(The second installment in an occasional series)
It has been well said, and frequently so, that Life ofttimes imitates Art. Few, however, have brought off this accomplishment with the consummate skill that Your Excellency has demonstrated in the management of the office of Attorney General of these United States. Save for your contemporary haberdashery, a minor difference that we may dismiss as irrelevant, you are the veritable embodiment of Jonathan Wild.
I take it for granted that one who has risen so high in the field of the Law without being overmuch troubled by an ignorance of its most elementary principles, is likely to be even more grossly deficient in his knowledge of literature. Permit me, therefore, to describe the historical and literary model which you have adopted as your familiar (unwittingly, I presume, but, curiously, with no less unerring genius than that of a natural mime who has made a thorough study of his subject).
Wild was the most famous thief-taker of his era, a man who cultivated an unparalleled reputation as the leading adept in the arts of detection and in the recovery of stolen property. So great was his fame, that he was even consulted by Government on the best methods to reduce the plague of theft then epidemic in London. His success, however, did not stem from any preternatural acuteness of reasoning or from the possession of extraordinary wisdom or the gift of second sight. Nay, he succeeded through the simple expedient of running the gangs of cutpurses and footpads who stole the property in the first place, subsequently publishing advertisements of the recovery of the goods, and collecting fees for their restoration from the grateful victims. He was eventually found out, and an incensed citizenry turned out in huge numbers to see him hanged at Tyburn.
Those are the bare bones of Wild’s notorious career; but it required the capacious and inventive brain of revered novelist Henry Fielding to put flesh on those bones, and to author a literary masterpiece that not only catalogued his subject’s criminal deeds, but, through the plentiful use of ironic construction, illustrated the utter perfidy that frequently underlies the claims to greatness of notable men, and most especially of those whose vehemence in making asseverations of their own competence and honesty is in direct proportion to the lack of any recognizable surety.
And here, Sir, the analogy touches you nearly, inasmuch as you, like Wild, have employed the Law as a curtain for the concealment of your unlawful aims. Your administration sought, ostensibly, to curtail the flow of weapons to the Mexican warlords, whose outrages have led to the murder of thousands of that nation’s people, and to the intimidation and, ultimately, to the corruption of their army and constabulary. But your stratagem, on its face, was a schematic of inevitable failure, since it involved transporting arms to the bandits without any effectual means for the interdiction of the weapons, or for the identification and prosecution of the traffickers. Yet, peeping behind the Japanese screen which hides your true motives, one sees that this is an instance of wheels within wheels. The secret rationale for a plan of such manifestly dubious merit was to exacerbate, rather than reduce, the violence at our southern border, in order to excite the passions of our own people against the private possession of firearms. Having played the arsonist, and set alight these emotions, it was your intention to consign the Second Amendment to the flames.
Do you follow me, Sir? Do you smoke my meaning? If not, then I shall be plain: you have indubitably made the same discovery as did Wild, to wit, that the best way to profit from abusing the public trust is to hide behind it, taking care to so thoroughly identify your person with the public office of Justice, and the trappings appertaining thereto, as to make yourself indistinguishable from the institution of Justice, itself. And when, in the course of your maladministration, and in despite of your smug assumptions concerning their inability to do so, the people nevertheless came to suspect that the connection between the putative Man of Law and the Law proper was tenuous, you thought it sufficient to declaim loudly against the evidence, or to cast the blame upon your minions.
Your Excellency will, I pray, forgive me for constructing such a coarse metaphor, but it should be clear to the meanest intelligence that one who is afflicted with chronic flatulence cannot hope to escape censure by baldly denying the existence of the odor, or mendaciously attributing the effluvium to his fellows. You are irrefutably the cavity at the center of a miasmic vortex of corruption, and the disgrace of your conduct dooms you to ignominious failure. Whether it ultimately places you within reach of that Justice which you swore to uphold, but have so openly flouted, is a matter to be disposed of by better men in the fullness of time.