Back in the day a young “Italian stallion” named Vincent Gigante was a fair-to middlin’ light-heavy from New Jersey. He boxed from 1945 to ‘47, winning 21 fights and losing four. At age 19 he retired from boxing to become an enforcer in the Genovese Crime Family and personal bodyguard of Mob Boss Vito Genovese. Eventually Gigante became head of that Mafia family and the most powerful crime boss in the USA. After years of sparring with federal authorities, he finally died in 2005 of natural causes, at age 77.
I mention Don Gigante, not because of any particular admiration on my part, but because his public persona produced what reporters called his Crazy Act. With the feds always after him for alleged crimes of racketeering, theft, extortion, murder and mayhem, Gigante commenced, during the 1980s, to appear in public exhibiting bizarre dress and manner. He was often seen shuffling down the sidewalks near his home, clad in pajamas, slippers and a velour bathrobe – mumbling to himself and exhibiting other signs of eccentric behavior.
Gigante behaved similarly at hearings on legal matters, including occasions when prosecutors tried to arraign him for alleged crimes. Medical experts repeatedly found him mentally incapable of attending and participating in grand jury deliberations. This helped him avoid arraignment or trial in courts of law for a long time. Years later, his daughter Rita admitted having assisted his contrived persona by holding onto his arm when he shuffled about in public, and speaking for him in some legal proceedings.
Don Gigante’s crazy act came to mind when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified to the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in 2019, regarding his investigations into Donald Trump’s supposed “collusion” with Russia. Videos showed a person who hardly resembled the man who had closed his 22-month special investigation of President Trump with a concise statement to the media. On that occasion, Mr. Mueller had appeared clothed and in his right mind – markedly different from the confused, unprepared figure at the later Congressional hearings who seemed completely unfamiliar with the 400+ pages of the report which bears his name.
“Mueller II” – as some called him – gave confused responses to committee-members’ questions, asked that some questions be repeated, and dodged at least 200 questions by claiming that the matters referred to were outside his “purview” or could not be discussed. Transcripts of the hearings indicate that no committee members asked Mr. Mueller for a clear summary of exactly what he thought his purview was in the uncontrolled investigation which had preoccupied the entire country for nearly two years, distracted the governance of a duly elected president, and arguably perturbed the Congressional elections of 2018.
Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) asked Mr. Mueller how the investigation got started and why certain individuals were charged with making false statements, while others – e.g., Joseph Misfud – were not charged. Mr. Mueller declined to answer these questions and many others. He also claimed to be unfamiliar with Fusion GPS, the organization that received $1 million-plus from Hillary Clinton’s campaign to collect dirt on Donald Trump – an effort which produced the so-called “Russian dossier.”
Reporters said Mr. Mueller was not commanding; he was not “in charge;” nor was he defiant or aggressive. One commentator called him “a bumbling idiot.” Even Democrat-aligned critics admitted that the optics of the hearings were “disastrous.” Some conservative commentators expressed pity for how far such a fine “patriot” and formerly able legal mind had degenerated. Others, including Rush Limbaugh, called Mueller a “mere figurehead whose investigation was spearheaded by 17 angry Democrats.”
During the hearings Mr. Mueller did answer the question of whether Mr. Trump could be prosecuted for crimes after he leaves office. His “yes” gave Democrats a momentary thrill, which media trumpeted in early reports. But later there was little mention of it – probably because more serious analysts realized that Mr. Mueller’s answer was both ambiguous and problematic. Certainly, an ex-president can be charged with a crime that he might have committed either before or after his presidency. But whether he can be charged with a “crime” that someone believes he committed during his terms in office is subject to much debate and difference of opinion.
You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to see that allowing such action would enable a torrent of post-presidential prosecutions and lawsuits that would turn our entire system of government on its head. Democrats hoping to punish Mr. Trump with this ploy are making a serious miscalculation, for no future ex-president – including any of their own party – would be immune from the treatment.
Hitting a president with legal action after he leaves office is what “banana republics” do, and it would be disastrous for us. Impeachment by the House and a Senate-trial are the Constitutional remedy for addressing a president’s “high crimes and misdemeanors.” After he leaves office, those matters become moot.
The “crazy acts” staged by mobster Gigante, and later by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, are early models for the latest application of the genre by none other than Joe Biden. It concerns his gross mishandling of classified government documents, following his earlier service as senator and vice-president. According to official reports, those documents were found stuffed willy-nilly in various parts of Mr. Biden’s Delaware home, including his garage and the trunk of his classic Corvette roadster.
In fact, Mr. Biden’s mishandling of those documents was on a scale that completely eclipsed the earlier hysterical accusations of Mr. Trump for improper document-handling. Investigators reported that Mr. Trump had carefully stored documents under lock and key at his Mara Lago home, and had cooperated with government authorities concerning their storage. (An insider later admitted that the armed FBI-raid of Mara Lago was conducted primarily for political effect.)
In October 2023 Joe Biden was interviewed for 5 hours by Special Counsel Robert K. Hur, who had been investigating Mr. Biden’s handling and storage of classified documents for nine months. Mr. Biden’s advisors thought the interviews went well, but ultimately their result was otherwise. As Washington Post writer Matt Viser observed:
“…Fewforesaw how the interviews would blow up four months later – not because of their content, but because Mr. Hur would repeatedly deride Biden’s memory during their time together. In a long-awaited report issued this week, Hur declined to prosecute Biden over his handling of classified documents but cast doubt on his memory, threatening to upend Biden’s pursuit of reelection by dwelling on perhaps his biggest political liability.
“Hur’s description of Biden’s demeanor as that of a ‘well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory’ infuriated Biden’s aides, who saw it as sharply at odds with what occurred as the president sat for voluntary questioning… Hur cited the president’s ostensible memory problems in concluding that he would have trouble convincing a jury that Biden had willfully mishandled classified documents.”
In response to Mr. Hur’s inflammatory remarks, various commentators across the political spectrum made observations describing Mr. Biden as anywhere from “sharp as a tack” (on one hand), to “mentally deficient and unfit to be anywhere near the nuclear codes” (on the other hand). Those allies who thought Mr. Biden’s mental capacities were fine had no plausible explanation for his confused showing in the Hur-interviews. And Democrats who actually thought Mr. Biden might be mentally deficient could offer no defense for keeping him in office, nor any organized plan for removing him under the protocols defined by the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
In response to the Hur-report, Mr. Biden conducted a quickly organized press-briefing in which he took some questions from reporters, while vigorously denouncing Mr. Hur’s characterizations of his mental capacities as gross, politically motivated “lies.” His remarks – set against the public debate on whether he should go or stay – caused some analysts (including Yours Truly) to speculate that Mr. Biden was simply staging his own version of the Gigante/Mueller Crazy Act to muddy the waters and evade the threat of legal action for his dangerous mishandling of classified documents at his private homes.
More fulsome accounts and critiques of Mr. Biden’s testimony are being written, so I won’t attempt to describe it further in this limited space. But key questions which remain unanswered include these –
- Did we see the real Joe Biden in the Hur-interviews?
- If so, where is the medical evaluation of his mental capacities?
- If not, did he put on a “crazy act” for the Congress and the American people?
- And if he did, why did he do that?
We might never know the true answers to these questions, so theorizing is all we can do right now. Accordingly, I would answer the above questions as follows:
1. Was that the real Joe Biden? Well, Yes and No. Obviously he’s no longer a young guy, but I think he’s well aware of what has happened in his past and what’s going on now. On the other hand, he has seemed very confused during numerous public appearances,
2. How about a medical evaluation? It would certainly be valuable to have that so we could be properly informed. But how could an entirely honest evaluation be obtained? What doctor would be willing to publicly call the president of the United States “mentally deficient?” The costs to that doctor’s career (and even his life) might be severe. The president has enormous power to “make offers that can’t be refused.”
3. Did Good Old Joe put on a “crazy act?” Yes, I believe so – although some of his age-related limitations helped him do it convincingly. As president, Mr. Biden has the power to act deficient, then deny that he did it. He has media allies willing to back him up, and significant numbers of voters will believe whatever he says.
4. Why did he do it? The crazy act accomplished at least two things for Mr. Biden. First, it excuses him from any responsibility for the document fiasco. He can blame his staff, so he’s (arguably) off the hook. No one will want to further drag a “sick old man” through the mud. Second, the myth has been created that a politically motivated special prosecutor has lied about the president. It gives Democrats a perfect excuse for opposing any impeachment proceedings during 2024. And it lets Mr. Biden spend the entire campaign-year denouncing Mr. Hur, while avoiding any penalties for his document-mishandling.
None of this follows the Marquis of Queensbury rules. Democrats know how to play dirty, and it’s a duel to the death.
“What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully…” (Vito Corleone)