by Roger Kimball
What do you suppose the chances are that Merrick Garland, Joe Biden’s attorney general and chief enforcer, is a student of Søren Kierkegaard? Pretty slim, I’d wager. But his announcement yesterday that he was getting the old band back together and appointing yet another “special counsel” to investigate Donald Trump made me think that he should take a gander at Repetition, a book that Kierkegaard published in 1843 under the pseudonym Constantin Constantius.
The book is an arch, hothouse affair, full of Kierkegaard’s mocking and self-indulgent philosophical curlicues. But the MacGuffin of the book—whether one can really repeat the events of one’s life and, if so, what significance that repetition has—is something Garland might want to ponder for himself. I don’t think I will be spoiling things by revealing that Kierkegaard—or at least his pseudonymous narrator—concludes that, no, “there simply is no repetition” in life.
I don’t expect that would faze Garland. A man who can direct his Stasi agents to treat parents as domestic terrorists because they complain about the actions of their local school board is clearly made of strong stuff. Why not conduct an unprecedented raid on a former president’s home? Why not organize another political vendetta against him?
Sure, this will be the third special counsel assigned to harass Donald Trump, the most investigated American president in history. It would be nice if Garland could lure Robert Mueller out from his Golden Pond activities to take on the attack against the once and possibly future president once more. I suspect, though, that Mueller is too deep in Bidenesque (or Fettermanesque) mental twilight to mount that steed again. Maybe Garland can harness up the despicable Andrew Weissmann, Mueller’s brain and primary dogsbody in the now thoroughly discredited “Russian collusion” delusion.
The predicates for the new special counsel are not too promising. One has to do with Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, when some of his supporters, along with lots of FBI plants masquerading as Trump supporters, marched on the U.S. Capitol. The other has to do with what classified documents Trump may have sequestered at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving the presidency.
The first is unpromising because, notwithstanding the exertions of loopy Liz Cheney to demonstrate his culpability for the January 6 jamboree, Trump had nothing to do with the almost entirely peaceful Capitol breach. His last two tweets that day (just a day or two before he got thrown off the platform) cannot have pleased the future CNN or MSNBC hostess Cheney:
I am asking for everyone at the U.S. Capitol to remain peaceful. No violence! Remember, WE are the Party of Law & Order—respect the Law and our great men and women in Blue. Thank you!
Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!
Not much to work with there, Liz, but as a famous Russian once said, “Show me the man and I will find you the crime.”
The second is unpromising because the FBI just leaked the news to the Washington Post that, far from secreting nuclear codes or other classified nuclear secrets (as was first and widely reported), Trump had simply glommed onto various personal items. As the Post reported, investigators have “not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession,” nor did anything recovered “point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets.” Rats.
But Trump did just announce—speaking of repetition—that he was throwing his hat into the ring for a third time. Would Merrick Garland have wheeled out the old Special Counsel wheeze absent Trump’s announcement that he was running for president again? Nobody outside Garland’s sanctum sanctorum really knows.
We do know, however, that when it comes to government harassment, “the process is the punishment.” The state has unlimited resources with which to torment people it doesn’t like, and on that list of people it doesn’t like, Donald J. Trump gets star billing.
It has long been clear that America now operates under a two-tier judicial system. Notice that I did not say a “two-tier system of justice.” Absent the virtue of impartiality, there is no justice. There is a flagrant absence of impartiality in the contemporary American judiciary. How else could Joe Biden, who obviously profited from his family’s foreign connections in China, Ukraine, and elsewhere, go uninvestigated? How else could Hunter Biden escape any serious scrutiny? You can add Hillary Clinton and a large cast of Democratic apparatchiks from the FBI and our intelligence services to that list.
But let’s say you were wandering around the grounds of the Capitol on January 6, 2021: Pow! you are caught up in a nationwide dragnet and tossed into a Washington gulag for many months before you are treated to a biased trial. If you are Steve Bannon and you refuse a congressional subpoena, you are indicted, convicted, and given jail time. If you are Eric Holder, Barack Obama’s “wingman” and attorney general, exactly nothing happens to you.
The establishment hates Donald Trump for many good reasons. He did a lot to wreck their concessions during his first term and, should he again win the presidency, the gloves would be off and their gravy train would be over.
I suspect that Michael Anton is right: They can’t let him back in because Trump’s attack on the regulatory “deep state” with all its globalist affiliations would bring their elitist party to an abrupt end. “The people who really run the United States of America,” Anton wrote, “have made it clear that they can’t, and won’t, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again.”
I know: it is early days yet. The 2024 race won’t really begin until February or March. We don’t know whether Biden will, or will be able, to run. And we don’t know how many Republican candidates there will be. All the beautiful people with Ivy League degrees and luxury beliefs tell us that Trump shouldn’t run because he can’t win (though, secretly, many of them in their heart of hearts think that he shouldn’t run precisely because he really could win).
I am alive to Trump’s flaws and shortcomings. I also am alive to his extraordinary achievements during his first term. He would drive the Left, and the housebroken Right, right over a mental cliff, it is true. Anton was not being melodramatic. But I put that down as a collateral benefit, not a liability. Which brings me back to the theme of repetition. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Karl Marx gave famous expression to one version of repetition. History, said Marx, really does repeat itself, just as Hegel observed. But does so with a twist: “the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.”
The persecution of Donald Trump from 2015 to beyond the end of his terms was a tragedy for the country and what Nancy Pelosi apostrophized as Our Democracy™. His continued torment by the ghoulish Merrick Garland and his flying monkeys looks more farcical, illustrating Marx’s point. But it is important to bear it in mind that even the most farcical developments can unfold as tragedies as well.
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Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine’s Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art’s Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee). Most recently, he edited and contributed to Where Next? Western Civilization at the Crossroads (Encounter) and contributed to Against the Great Reset: Eighteen Theses Contra the New World Order (Bombardier).
Photo “Merrick Garland” by The White House.