Where There’s Smoke by Jamie Kirkpatrick


Another Tea party is in the books and what a spectacular one it was! The weather did more than cooperate; it made the bands sound better, the musketry and cannon fire louder, and the raft race zanier than ever. Which is how it should be. I must admit that I rue all those prickly insurance regulations which apparently were not in effect here in 1774 but now preclude flinging redcoats into the Chester, but nevertheless Tea Party is still a jolly good show and damn good business for the town, too.

Which brings me to the subject of this week’s Musing: the Mueller Report. Wait; what? That’s right: the kafkaesque saga, two years in the making, that was recently published by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Company exploring (among other things) Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election, allegations of conspiracy between Team Putin and Team Trump, and the possibility (probability?) that the “winner” of that election conspired to obstruct justice by covering up various nefarious deeds he and his cohorts have committed in the months (now years, sigh!) since. I admit I have not read the 400+ pages of Mr. Mueller’s opus, but by now it seems pretty clear that a) Putin and friends did (successfully) seek to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and b) there are clouds and clouds of smoke obscuring the issue of obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump and his shipmates aboard the USS Fools.

Every teacher of English I know abhors the double negative but nevertheless, Mr. Mueller got away with one: “If we had confidence that the President did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” That’s barely a decent sentence let alone a ringing endorsement of Presidential innocence. To my ear, that sounds more like “this room is full of smoke, but sorry, I’m not allowed to call the fire department.”

To make matters worse, our owlishly bespectacled, jowly, and saturnine Attorney General, one of the President’s lawyerly wagon masters that now has a team of conestogas encircling the White House, has interpreted Mr. Mueller’s statement to mean that smoke is just smoke; “Move along people, no flames here.” In other words, Mr. Mueller not only can’t call the fire department, but also the fire chief has just turned off the water.

According to Mr. Mueller’s interpretation of Department of Justice policy, a sitting President cannot be indicted or prosecuted because a) the wheels of government would come off the rails (they aren’t already?) and b) because the Constitution provides another method for investigating Presidential iniquity, i.e. impeachment.

Which means that Mr. Mueller’s all-smoke-no-fire report now passes the whole sorry investigation along to Congress like a hot potato. If impeachment is the means by which we must determine whether or not the house is on fire, we might as well set out our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks. As every elementary school kid and Speaker Pelosi knows, while it’s the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives that would bring the charges or articles of impeachment against the President, it’s the Republican-controlled Senate that would try the case and determine its outcome. Good luck with that jury!

As Stan might say to Ollie, “What a sorry mess you’ve gotten us into!” Unfortunately, this is tragedy, not comedy. I’d like to think that impeachment would bring more facts to light so that we, the American people, could clearly see if there is any fire or if it’s indeed all smoke, but alas, I doubt there will be much, if any, clarity in the months to come.

It seems to me the only way out of this mess is a clear and honest outcome to the 2020 election. Given the likelihood of ongoing interference in our democratic process and the eye-watering haze generated by all the smoke out there, that’s a lot to hope for. it’s going to be a smoldering seventeen months.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” was released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com

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