Good morning, Monticello, everyone…
1 The Inspector General’s Report and Tales of Moral Luck: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: FBI staffer Peter Strzok, working on both the Hillary Clinton email investigation and the Russian collusion investigation, received a text from Lisa Page, Strzok’s co-worker and adulterous lover, that read, “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Strzok replied, “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
September of 2016, the FBI discovered that Clinton’s illicit emails had somehow ended up on the laptop of disgraced former Congressman. Anthony Weiner, who is married to Hillary’s top aide and confidante, Huma Abedin. Strzok, we learn in Michael Horowitz’s report, was instrumental in the decision not to pursue the lead, arguing that the Russia investigation was a “higher priority” at the time.”We found this explanation unpersuasive and concerning,” the report concluded. The laptop was available from September 29 until October 27, when “people outside the FBI” finally forced the FBI to act on the evidence. “The FBI had all the information it needed on September 29 to obtain the search warrant that it did not seek until more than a month later,” the IG report stated. “The FBI’s neglect had potentially far-reaching consequences.”
“Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress,” the IG report says, and also states,
“Under these circumstances, we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over follow up on the [Clinton] investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”
Got that? The IG believes that anti-Trump, pro-Hillary bias led Strzok to delay the Weiner laptop investigation, and it may have backfired, helping Trump and hurting Clinton rather than the reverse. But the fact that moral luck took a hand and foiled his intent doesn’t change the fact that this is strong evidence that partisan bias DID infect the Clinton investigation, and probably the Russian inquiry as well. This makes the media’s spin that the IG report dispels accusations of bias even more unconscionable.
That Strzok’s biased and unethical tactics to help Hillary intimately failed spectacularly doesn’t change or mitigate the fact that a prime FBI staff member was intentionally trying yo manipulate the investigation for partisan reasons.
2. The Web thinks you’re an awful person. A tease from a “sponsored site” in the margins of my NBC Sports baseball feed says, “Jan Smithers starred in hit sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Try not to smile when you see what she looks like now!” Wait…what’s that’s supposed to mean? Is she a circus clown? No, these and similar come-ons apparently assume that normal people love mocking formerly beautiful young stars when they no longer look young. “Heh, heh..well, Jan Smithers, I guess you’re not so hot now, are you? What kind of person takes pleasure in the physical decay of others just because they were once gorgeous?
Actually, the photo of Jan Smithers did make me smile, because unlike, say, Jane Fonda,
…who at 80 has allowed plastic surgeons to make her look like one of the fragile immortal female ghouls who shatter into pieces at the end of “Death Becomes Her,” Smithers (who is younger than me and a decade and a half younger than Hanoi Jane) has allowed herself to age naturally, and by my admittedly biased lights, is lovely still:
This interview with Jan also made me smile, because she sounds like a normal, modest, grounded, sane and extremely nice human being who has her values and priorities straight—unlike the vast majority of Hollywood actors—and who seems happy and without regrets despite no longer looking like the teen covergirl she was in 1966.
3. Red Sox manager Alex Cora doesn’t get the hypocrisy thing. In baseball, runners seeing that the play at firts is going to be close will sometimes dive for the base, sliding on their belly to make a hand tag. It’s exciting, and it’s stupid. Studies have shown conclusively that running at top speed will always get the player to first faster than diving: it is a delusion to think otherwise. It is also dangerous to dive, as injuries to hands and fingers can and do occur.
Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts dived at the base again in yesterday’s game, and just as when he did it earlier last week, he was out, and might have been safe if he had just kept running. Asked about whether Bogaerts need to be forced to change his bad habit—say, a large fine, or a benching, every time he dives, his manager, former player Alex Cora, said,
“Yeah, but the manager used to do itI had a lot of people throughout my career telling me the same thing and I was diving, I kept diving…We might have to bring that video up and show it to Xander, but it’s a tough one. It’s a tough one, because I went through it. People would tell me. I just kept diving and paid the price.”
This is like the parent with a drug-abusing child saying that he can’t admonish his kid for using drugs because he did at the same age. It’s not hypocrisy to stop conduct that you know is unwise and wrong. If your job or current role in a family requires you to guide others, it is unethical not to insist that those you supervise do not continue with dangerous or foolish conduct.
4. Sally Hemings comes to Monticello. At Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Charlottesville, Virginia home and long the center of Jefferson admiration and tourism, a new exhibit has opened dedicated to slavery on Jefferson’s plantation and focusing on the ethically troubling relationship between the Founder, President and author of the Declaration of Independence and Sally Hemings, his dead wife’s half-sister, who had a sexual relationship with Jefferson nearly over four decades, and bore his children.
The newly-opened exhibit also opens up all sorts of controversies, and crashes into the statue-toppling mania that has threatened lasting honors to many of the Founders as well as dovetailing with #MeToo debates. Was Sally the victim of rape, for example? A lot of Jefferson supporters argue that she was not, because they claim is evidence that Jefferson “had feelings for her” (she may have looked like his beloved wife) and that she reciprocated her affections.
Ugh. Are we really arguing that a slave can meaningfully consent to the sexual demands of her master, who owns her? I have argued that a Presidential intern can’t meaningfully consent to sexual activity with the President, and the worst he could do is fire her! Jefferson could legally whip Sally Hemings, or sell her to Simon Legree. Yes, he raped her, by current definitions of the word. It was legal rape, but still rape. Thomas Jefferson was a rapist as well as a hypocrite, condemning slavery in his writings, but continuing to practice it himself.
The harder question is whether historical monuments to national heroes with serious flaws must focus on those flaws. I know that I gagged when I visited the Kennedy Museum in Boston, with its walls sporting inspiring quotes from Jack and Bobby, and no hint anywhere of the two men’s ruthless character, especially when women were involved.
I am unsure if there is a general rule about this issue, or whether there should be. I am certain that Jefferson is a special case. Like it or not, Thomas Jefferson is as responsible as any historical figure for our national ideals and our existence as a nation. We have to come to terms with his contradictions and betrayals of his own philosophy, even if he never did. We will honor what he meant to our nation better if we do it without contrived ignorance.
Sources: Tyler O’Neill