He hears the footsteps, yet he blusters on

By James W. Dolan
Special to the Reporter

In rare moments of reflection he hears footsteps; they are steady, measured, and unrelenting, and they send a chill through his body because he knows that the many business deals he has made are unlikely to withstand intense scrutiny. For someone unwilling to release his tax returns, the thought of someone examining his finances explains his vigorous opposition to the Office of Special Counsel.

For two people, both Republicans, with privileged backgrounds, President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not be more different. One is immature, erratic, and undisciplined; a narcissist who values loyalty to him as the supreme virtue. The other is a Vietnam War veteran, a career public servant noted for his discipline, honesty, discretion, and fairness. Trump has every reason to fear what Mueller’s investigation may reveal.

Winston Churchill purportedly said: “With integrity, nothing else matters, and without integrity nothing else matters.” In other words, honesty, truthfulness, persistence, and character will eventually overcome obstacles. Without those values, discord, conflict, and dissension will triumph. We see in the adversarial relationship between Trump and Mueller a testing of that hypothesis. Mueller will not succumb to pressure or intimidation and Trump cannot understand how anyone could be motivated by something other than money and adulation.

The footsteps are getting louder as plea deals are made to obtain incriminating testimony. Where Mueller’s methodical investigation is taking him is anyone’s guess. Presumably aware of his problems, Trump chose to assume the risk of exposure sure to follow if elected. His need for power and attention prompted him to throw the dice.

The integrity theme has long been a mainstay in literature and movies. It’s the good guy against the bad guy; the corrupt mayor of a western cattle town being confronted by the noble federal marshal who was sent to clean up the mess and restore order and stability. The good guy usually wins. That story now is being played out on a much larger scale. The forces are much bigger and more complex, but it’s essentially the same conflict.

Mueller even looks like the image of the federal marshal – tall, lanky, taciturn, and fearless. Trump is central casting’s idea of the corrupt mayor – flashy, loud, and boisterous. The mayor tries to rally his supporters while the marshal quietly goes about his job. In the end, the disgraced mayor is forced to leave town. That’s the way it’s supposed to end.

But in the meantime, Trump will continue to hear footsteps, knowing Mueller is quietly examining aspects of his background not previously disclosed that he would prefer remain secret. How close they will come remains to be seen. Regardless of the outcome, efforts to discredit Mueller will fail. He has earned the valued reputation as a man of integrity.