Apr 23, 2019

By Choosing Caution, Mueller Failed to Lead the Country Forward

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Mueller Report’s great promise was resolution. Mueller is a lifelong public servant, a prudent thinker, and a patriot. Widely seen as a neutral arbiter, Mueller and his team would collect all of the facts and reach conclusions the American people could accept. This mandate gave Mueller a unique opportunity to lead the country through disabling partisanship. Reaching trustworthy conclusions could do more than resolve vexing political questions. It could be a salve to the open national wounds of confusion, disorientation, and the loss of faith in each other.

To succeed in leading the way forward, Mueller needed to move beyond the safety of caution. Instead, he took a narrow interpretation of his role. That choice left the public with ambiguity. In essence he determined this about the American president: I can’t say he did, and I can’t say he didn’t. Whatever place you find yourself along the political spectrum, this lack of clarity isn’t a good outcome.

Mueller Failed to Lead America Forward

We live in strange times. Journalists say “we’re going down the rabbit hole” or “we’re through the looking glass.” Both refer to Lewis Carroll’s character Alice, who enters alternative universes where everything is backwards. Historians and intelligence experts sound sober warnings like a drumbeat: “this is not normal.” When the world around us looks so shaky, we often experience internal angst at the same time.

By not taking a clear stand, Mueller failed to resolve the underlying questions. He also left the public with a lot of stress and fear. In both ways, he missed an opportunity to exercise leadership. The Special Counsel isn’t a leader in the traditional sense. But in this case, history called on Mr. Mueller to lead the public through a treacherous time when democracy hangs in the balance.

As published on April 23, 2019 on Forbes.com