Robert Mueller’s Day Off: We’re Waiting for the Movie, But All We’re Getting Is a Reality Show


Its official title is the Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, but everyone knows it as The Mueller Report.

It may as well be called Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, because few people who really need to read it are doing so or likely ever will. I’m talking about the good evangelical Christian folks who value Truth, Justice and the American Way but still voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and, here’s the important part, will vote to re-elect him in 2020, no matter who runs against him. I’m not talking about intelligent, sensible Americans who can face facts now and admit they made a grievous error in judgement three years ago.

Many Christians don’t even read their own bibles for themselves to understand and, gee, maybe even question what their preachers tell them to believe — the parts about loving their neighbors and bearing false witness, anyway — so why would they waste their time reading a 448-page government document, when all they really want to do is keep believing Trump’s lies? After all, his Twitter feed and Fox News provide all the “alternative facts” these Trumpist evangelicals need. And presidential mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a Baptist preacher/politician’s kid, has her boss’s back despite his lack of veracity.

Why read something for ourselves when we can watch the reality show on TV, right? And while we’re at it, when is the CliffNotes version of The Mueller Report going on sale? Or will it be called President Donald J. Trump for Dummies? Or is that title too obvious? Remember, when he was campaigning in 2016, Trump famously said: “I love the poorly educated.” Now you know why.

I’m definitely not the most highly-educated guy, though after 14 years of fits and starts at four different institutions of higher learning I did earn a bachelor’s degree in English. I learned a lot in those 14 years, but mainly that I should have stayed the course and finished college as quickly as possible. But that’s a story I’ve told here in other columns about what else I did during those 14 years of adult education.

And I’m a slow reader. That has always been the case because I try too hard, perhaps, to comprehend every word I’m reading. From my teaching experience, I know that’s one mark of a struggling learner — getting bogged down trying to decipher individual words and phrases in a piece of writing. Even now I get sidetracked by grammatical and even stylistic questions — for example, why The Washington Post’s introduction uses “US” as the abbreviation for United States while the official report uses “U.S.” (If you don’t see the difference, just keep reading. It matters only to someone like me.)

I also read slowly because I take time to understand and, if possible, discuss facts and opinions that are expressed in any important document, whether it’s The Mueller Report, Moby-Dick, or the unexpurgated King James version of the Bible (I prefer the more literally-translated New American Standard Bible, by the way). Is this statement or that declaration a fact or an opinion? There really is a difference, you know. And is this “fact” or that opinion based on truth? If so, the “truth” according to whom? Those factors also make big differences, ones that are often hard to discern.

That’s why we, as a culture, don’t want to read and why we’d rather just be told what to think. I could buy a venti-sized cup of Starbucks caffe latte if I had a nickel for every time I asked students to read a passage in order to find an answer to some question and then heard in response, “Just tell us!” — well, OK, at least a grande cup of blonde roast. Not all my students were that way, but most avoided reading more than was absolutely necessary, if that much. Thanks to technology, many of us have become lazy students.

Instead of waiting for the movie, Timberley and I set out Monday to read The Mueller Report from beginning to end. I’d already read significant portions of it, having downloaded the free PDF file as soon as it was available in April 2019. Since then, I also bought The Washington Post’s print edition (with the aforementioned special introduction and other related materials) and downloaded a Kindle copy of the same book. The meter on my Kindle says it’ll take me at least 22 hours to read the report; however, I’m sure it will take much longer than that, since we still need to eat, sleep and work.

As I’ve previously commented on social media, The Post’s 18-page introduction is enough to educate any reasonable reader about the entire report and the circumstances surrounding it. But for those who have been brainwashed by Trump’s fascist “enemy of the people” rhetoric about our esteemed Fourth Estate, The Mueller Report — the actual document — provides its own introductions and executive summaries of each volume. The first volume is about Russian election interference; the second volume, about Trump’s obstruction of justice. That summary material comprises only about 20 pages and includes relatively few redactions.

Whenever we finish reading The Mueller Report, I’ll be glad to discuss its findings. But before we start arguing over politics again, I encourage you to read the report for yourself — or any part of it. Or read Moby-Dick — the whole novel or the CliffNotes version — if you prefer fiction. If old Herman Melville, not Robert Mueller, is the author you prefer, you will probably find that Trump is Captain Ahab, Mueller is Starbuck, President Barack Obama is Queequeg, and American democracy is the ill-fated Pequod. That’s my reading, anyhow.

And — I almost forgot — you can call yourself Ishmael, who alone escaped to tell the tale. I’m not sure if I hope for that same ending in real life or not. But read the book, either one. And then think about it.

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ADDENDUM (6/14/19): In response to comments and requests on social media related to the above column, I’m now adding links to a free online presentation of The Mueller Report and to a paid presentation of The Washington Post edition of The Mueller Report. I encourage you to read, at the very least, the official introductions and executive summaries that begin each volume of the report.