I walked very early this morning, starting at 4:30 a.m., so early that I did not see any of the dogs with whom I have made friends. As a consequence, I had time to think, and the result is that I have a number of things I want to say.
First of all, let me acknowledge that as an old man, I really do not fully appreciate the threats and challenges faced by young people making their way these days in the world of work. I say this by way of apologizing for the hard line I have taken here on anonymous [and pseudonymous] comments. To be sure, during the years before I was awarded tenure at Columbia [which is to say before 1964], I made myself reasonably obnoxious, challenging the President and the Dean of Harvard and the President of the University of Chicago while I was teaching there, as well as alienating numerous senior professors here and there. But I was fortunate, and these breaches of academic etiquette did not cost me very much. [I did lose jobs I wanted at Hunter College, Boston University, and Brandeis because of my political statements, but in retrospect I was better off not getting those jobs anyway.] However, it would seem that things are a great deal harder now, and I am sorry that I have failed to take that into account. Let us just agree that commentators, named or unnamed, will try on this blog to remember that we are comrades, not enemies, and will write in that spirit.
Second, my invocation of a line from The Sting was not meant as a comment on the dispute concerning Russia. Its purpose was to remind us all that in politics, one never gets all that one wants, even when one wins, so one must be willing to take what victory brings and recognize that it will never be enough. Even if we managed by some miracle to elect enough Ocasio-Cortez’s to control the House, and enough Bernie Sanders to control the Senate, and Elizabeth Warren as President, that dream world would probably just take us back to the glory days of the New Deal, which was not, I can report, a socialist paradise. In reality, even a brilliant electoral success would yield much less. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as the Good Book says.
Third, I want to offer my own take on Trump’s incendiary tweet that Jeff Sessions should end the Mueller investigation right now. [Those who sigh at these words and conclude that I am just an apologist for the Democratic National Committee are advised to turn off their computers and go read some Gramsci.] Almost immediately after that tweet appeared, Trump’s lawyers called the mainstream media and went on television explaining that he was not giving an order, just expressing an opinion, as though he were himself merely a talking head on a cable news show. The anti-Trumpers responded by proclaiming this an impeachable offense and opined that Trump had walked it back because he knew that firing Mueller would drive the Congressional Republicans into dangerous opposition. I think all of that is way too complicated, and gives Trump more credit for rationally self-interested action than he deserves.