DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
There are any number of ways the Mueller report, delivered as of Friday to Attorney General William Barr, could become the most anticlimactic event since Gerald Rivera drilled open Al Capone’s vault.
It could summarize the many crimes and misdemeanors committed by a platoon of Donald Trump’s band of brothers and sisters; it could point to the many acts of the president to deflect the investigation into Russian collusion; it could note the president’s campaign to discredit Mueller’s own probe. It could do none of the above and simply note the special counsel concluded he charged every crime he thinks has a reasonable chance of successful prosecution, and that’s that.
So far, all we know per an anonymous Justice Department briefer is the report is “comprehensive”; Mueller got everything he asked for; and the special counsel is recommending no further indictments.
This hasn’t stopped Trumpworld from declaring victory. Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s son, is gloating on Twitter. Mark Meadows, the South Carolina Tea Partyer who has emerged as Trump’s fiercest enforcer on Capitol Hill, declared a premature verdict of “no collusion”—as if the squishy term carries any legal weight whatsoever.
And surely the president will declare victory no matter what it says.
All the normal cut and thrust of politics, as much as anything can be normal in the Trump age. But there is one way in which Mueller’s report, the main conclusions of which will likely go public this weekend, could mark the beginning of a genuinely consequential crisis!!!
If it offers evidence of potentially criminal or—more likely— impeachable conduct by the president, it could set either the courts or the House Judiciary Committee on a course to demand evidence Trump has no intention of providing!!!
Those in the president’s corner offer an argument for a sharply-limited accounting by Mueller, which sets some sort of record for artfulness, ummm, testosterone, crude testicle toilet humor, ah, chutzpah!
Since Justice Department guidelines say a sitting president cannot be indicted, and since those guidelines also say without indictments there should be no official comments—something former FBI director James Comey brushed aside when he called Hillary Clinton’s email use “extremely careless” back in 2016—then by definition Mueller should offer no comment at all about the president’s conduct.
But if Mueller found, for example “corrupt intent” in Trump’s use of executive power —say, to shut down a probe into collusion— or other conduct which fits the definition of “obstruction of justice” or “abuse of power,” it may be impeachable, so those findings have to see the light of day!!!
And if what Mueller has found prompts a U.S. attorney, or the House Judiciary Committee, to demand evidence from the White House? That’s when the often overhyped fears of a constitutional clash could move from paranoia to plausibility.
Why? Because this president already smashed through so many once “impregnable” guardrails, it is highly imaginable he would simply ignore what every recent president has done, which is to honor the mandates of the courts even at enormous cost. Keep in mind, too, Mueller was forced to shutter his investigation without the benefit of an in-person presidential interview—an ill omen for future White House cooperation with Capitol Hill.
When Harry Truman, faced with a steel strike in the midst of the Korean War, tried to seize the steel mills, the Supreme Court said “no, he lacks the statutory or executive authority to do so.” Truman fumed at the decision, but obeyed it.
When a unanimous Supreme Court told President Richard Nixon in 1974 to turn over tapes and other materials related to the Watergate cover-up, Nixon had to know following the subpoena would end his presidency. But he did so, and 16 days later, he was on his way to exile in California.
Nothing in Trump’s conduct suggests he would follow these examples.
Indeed, he made it part of his “brand” (dear gawd, is there any clearer sign capitalism is dead than the president has a brand?) to sweep aside the practices more or less universally accepted by presidents past, whether by failing to release past tax returns, or concealing records of White House visitors, or entangling himself and his family in decisions affecting their personal finances, or declaring a bogus national emergency to find money Congress specifically denied him.
Trump, to use the late Daniel Moynihan’s famous phrase, “defined deviancy down,” and what is more, he did it with the more or less full backing of his party’s media, congressional, and institutional wings, either out of their admiration for his boldness, or more likely, out of their fear of his capacity to end their own political lives and TV ratings.
Trump’s party spent the better part of two years acting as an Amen corner, amplifying the president’s own insistence any assertion of illegal or impeachable conduct on his part is by definition the product of a corrupt “Deep State,” out to stage a coup against the chief executive.
So if Mueller’s report triggers a demand from courts or the Congress for evidence to follow up his conclusions, would a presidential refusal be turned into a partisan battle, rather than an institutional demand the executive accede to a co-equal branch of government?
I’d be less willing to offer such a warning had I not heard the same concerns voiced privately just a week ago by one of the most prominent figures in the legal universe.
There are concerns the president would simply say “no” to the same kind of judicial command presidents in the past routinely followed, and would face little resistance from his own party, thus turning a textbook case of executive authoritarianism into a partisan food fight.
If there is anything in Trump’s history to make such fears unwarranted, they are extraordinarily well hidden. I don’t think Steve Bannon meant to be taken seriously when he said, “Never in my life did I think I’d like to see a dictator, but if there’s going to be one, I want it to be Trump,” but the serious assertions among his followers “God put Trump in the White House” suggest his base will be with him until Judgment Day.
Along with every other member of the Grand Army of Speculation, I don’t know whether anything in the Mueller report would trigger new demands for cooperation from the White House, though Hill Democrats are already hinting as much.
But if there are such assertions, we may well be in dangerous new territory…