The Daily


Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.

Samuel Johnson

The President’s lawyer says that “Truth isn’t truth” and any effort to question his client under oath is a “perjury trap”: the inevitable result of flouting all recognized rules in a scorched-earth, “win at any cost”, “art of the deal” approach to conduct built on a lifetime of narcissism, mendacity and greed.

The quick score – the one you make with the wool pulled over everyone’s eyes – may end up being the most fleeting and ruinous achievement. It’s hard if not possible to repeat once you’re outed.

Ethics are the revelator of integrity. Ethics are not relative or situational. They don’t change based upon the circumstances or the stakes. They just are. This is an idea as old as time itself – it worried most of the ancient philosophers and all of the religious figures we worship. Ethics are not something you “have” or “don’t have”. Orrin Hatch seemed to excuse the President by arguing that his conduct is the product of someone raised like an animal. That is wrong – the President is not an animal. Like the rest of us, he’s human. When any criminal defendant blames their crimes on their upbringing – those defenses are generally met with skepticism. Our President is not above the law or the same skepticism. His defense flies in the face of the universally accepted notion of our free will. Ethics are out there for all of us and you either honor them or you don’t. You either keep them or surrender them. To be sure, Ethics and the law are two separate things. But when an amoral lifestyle brand makes a mockery of Ethics, violations of the law are bound to follow.

As he (Robert Mueller) advanced from line prosecutor to top Justice Department official to head of the F.B.I., his time was marked by aggressive prosecutions but also a deference at key moments to precedent, tradition and higher office. “He’s the last guy who’s going to do anything that’s even slightly a departure from the bedrock principles,” said Glenn Kirschner, who worked alongside Mr. Mueller as a homicide prosecutor.

Matt Appuzo, New York Times, “What Will Mueller Do?”, August 25, 2018

When I was in College, the student body governed itself using a thin pamphlet called the “White Book”. The rules were so simple they hardly needed writing down: no lying, no cheating, no stealing. The punishment levied was also remarkably simple: expulsion. There was only one punishment. I was on the Student Executive Committee that tried those charged under the Honor Code and the seriousness of that charge and the ramifications it had on those involved follows me to this day.

Simplicity helps maintain a structural integrity that endures. In 2015, I went to Springfest music festival in Live Oak to see Jason Isbell perform. Late that night, bluegrass ensemble Town Mountain took the Meadow Stage where they performed the old timey way – three musicians standing around a microphone singing and playing their hearts out, seemingly unaware of the crowd watching.

Old time bluegrass, more than any other style of music, evokes traditional American values – maybe that’s why it is so spooky. Traditional bluegrass is simple and unadorned. But Nashville over the decades has spurned Hank Williams in favor of trendy adornments and ‘country’ music has been sapped of its power over time. Country music tries to evoke those old time values (easy references to trucks, alcohol, etc.) but it no longer bears the simple, essential elements that gave it power. Rap and pop trends wormed their way into the scene, diluting and castrating the music.

Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity set the expectations for behavior; they set a standard for our work. More than just a motto, for the men and women of the FBI, Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity is a way of life.

Robert Mueller