Why Mueller Failed

Robert Mueller’s friends and colleagues have too much respect for him as a person to say much of anything negative about his manner or his findings. I too do not doubt for a moment his integrity. I think he thinks he did the right thing and that he doesn’t need to explain himself further.

I think he failed. And since I have no skin in this game, no knowledge of Mueller personally or professionally, I have no reason not to speak my mind.  His pundit lawyer friends on TV can’t say what I say because while they think they are being “objective” (lawyers always do) they are in fact  defending Mr. Mueller their friend.  Mueller failed.  At least so far.  I see nothing ahead that would re-set the margins.

First, he failed to act as a special “prosecutor” because he delivers no verdict. Wasn’t that his job? I actually agree with Barr on this. Barr said he didn’t do this job. Correct. He should have told us whether there was a case for indictment. So he evaded on the basis of some untested rule. But let’s grant him this because, you know, rules that only lawyers can rationalize.

This makes him not chief prosecutor but chief investigator for Congress. Fair enough. He says he did all he needed to do and doesn’t want to talk about it and that the work speaks for itself. Wrong on at least two counts. First, there are hundreds of good questions (shall I start?) that he does not answer but likely knows the answers. Second, no document speaks for itself. He would fail my entry level class if he insisted as much. So what is his role? Maybe chief educator. How did he do in that? He fails again.

And then, what really galls me. I work in a profession largely devoted to talking only to itself in complex sentences, arcane arguments, and other modes of indecipherable bullshit. Academics are like lawyers, only as we know lawyers are worse: worse because they never have to communicate to anyone but each other. (Academics have to speak occasionally to lay people, like undergraduates—most really hate doing this, n.b.) So what does Mueller do? He speaks in double negatives, legal syntax, and does pretty much the only thing he apparently knows how to do—talk like a lawyer. To Americans. To a country that doesn’t read, can’t read, much less understand lawyer speak. He utterly failed as a communicator, as an educator, and as anyone but a lawyer speaking to other lawyers in Congress. Congress, for its part, can’t figure out that it needs to do the right thing because, in the end, its about power and who gets to use. So there is a lack of principle on the part of Congress and a lack of understanding about what real America can understand from Mueller.

Start here and forgive the pedantry, I come by it professionally.

The percentage of Americans capable of understanding Mueller-speak is commensurate with your own demographic. Plain translation, it takes listening and some marginal critical ability to understand Mueller. How many Americans can do that? Come to my college classroom, I’ll show you how few. And they are in college and some of them learn how to think.  But Americans?
So it is your duty as a public person to speak to the American denominator and that is Fox News Low, it is about as hard to understand as Lester Holt.  It’s what people who make TV News know.  Speak slowly, assume nothing, use simple words.  Mueller just failed.

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