There are reasonably respectable statements that the Justice Department filed a brief statement on Thursday stating its loss in the antitrust suit against the
AT & T
Time Warner Fusion.
Despite its huge defeat, Justice reminds the media world that things are not all happening now: Vertical integration will not automatically come into play by giving traditional media distributors control over valuable news and entertainment content, even in the Internet age. The policeman stays on track and the Ministry of Justice will not hesitate to bring a similar case again.
These assumptions are too generous for Makan Delrahim, the antitrust head of the department.
As this column has pointed out, he sued the AT & T Time Warner Agreement for reasons more related to uncomfortable bureaucratic optics than to the matter.
During the campaign, his president categorically rejected the merger and said that it was not allowed under his supervision. Mr. Delrahim, in the meantime, inherited an employee of Obama who had been working on the case for months, approaching him as they had
NBC deal, so that the merger can be continued with strict conditions.
But Mr. Delrahim, in a jolting moment, had already noted himself on arid antitrust grounds as a critic of such settlements. He ignored the political reality, but also cut off from the half-loaf result, which he could plausibly present as victory.
Suing now became his only option, not to contradict himself, to contradict himself, his staff and his president at the same time. So he and his department insisted in a bad case, which a month ago was rightly and devastatingly rejected by the US District Judge
Smart people know when to reduce their losses. But in politics, mistakes must be pressed closer to the chest. Mr. Delrahim finds himself in a peculiar turn, for while resisting the AT & T deal, his department gave probable approval
Fox Deal, which Mr. Trump apparently agrees. Now, Mr Delrahim has to appeal hopelessly for the AT & T judgment, just to maintain the illusion that there is something coherent and advisory in the antitrust department.
Okay, let's give the guy a break. He ended up on the job with no time to fathom his own views on media concentration or getting a staff in line. He was hit on the first day with a mega deal of epic proportions.
Mr. Delrahim is not really slavishly anxious to follow Mr. Trump's signals about such mergers, though, ironically, his job is probably safe as long as the media claims he is.
In any other administration, he could already be a lame duck, on the way out. But it helps that the Trump Justice Department is in constant disarray and likely to stay. Mr. Delrahim can probably stay for the duration if he wants.
In Federalist No. 70, Hamilton praises "power in the executive," but constitutionalists have recently, and correctly, seen too much energy in overstepping administrative law. We could add that a particular category of concerns in the executive should be called cowardly energy.
The worst recent example could have been
by the nominally independent Federal Communications Commission, which overturned its cumbersome, well-designed approach to network neutrality overnight in 2014 because President Obama wanted him to impose old rules of utility on the left and informed "netizens" who see HBO's
In an attempt to be ecumenical, I think of a second example: Former
GOP representative. Ray LaHood,
who headed the Obama Transportation Department. His agency is the world's expert, not just on "pedal misuse" (giving gas instead of braking), but on how one or two incidents can lead to unfounded media hystereries about out-of-control cars. When the panic of unintended acceleration broke out in Toyota, Mr. LaHood would not have cost anything to be the voice of a non-political, technical reason. But the habit of a life is hard to break. He was the hysterical voice of all, indicating that Toyotas could not even safely drive to the dealership to have their gas pedals checked.
Not that Mr. Delrahim's behavior in disgrace is comparable to these episodes. Both the Disney and AT & T deals are done as they should.
But there are disturbances and interruptions. Mr. Trump is the kind of blow-up that leaves chaos that may or may not be productive. It bears little resemblance to, say, the
Art that involves the constant, patient, rational use of new insights to change old ways of doing things.
In the Cartel Department of Justice, chaos has control. On the other hand, there could now be even worse signs for the US economy and the economy.