First, growing up, the single name I most associated with paranoia is Joseph Heller, whose Catch-22 should perhaps find its way back into the lexicon. I would have thought that Ross Douthat would use the famous line, simply as a way to break bread with readers like me.
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.
Second, I am not nearly as confused by the events that have transpired since Mueller submitted his report, but I am totally baffled by conservative pundits at the time seeming to assume I should feel apologetic, I believe David Brooks used the word humble, at the release of the Barr summary. I don't get that at all, so will amplify on the issues below.
Third, I've read some of Ross Douthat's previous columns on the Trump-Russia connection during the 2016 election, and I thought he presented a reasonable case. In these columns, the Trump group for their part were characterized as completely amoral opportunists, who wanted to make big bucks quickly and easily. I'm not a lawyer so can't say whether not disclosing a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow that was ongoing during and after the 2016 election is a crime. But that as Trump's prime motivation in all of this seemed reasonable enough to me. Lining his own pocketbook, while campaigning for the Presidency, and afterwards as well, is vile and contemptible. Everyone should agree with that. Is it criminal and does it warrant impeachment? I must admit, I don't know. I'm guided by what I think it should be rather than what I know it to be.
Fourth, there was a news analysis piece in the Times today, Mueller’s Investigation Erases a Line Drawn After Watergate, that I thought made the distinction pretty clear. On the one hand, the evidence against Trump on obstruction of justice might be fairly weak. On the other hand, however, the evidence might be quite solid, but what is weak is the ability to act on it with a sitting President. The Independent Counsel Law has lapsed, so Mueller was appointed as a Special Prosecutor, but that meant he wasn't fully independent. He reported to the Attorney General. The Attorney General reports to the President.
Fifth, it seems some conservative commentators are assuming the likelihood is that the evidence is weak based on the summary message from Attorney General Barr, and thus folks like me are paranoid for thinking otherwise. While this does not preclude my own paranoia, I thought that message from the Attorney General had little information content in it. We need to see the full report, to make a determination. Why not wait for it?
Sixth, this is why I'm confused, because Ross Douthat doesn't seem to think there is a need for that. The case is closed now.
Seventh, it may be that under the circumstances Mueller bowing out is the most aggressive thing he could do, and allow the various cases against Trump confidants filed in state and district courts to proceed apace. The President can't grant a a pardon to somebody if the person was convicted of a crime committed at the state level.
Last, while I understand there are many other factors that might motivate wanting to call those paranoid who are on the other side politically, it seems to me that much of what is being considered here isn't liberal or conservative. It's a matter of what counts for tolerable conduct and what counts for going over the line. You'd think we might get consensus on that.
I guess not.