September 24, 2018

Ben Folds called it in a song he wrote for The Washington Post.

He imagined a noble, straight-ahead person, being bullied, torn down, his glasses smashed by an authoritarian mob in a scene straight from “The Lord of The Flies.”

That punching bag, that bullied person of dignity: Rod Rosenstein.

His fate in the balance, Rosenstein, overseeing the special investigation of Trump's campaign and possible Russian ties, met Monday with Trump and will do so again on Thursday. The news followed a morning filled with speculation about the deputy attorney general's firing or resignation.

Folds's song provides a dark scenario. It warns, in the last line, that if Rosenstein goes, “Lord help us all.”

Folds, known for sharply drawn songs like "Brick" or "Rockin' the Suburbs," told me earlier this month that he spent three weeks researching Rosenstein's life and developing a factually based theme of a dedicated bureaucrat. The song, which he describes writing here, was for an experimental issue of The Washington Post Sunday Magazine.

The theme of “Mister Peepers” is tragic, reflecting Rosenstein’s derisive nickname by President Trump, who is threatened by the Justice Department investigation into his campaign’s ties with America’s enemy, Russia. Folds recounts Rosenstein’s browbeating by “the distinguished wrestler from Ohio,” a reference to GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, who is facing his own stink of a sex abuse investigation during his time at Ohio State.

“If the law don’t suit the boss,” Folds sings, “this deputy must go. We got him in the locker room, let’s start the show.”

Ben Folds
Ben Folds

In researching Rosenstein, Folds couldn’t find any dirt. He just saw just a champion of America’s democracy headed for a beatdown.

“What does Mister Peepers get out of this?" Folds asks of Rosenstein's berating by Trump and his allies. "He’s dragged to hearings. What does his wife say? She jokes that he should have taken a private sector job at twice the pay, but he has a commitment to public service.”

Folds knows that he’s bucking a trend to honor a civil servant, a lawyer even, two categories that have been demonized for decades. But he said Rosenstein’s selflessness, quiet patriotism and role in America should be honored.

He believes all Americans, even those attacking Rosenstein now, may have a role in our future. Even Jim Jordan of Ohio.

“I do think there’s generally a place for everyone,” Folds says. “As long as the distinguished wrestler is held to the bounds of the law, he can be as loud as he wants and we might have a place for him one time.”

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