Four Short Poems From The Mueller Hearings
One of the little known facts about the Mueller Report as originally presented to Attorney General Barr is that it is written entirely in verse. There is a good deal of precedent. The Ken Starr report on President Clinton was written in rhymed couplets, and the first draft of the Warren Commission was all limericks, because Chief Justice Earl Warren enjoyed rendering his opinions in that form. They’ve since become common at the Supreme Court, particularly when citing Warren, as in Justice Anthony Kennedy’s landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas:
Privacy – Our rights, it’s the very pulse of.
We don’t spy on couples convulsive.
That’s what the court wrote,
In Griswold. And I quote:
“The very idea is repulsive.”
Justice Scalia wrote a scathing dissent, not just of the ruling but critical of Kennedy’s loose meter and strained construction. It is hard to disagree, although the case was well-decided.
All this explains a lot about Mueller’s testimony at the congressional hearings in July of 2019. As expected, he kept his answers short, and chose not to explain himself, because, as Archibald MacLeish once said, “a poem should not mean to indict, it should be an indictment.”
Mueller delivered on that principle. In his opening statement summarizing the report, he simply said:
It’s six and a half pounds when you weigh it.
You can take it to read at the beach.
We didn’t come right out and say it,
But there’s plenty of grounds to impeach.
In response, the Republicans largely used the hearings as an opportunity to try to undermine the report’s conclusions. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was particularly scathing when he said:
Thanks for nothing, Director Mueller!
You’ve wasted the time of the nation.
Two volumes that couldn’t be duller,
Add up to full exoneration!
There was a lot of back and forth of that nature. Many people were hoping for shocking revelations, as when Texas Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee pressed Mueller for details about the hush money payments that Michael Cohen made on behalf of Donald Trump:
LEE: Are you familiar with Miss Stormy Daniels?
MUELLER: We screened some films in which she ‘acted.’
LEE: And did she claim the president was in one?
MUELLER: She did, but that scene was redacted.
Those people were disappointed.
What did it all add up to? Chairman Adam Schiff put it very well in a pithy closing statement, published simultaneously in the Congressional Record and the fall quarterly of Poetry Digest:
Trump asked the Russians to elect ‘im
And then pushed hard to obstruct.
So if Congress doesn’t get off its rectum
This country is royally fucked.
I fear for the state of our Democracy.
And we adjourn on a sorrowful note.
But faced with McConnell’s hypocrisy.
You’ll just have to get out and vote.
Mort Milder is a writer, editor, and playwright born in St. Louis, Missouri, and living in New York City. His stories appear in La Piccioletta Barca, October Hill, The Metaworker, and The American Drivel Review. His play “Book Club,” was read in the Red Eye New Play Festival. Mort is a co-producer of Rough&Ready Productions, a performance salon for works-in-progress in New York City and on YouTube.
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