In America, truth is missing in action

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By Adam Goodman, Times correspondent Published: April 20, 2018Updated: April 20, 2018 at 04:22 PM
It’s “Mueller Time,” as the nation grows ever closer to a confrontation with the truth.
Was collusion with the Russians an illusion? If not, who was involved, what was done, and when? Did it impact the 2016 campaign, the fate of Hillary Clinton and now the world? And what about the revelations surfaced by a woman named Stormy and a fixer named Cohen that the president’s legal team has yet to figure out or overcome?

Into the fray comes Robert Mueller, a highly decorated soldier, seasoned prosecutor and respected former FBI director whose life and career would make any highlight reel profiling America’s best.
That’s because Mueller has gone where others have rarely dared to go, and lived to tell about it.
Mueller was the college lacrosse and hockey star so moved by a teammate who lost his life in Vietnam he enlisted in the Marines to carry on the fight. While others dodged the draft, Mueller dodged bullets, earning a Bronze Star and Purple Heart when he used his body as a human shield to save others. That’s patriotism writ large.

As a prosecutor and U.S. attorney, Mueller took on and took down mobsters and murderers, terrorists and thugs, and people of privilege whose wealth made them feel they could live by different rules and get away with it. He not only believes in the rule of law; he fights for it.
Now Mueller has answered the call of duty one more time, today as a Republican appointed by a Republican to investigate a Republican. He’s Atticus Finch looking to still a restive world by ever so quietly revealing the truth.

Yet this is not the movies but real-life theater where Mueller finds himself in the crosshairs of history. He’s leading an investigation bearing on the nation’s willingness to not only seek the truth but want the truth. Whatever that is, wherever that leads.

There are legitimate questions here of reach and overreach, of what’s allowed by statute and what’s not, and how far the special counsel can move without the reins of power authorizing it. Yet this much is clear: Unlike the president, who’s turning up the volume amid the chaos, Robert Mueller is giving political bravado the silent treatment. Now we wait to see if that silence will one day wake up America, or drive us further into corners of distrust. Will Mueller even be retained to see the job through, or will the president pull the plug before the day is done?

Honestly, can anyone get at the truth these days without being ruthlessly harangued, harassed and hounded? Have we lost our moral capacity to even tolerate a search for truth without turning against the truth-seeker?

We say we want leaders who are genuine but repel them when they uncover things we genuinely don’t like. We want information that allows us to figure it out for ourselves, but instead we are patronized by cable news commentators fueling rage to drive ratings. This reflects a world of verbal combat where every day everybody is killing off everyone everywhere.

When Pope Francis met with a group of astronomers a few years back, knowing their science at times clashed with theology, he reassured them with four words: “Never to fear truth.” The pontiff might as well have been talking about the children of Parkland who’ve been unafraid to seek the truth, or press those unwilling to embrace it. The #MeToo movement is also unafraid, no longer willing to hide generations of harassment behind curtains of silence. It’s time the rest of us stepped up, for the good of the country, because the collateral damage being done to institutions responsible for preserving law and order should concern all of us.

Sadly, the FBI is no longer seen as an agency of investigative excellence that turns a blind eye to partisan favor. The Department of Justice is increasingly regarded as a closet of injustice. All while the issue at hand — alleged Russian collusion — twists and turns amid a twirl of tweets.

Some may feel Jack Nicholson was right in A Few Good Men when his character defended the indefensible with the cavalier defense, “You can’t handle the truth.” Robert Mueller, war hero, law enforcement icon and American patriot, believes we can. He’s betting on us.

I hope he’s right.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

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