Commentary: We wanted a criminal mastermind. We got a swollen toady.

(Jon Elswick | The Associated Press) A copy of a letter from Attorney General William Barr advising Congress that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded his investigation, is shown Friday, March 22, 2019 in Washington. Robert Mueller on Friday turned over his long-awaited final report on the contentious Russia investigation that has cast a dark shadow over Donald Trump's presidency, entangled Trump's family and resulted in criminal charges against some of the president's closest associates.

This is a dark time. A hard time. A time of disillusionment and potential despair. Because Donald Trump has proven not to be guilty of all we wished him to be guilty.

The Mueller Report. Liberal pundits on CNN and MSNBC immediately tried to put a Churchillian spin on it. (“This is not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning.”)

What they did not do is admit that the agitation most progressives feel is that the Mueller Report fails to be what we had hoped it to be: a clear criminalization of everything ever done by the embarrassing president we hoped soon would be our impeached president. Which failure is, as our president so often says about things less so, “Sad.”

Progressives such as ourselves sat, stunned by the wonder and glare of Sunday TV news, the terrible truth slowly but inexorably taking hold: We must now make peace with a Donald Trump, who appears not to have colluded with the Russians but merely to have been duped by them. A president who did not need clandestine meetings or illegal communications to disregard the abundant evidence gathered by our intelligence services who assured us that the Russians interfered with past elections and intend to interfere in future elections, as well.

Truth has taken away the bejeweled Easter Egg of our suspicion that the clown prince is so absurd as to confirm every prejudice progressives have of the intellectual flabbiness, the lack of moral rigor, the situational politics of Donald Trump and his Republicans.

The disappointment is not that we no longer can continue to believe him to be guilty of more than that of which he is guilty — even Mueller said his report does not “exonerate” President Trump — but that we wanted more drama. A Pink Panther cat burglar who clings to the parapets of power until he can swing elegantly through an impossibly high and narrow window to make off with a fortune in jewels; then return in his tuxedo to the dinner party below and enjoy vodka shots with Vladimir Putin.

We wanted a criminal mastermind, an engineer of clandestine intrigue who invented vast disinformations to cover up his Russian peccadillos. Even though a significant portion of us have no trouble forgiving or forgetting his peccadillos here at home. We wanted a mover and shaker guilty of shaking and moving the foundations of democratic government, but instead we got a swollen toady who cheats at golf.

We are left with a president who has revealed himself to be a clumsy petty thief, a surly braggart, a preposterous engineer of epithets we gobble like goodies at a party honoring bullies. But not — oh, “Callooh! Callay!” — anything so interesting as a Russian spy!

By being common, he has disappointed our ambition for him. And the ambitions held out by the liberal media we wanted to not only be confident but correct in their endlessly repeated self-talk about high treason and other impeachable offenses. But what did we get from the pretensions of our entertainment news: “Nattering nabobs of negativism” unable even to do the accounting required to prove him guilty of emoluments violations.

Wanting so badly for him to be guilty of everything makes it impossible to be satisfied for having discovered him to be only guilty of almost everything. We who hoped too much, who wished more than we proved, we are once again convicted by the fact that a majority of us were unable to forestall a minority of us from electing an oaf. And for our weakness we are condemned to suffer the physical sight and emotional affront of Donald Trump, who every day offends dignity, morality, and the public sense of well-being.

We wanted — we fasted and prayed! — to turn Donald Trump’s offense of our delicate sensibilities into the high crimes and misdemeanors of a grand schemer — a traitor — when all Trump appears to be is a dumb guy who hasn’t done a high thing in his life … that didn’t have a penthouse at the top.

Robert A. Rees

Robert Rees teaches religion at Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif.

Clifton Jolley

Clifton Jolley is president of Advent Communications, Ogden.

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