Arguing with True Believers

Arguing with a true believer is pointless, bringing a legal case against one, for good cause, not as much.   The belief of a true believer insulates the person from so-called facts or any counter narrative that contradicts the belief system.   Believers know the truth and you, no matter how much so-called evidence you think you have produced, are sadly mistaken.  Wrong.  SAD!   On your way to hell.  

That kind of dismissive, belief-based superiority does not generally work as well in a court of law where the decisions of judges, even if they deeply agree with the true believer, are bound by law, evidence and the specter of appeal.  Judges hate to be overturned on appeal.

The world is (among many other things) chaotic, confusing, contentious, often violent.    A belief system that puts this mad world in order, even if the system is internally inconsistent, is a comfort to many people.   These systems rest on bedrock articles of faith and come in many forms.  Some creeds encourage peace, others preach violence, always defended as a form of completely justified self-defense.   These belief systems are sold to people by skilled salesmen, by loved ones of unshakable faith, by charismatic leaders, sometimes by total con artist hucksters.  

The virtue of these systems, to those who believe in them,  is the certainty  they deliver about what is right and good and what is wrong and evil and the powerful sense of belonging in the good group that membership confers.  The articles of faith are easy to understand, simplify this complex world and give followers an uncomplicated road map to follow to belong to the group that stands against evil.   Wear the right hat, agree with the right slogans, join the right chant and you’re in.   It couldn’t be simpler.   The powerful sense of human belonging alone is enough to make people defend the faith, to the death, if necessary.

Imagine the terror of living in a country where a hoard of dangerous and unaccountable illegals swarm across porous boarders, are given free rein to rape, kill, smuggle banned, deadly drugs, decapitate, torture, contemptuously speak their secret languages while defying all laws of the country they have invaded.   Just the fact that they are rapists is enough reason to hate them, but there’s more.   We harness this legitimate fear and righteous hatred into a movement to stop these goddamned raping hoards and bring peace and justice to our shores.

When a true believer is imbued with faith, all of the arguments in the world cannot dent that belief.   I’m thinking, of course, of people hearing what they want to hear every time a charismatic demagogue opens his mouth.   Those who love and follow the demagogue hear the larger truth, even in the demagogue’s many demonstrably false lies.  He may be lying about many of the small details, even all of them, fine, but he’s completely right and honest about the big picture!    Those who hate the demagogue hear only a self-serving liar, rattling on, ignoring reality, warping the world to his image and stinking up the discourse, as demagogues often do.

A simple article of faith, a good motto, will always beat a set of complicated and nuanced facts, no matter how damning they may be.   If you are predisposed to believe something you will always find as much evidence as you need, it doesn’t take much.   The man you believe is unfairly persecuting your leader droned on for a long time, saying a lot of subtle things that supposedly contradicted and compromised the leader and his defenders, but then– in a moment that revealed his true despicable nature — he smirked, freeze that frame, he fucking smirked! Look at this fucking face!  Case closed!   The piece of shit showed his true biased partisan colors!   HAT SLOGAN BEATS COMPLICATED 448 page legalistic, biased so-called INVESTIGATOR REPORT!!!

Clearly I am thinking about the raging debate over the findings of the Mueller Report, in the wake of Mueller’s careful public remarks yesterday. Remarks that shed no light (unlike Mueller’s March 27 letter to Barr) on the argument over Attorney General Barr’s misleading and false statements that led his client, the president, to crow NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION, complete and total EXONERATION.   Trump’s remarks, in the absence of the report  or the summary Mueller prepared for immediate release (held by Barr for weeks), were fair enough.  They comported exactly with how Barr summarized Mueller’s findings in a letter he strongly argued was not intended as a summary, no matter what he may have written in it about summarizing the report.  

Mueller’s findings, like his remarks yesterday were legalistic, nuanced, by the book, bound by DOJ 1973 and 2000 directives against indicting, or even, in Mueller’s fairness analysis, accusing, a sitting president of a federal crime.  The 1973 DOJ policy against indicting a sitting president was reiterated in the DOJ Manual in 2000 after Ken Starr’s partisan investigation into Whitewater which led to perjury charges against a president confronted, in an unrelated case, with provable allegations that he had received blow jobs in the White House.   Starr pulled no punches:  Clinton committed perjury, impeach him.  

Mueller pulled his punches: we don’t exonerate him, and I present a great deal of evidence of crimes the president likely was directly involved in, and preserve a treasure trove of evidence riddled with holes due to perjury and obstruction, but I can’t say, without a full trial on the facts, that the president is guilty and, therefore, I cannot make a finding beyond that the massive evidence collected, and the pattern of obstruction of my investigation, does not allow me to exonerate him.   The report, he said, speaks for itself.

I was checking out a couple of FOX news videos today, in the wake of Mueller’s short, punctilious press conference yesterday.  One was entitled “Trump Reacts to Mueller’s Russia probe with angry tirade“.   It took me a moment to realize that FOX was applauding the president, a completely innocent man, for his anger.   Innocent people have the right to angry tirades!!!   Nothing wrong with an angry tirade, if you are justifiably enraged.  Ask Supreme Court Justice for life Boof Kavanaugh.  They work, yo!

NO COLLUSION.   Mueller found that the 140 contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials were part of Russia’s documented interference with the 2016 election.  Because of the lies Mueller’s team was told, deleted emails and texts, refusals of principals to be interviewed, he was unable to establish the legal elements of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.  He warned America again of the serious and coordinated Russian interference in the 2016 election, interference copiously documented in his report and a series of indictments, interference the Trump administration blocked investigation into and has done nothing to protect America against in 2020.

NO OBSTRUCTION.   Mueller dedicated a second volume of his report to an investigation and documentation of the president’s many attempts to impede the investigation, public statements that directly contradicted each other about firing various people involved with the investigation, ordering subordinates to make false records documenting lies to protect the president from evidence that could compromise him, threatening, bullying and intimidating potential witnesses, hectoring his attorney general to “unrecuse” and shut down the probes, submitting answers Mueller called “inadequate” to written questions and refusing to answer follow-up interrogatories.   The summary of this volume lays out ten very damning instances that smell very much like a vigorous and ongoing attempt to obstruct the investigation.   In response the president has another great slogan to fit on a hat:  No Do-Overs!

As for obstruction allegations, Trump doubles down, he’s consistent in this.  No subpoenas will be obeyed!   No documents will be released.  Let the courts rule against me, I have 5-4 on the Supreme Court now!   In his angry tirade today he claimed that the report written by his enemy, a vengeful man who had an undisclosed business deal with Trump that went bad and who was already angry because Trump denied him the FBI director job he coveted, a man with a conflict of interest who employed a team of angry Democrats, COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY EXONERATED him.

If you love somebody, as millions appear to love eternally fighting Trump, you can forgive that person an extended temper tantrum when they are unfairly attacked by unscrupulous, powerful enemies.   If you watch that same tirade without the love for the angry person, the facts will sometimes speak for themselves.

Our experiment in democracy may already be over, crushed by a skillful forty year campaign by ultra-wealthy extreme right wing zealots with roots deep in the rabid ideology of the John Birch Society.  It could be that enough people, softened by a lifetime of ads that have made them loyal consumers, prefer a muscular chant to something as squishy and complicated as flagrant violations of campaign finance law, flouting the rules against using the office of president to enrich yourself, abstractions like dead children of illegals at the borders, mass killing of the neighbors of possible terrorists, seizing and imprisonment of the illegal fake children of alien rapists.    MAGA means a return to the good old days, when you could honestly call a homosexual a fag without everybody jumping on you, when colored people knew their goddamn place, when the life of every six day-old embryo, every three month-old fetus, was the most sacred and precious of all of God’s creations.    You see, we were once a country of decency and God-fearing Christian values, my friends, and it is only right to return to that golden time when dissent was seen as treason and everybody knew their goddamned place.

I may just be an optimist, but I see signs that our legal system is still not completely corrupt, our democracy not quite completely dead.   An attorney general who, as spin-doctor spokesman and chief legal advisor to a president, deliberately misleads and confuses the public then lies under oath?   Congress’s constitutional duty is to impeach him.   The Senate won’t oust him?   It matters not, put the corrupt, demonically evasive protector of presidential unaccountability on trial for America to see.  Let Barr refuse a subpoena to testify in his own impeachment hearing, that’s OK too.   If the Supreme Court rules 5-4 on Barr’s right to tell Congress to suck it, democracy is already over.  Still, we have to follow the law if we are a nation of laws — it is the only roadmap away from tyranny.  Congress is the only body, under our constitution, who can hold a sitting president, or his hand-picked appointees, accountable for high crimes and misdemeanors [1].   Let the impeachment hearings begin.

If the impeachment investigation in the House, or the trial in the Senate, is stonewalled by Trump’s blanket refusal to cooperate, do you really think the Supreme Court will side with him 5-4 that he doesn’t need to allow subordinates to testify in an impeachment hearing because all charges against him are part of a vicious, partisan witch hunt against a completely innocent man who never, NEVER got a blow job while president!!!?  If so, we’re already finished as an even nominal democracy.   That argument would probably fly with Boof, but it’s hard to see the others, even the most craven, signing on to that decision.  Call me naive, but I still believe in the integrity of our (yes, deeply flawed) legal system and the constitutional system of checks and balances.  I also believe the Supreme Court justices, at least most of them, rule with an eye toward their place in history.  

I see evidence that plenty of government officials still believe in the rule of law too.   There are at least a thousand former federal prosecutors of integrity who signed a letter analyzing Mueller’s report and agreeing that it makes out a criminal obstruction case that would be pursued, but for the fact that the perpetrator is currently the president of the United States.   There are also federal prosecutors of integrity who are presently serving.  

If not, we’re already finished, and you are right to despair, but I am thinking otherwise.  Hope is better than resignation, until they nail the box shut.

It is upon us all to struggle against the idea that, living under a sociopathic scofflaw demagogue who is a useful donkey for manipulative billionaires and powerful bigots to ride, our fate as a nation is already sealed.



[1] At one point during Trump’s angry remarks outside the White House, he pointed out the legal requirement, for impeachment, of “high crimes AND misdemeanors”.   He pointed out the AND to the assembled reporters, a teachable moment.  You see, even if the Report did accuse me of high crimes, which, of course, my sworn enemies completely exonerated me, but you also, constitutionally, need misdemeanors.  It says AND, plainly, and not OR, it’s written right in the constitution.  You don’t have to be a legal scholar or even have a reading level higher than second grade to see A-N-D and not O-R.   He rested his case, witch hunt.    Many followers posted thumbs up icons after this irrefutable remark.  If you love the person, it doesn’t take much to make you click “like”.   MAGA.  MAGA!!!!

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