Let’s make this an ethical week…
1 As we watch the desperate vilification of Attorney General Barr by Democrats…it is helpful to consider a recent speech by the now departed second in command at Justice, the ridiculously conflicted Rod Rosenstein. He said in part,
Rampant speculation here in D.C. is that Democrats are terrified that Barr’s promise of investigations of the Hillary Clinton inquiry and the process whereby the Trump campaign was surveilled will reveal serious misconduct in the Obama Administration. This is, of course, mocked as a conspiracy theory by the people who just had their own conspiracy theory exploded. Here’s the usually reliable Kimberly Strassel in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall—sorry).
…Mr. Barr made real news in that Senate hearing, and while the press didn’t notice, Democrats did. The attorney general said he’d already assigned people at the Justice Department to assist his investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. He said his review would be far-reaching—that he was obtaining details from congressional investigations, from the ongoing probe by the department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, and even from Mr. Mueller’s work. Mr. Barr said the investigation wouldn’t focus only on the fall 2016 justifications for secret surveillance warrants against Trump team members but would go back months earlier.
He also said he’d focus on the infamous “dossier” concocted by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and British former spy Christopher Steele, on which the FBI relied so heavily in its probe. Mr. Barr acknowledged his concern that the dossier itself could be Russian disinformation, a possibility he described as not “entirely speculative.” He also revealed that the department has “multiple criminal leak investigations under way” into the disclosure of classified details about the Trump-Russia investigation.
Do not underestimate how many powerful people in Washington have something to lose from Mr. Barr’s probe. Among them: Former and current leaders of the law-enforcement and intelligence communities. The Democratic Party pooh-bahs who paid a foreign national (Mr. Steele) to collect information from Russians and deliver it to the FBI. The government officials who misused their positions to target a presidential campaign. The leakers. The media. More than reputations are at risk. Revelations could lead to lawsuits, formal disciplinary actions, lost jobs, even criminal prosecution.
Quick! Let’s impeach Barr!
2. Now here’s a sound bite to conjure with! Rep. Al Green (D-TX) said on MSNBC yesterday, “I’m concerned if we don’t impeach this president, he will get re-elected.” Green, who has brought several impeachment motions before the House using the Maxine Waters and Tom Steyer theory: impeach him because we hate him, could not have done a better job proving what Ethics Alarms has been trying to clarify since Trump was inaugurated. To be fair and provide the contest, Green surrounded his admission with the usual narratives and talking points, going on to say,
“If we don’t impeach him, he will say he’s been vindicated. He will say the Democrats had an overwhelming majority in the House and didn’t take up impeachment. He will say we had a constitutional duty to do and we didn’t. He will say he’s been vindicated….Here’s what I say, we’re confronting a constitutional crisis as I speak to you. As I look the people of America in the eye, I’m telling you, we have a constitutional crisis. the chief executive office of the president of the United States refuses to comply with subpoenas and says he will order others to do so, this creates a constitutional crisis. We must impeach this president. If you don’t, it’s not the soul of the nation that will be at risk only, it is the soul of the Congress that’s at risk. Congress has a duty, a responsibility and obligation that only it can fulfill. No one else can no. No other entity can. It is Congress that will have to act. If we put people above party, we’ll act properly. But if we allow a party to be above principle, we will not. If we allow political expediency to trump moral imperative, we will have created a shameful situation that this Congress that will never live down, history won’t be kind to us. We must impeach him.”
Not to be unduly unkind, but the whole statement is signature significance for an idiot. First, Green admits that he wants to use impeachment as a substitute for winning elections the old-fashioned way: by running a candidate that the public votes for. This has been the Democratic strategy for three years. Then he says the President must be impeached because of what he might say if he isn’t. Strange, I don’t see that in the Constitution. He closes his argument by saying that impeachment is required because otherwise people may say mean things about this Congress. I don’t see that in the Constitution either. Green is right about there being a Constitutional crisis: the House is abusing its oversight function and its power of subpoena to impede the functioning of the Executive, and the President and AG are asserting that such abuse itself is illegal. Such disputed are not impeachable, unless one subscribes to the theory used to impeach Andrew Johnson: demand that the President obey an unconstitutional act of Congress. and when he refuses, as he must, impeach him. The Supreme Court eventually vindicated Johnson, who was acquitted (by one vote) in the Senate. I think Trump will win any showdown in the Supreme Court on the subpoena issue too, and I suspect Democrats know it.
3. “Oklahoma!” Ethics. My friend, New York writer/producer and musical theater expert Chip Defaa asked his Facebook friends their views about the current Broadway revival of “Oklahoma!”, which by all reports (I haven’t seen it yet) turns the story from a cheery romantic comedy into a dark musical dramedy, with Curly becoming a cold-blooded murderer, Laurie a class bigot, and villain Jud recast as a wronged and tragic figure. Why did the Rogers and Hammerstein organization approve the anti-“Oklahoma!”? You get three guesses, and the first two don’t count. The answer is “Money.” (You get half-credit for “Capitulation to militant wokeness in the Broadway community.)
Andy Hammerstein, grand-son of Oscar II who wrote the musical’s book and lyrics, wrote, “I abhorred it. It was an irresponsible travesty masquerading as ‘experimental.’ Up is not down. Sadist Curly shoots sweet victim Jud in cold blood? I am utterly disgusted that R&H lacked the balls to stop this. I urge everyone to keep their money in their pockets on this one. Let it die the ignominious death it deserves.”
The hyper-political Frank Rich, once a theater critic ( he reviewed one of my college performances, and liked me, he really liked me!), wrote (he can write, that’s for sure) an interesting piece claiming that the famous musical always had the dark elements that the new version brings to the fore. (Rich also shows that he’s in late stage Trump Derangement Syndrome by somehow dragging the President into an essay about “Oklahoma!”) Rich is right; indeed most Rogers and Hammerstein musicals curdle the comedy and romance with dark and preachy subplots. That’s one reason I’m not crazy about their works. Still, it’s impossible to argue credibly that a production is being fair to the original and its creators when the wedding that ends the show has the bride in a blood-spattered gown and the cast sings the rousing finale with the dead body of a poor man murdered by the romantic lead still lying on the stage.
Here’s a lightly edited version of what I wrote in response to Chip’s jump ball:
On one side, I think it’s crucial that stage classics of all kinds be reinterpreted and re-thought by responsible directors and designers, otherwise the work becomes stagnant. On the other side, there must be a baseline respect for the original work and the artist’s intent…. My general advice to a director trying to place his or her distorting overlay on a classic is “Write your own damn show.” But the best advice is what I was told by my mentor in these matters, my college musical director, who quoted former Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Serge Koussevitzky in his speech to the cast before every opening night: “We are doing this show for those who are seeing it for the first time, and those who will see it for the last time.”