be Countered—Vigorously and Right Away


President Trump and his allies have begun a smear campaign against the Special Prosecutor, Robert Muller. He’s conducting a “witch hunt,” says the President. Newt Gingrich accuses Mueller of deliberate bias. Mueller’s “dirty,” declares a Republican representative from Texas.

Never mind that Trump himself had just weeks ago seriously considered Mueller for Director of the FBI. Never mind that Gingrich had proclaimed, when Mueller was appointed in May, Mueller’s impeccable reputation “for honesty and integrity.”

Of course, Gingrich had it right the first time: hardly anyone in America has such a sterling record and reputation for integrity and competence as Robert Mueller. It’s that combination that makes him so dangerous to Trump. Hence Trump’s smear campaign, trying to create a false picture of Mueller in the minds of Americans.

These new accusations are directed not at the majority of Americans, but at the Trump base, which does not seem to keep track of such inconsistencies, or to recognize Trump’s pattern of baseless smears against anyone who might challenge his power.

Smearing Mueller now can help Trump maintain his base support regardless of  what happens.

If the 80% of Republicans who still see him favorably can be persuaded that Mueller is an agent of injustice against their leader, they wouldn’t see Trump’s firing Mueller as another effort to obstruct justice.

And if Mueller completes his work and presents the nation with a damning picture of Trump and/or his campaign and inner circle, those who swallow the “witch hunt” and bias accusations will be primed to reject any charges Mueller might bring as bogus, and to regard the story he tells as “fake news.”

That’s why it is of vital importance that these trumped up accusations against Mueller be countered by people and in ways that will be credible to Trump’s followers.  

At stake is whether the dangerous polarization of the American people will be intensified, or reduced, by this tremendously important ongoing  investigative process.

For a generation, propagandists on the right have waged a relentless campaign to sow division among Americans—and with great success. This campaign should be recognized for the assault on American democracy that it is. It’s a matter of “Divide and conquer.”

If the American people are set against each other, the two antagonistic sides cancel each other out, making room for another force to dictate the nation’s course.

Trump has consistently employed divisive strategies, and the smear campaign against Mueller is an attempt to protect himself by turning his scandal into another way of dividing the American people.

It must be countered without delay, before the false picture can take root.

For a generation, this Republican base has been abandoned to the propagandists, without the battle for their hearts and minds being vigorously contested.

When Rush Limbaugh began his poisoning of the minds of his “dittoheads,” demonizing “librels,” Liberal America forfeited that battle, leaving millions to be indoctrinated into regarding the people on the other side of the political divide as scum of the earth.

When the Republicans, from the beginnings of the Obama presidency, sought to delegitimize him and to characterize that basically decent and moderate leader as some sort of extremist, America-hating alien, Obama just stood by, doing virtually nothing to combat the deceivers leading one third of the American people to shut him out irretrievably.

The abandonment of this Republican base to the deceivers has been a mistake of historic magnitude, with today’s crisis being just one of its direct and dire consequences.

That battle over whether lies or the truth will prevail in their thinking must be fought – not forfeited – now. The American people, generally, must recognize:

  • This investigation is of vital importance;
  • Robert Mueller’s unquestionable integrity and competence make him the ideal man for the job;
  • The eventual findings, whatever they are, can be trusted.

Voices must now be raised forcefully to make those points so that as many as possible of Trump supporters will give them credence.

These cannot be the voices of “liberals” or “Democrats.” The Republican base has long since been taught to discredit everything from that quarter. Rather, they must be credible voices from the Republican side.

We’ve heard prominent Republicans – like Senators Rubio and Thune just yesterday – reject the smears. But only when asked. They are saying the right things, but in a voice so quiet that they are just guarding their own integrity without reaching out to voters who might prefer to believe the smears.

If, out of political fear, such Republican leaders cannot be persuaded to speak loudly and boldly to counter the smears, perhaps help can be had from Republicans no longer concerned about re-election. Perhaps older leaders who may not run again (Grassley? Hatch?) can step up. Or retired Republicans (Boehner? W? Dole?).

One way or another, this investigative process must be made a means of healing, not further rupturing, the American body politic.

  • I’m kinda confused here. Actually very confused. You say “That’s why it is of vital importance that these trumped up accusations against Mueller be countered by people and in ways that will be credible to Trump’s followers.” You also list things that “must” be done. But on the first point, which specific people do you have in mind who would actually counter Trump’s accusations AND “in ways that will be credible to Trump’s followers.” None are spring to my mind. On the second point, saying something “must” be done absolutely does not mean it WILL be done. In this case, I’d say there’s very little chance that, other than Democratic voices, any others will be raised to defend Mueller and rebut Trump’s “smear-job.” What am I missing here?

    • Andy Schmookler

      “Must”be done means that the price of its not being done may well be very high. Just as the cost of forfeiting those other battles for hearts and minds (Limbaugh, the Republican demonization of Obama) have proven enormous.

      The fact that those battles were not fought does not diminish the truth that they needed to be fought. Does it?

      I do name some specific people who might conceivably a) speak up in this way and b) have some credibility with the people that Trump and Gingrich are trying to manipulate. Surely you saw those names. So is your point that you cannot imagine that they would be willing to counter the smears of Mueller? Or that you don’t think that they would sway anyone if they did?

      My argument would be that — just as some Republicans like Thune and Rubio reject the smears, when asked — there ARE Republicans who might do the same but with greater boldness and intensity.

      This is, after all, one part of the overall battle for the rule of law in America. And clearly, not all the Republicans are as amoral as Gingrich and Trump.

      At the very least, the effort should be made.

      Two things to add:

      First, the Republican base has been allowed to become so degraded that they would even think of nominating a grotesque human being like Trump. Part of saving America in this era must involve a long-term project of resurrecting some degree of sanity, decency, contact with reality among those people.

      This is one situation that is suitable for making a beginning on that.

      Second, the Republican Party of our times has itself become something atrocious by every standard of American history, and every moral standard as well. (Need I elaborate on that?) The saving of America in this era requires not only defeating this party, which it certainly does, but also finding ways to return this party to something more akin to the normal American party many of us are old enough to remember it’s being. Like, for instance, a party that will put nation ahead of partisan advantage when that’s important.

      This is one situation suitable for working in that direction as well.

      • “So is your point that you cannot imagine that they would be willing to counter the smears of Mueller? Or that you don’t think that they would sway anyone if they did?”

        a) correct
        b) correct

        • Andy Schmookler

          Kenneth Starr surprises on this score, as you probably know (since you always seem to be current on the WashPost opinion pieces). His piece (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/firing-robert-mueller-would-be-an-insult-to-the-founding-fathers/2017/06/15/84b75bd4-51f4-11e7-be25-3a519335381c_story.html?utm_term=.7b86e199a57a). Under the headline saying that it would be “an insult to the Founding Fathers” for Trump to fire Mueller, Starr says:

          “Absent the most extreme circumstances, the president would be
          singularly ill-advised to threaten, much less order, Mueller’s firing. The official processes now under way should continue
          unimpeded. Let the legislative and executive branches fulfill their
          respective roles, ordained at the founding and matured by the wisdom of
          sobering experience gained over the course of seven generations.”

          Starr, many will recall, was the Inspector Javert (Les Miserables) relentlessly pursuing Bill Clinton until he could finally catch him in a lie about his illicit sexual conduct. If Starr can step up and affirm the appropriateness of Mueller and the task he has taken on, so might there be others from the right.