The public faking of sincerity is an underappreciated yet dark and unctuous art, practiced with great skill by Roman senators, French courtiers (just before the advent of the guillotine) and, yes, Washington politicians.
Fear is a different creature. There is no need to fake it. It shows itself on the faces of intriguers in Washington as it would have shown itself on the faces of macaques in a laboratory or on some 15th century jester in a painting. We are all primates. The lips curl back, there is a witless acceptance of threat and the showing of teeth, of gums.
But in Washington, they don't call it fear. They pretend, rather, that it is the anger of the righteous. Yet it is fear just the same, that treacly Washington bureaucratic and political fear.
It belongs to the intriguer, and is the fear of finally being found out, discovered, of losing one's place in the hive, at the salon, a fear not only of the loss of reputation, but of the loss of income and status and power. The fear of the loss of face, the fear of ridicule.
It is the same fear that was felt in Rome and later in pre-revolutionary France, and now they feel it in Washington.
And the man who is causing it all is Attorney General William Barr.
Because when Barr explained, almost casually and quite publicly just a few weeks ago, that he was looking into the origins of the inquisition of President Donald Trump and that discredited Russian collusion business, and into the "spying" on the Trump campaign, something happened.
The Washington establishment's fear rolled over him in waves.
He's the establishment's target now. And as a member of the Washington establishment himself, as the once and current attorney general, he knows the game. They must destroy his reputation to save theirs.
The Democrats are fearful, as are some current and former American spymasters, and former FBI chief James Comey, and their handmaidens in journalism who took their leaks and promulgated the story that Trump was a willing and traitorous servant of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
They hoped so desperately that special counsel Robert Mueller's report would vindicate them, that Mueller would find conspiracy to collude with an adversary, that he would bring a case of obstruction of justice against the president.
But Mueller did not vindicate them.
Mueller was tasked with making a call, to fish or cut bait. He did not fish. He did not cut bait. He made no call that a crime occurred. He just tossed the mess weakly into Congress' lap, something for both sides to jabber about and use as fundraising leverage.
This left many Democrats in politics and media in hysterics from which they have yet to recover. You can see evidence of this in the more emotional punditry, but also in the speechifying and histrionics of Democrats from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on down that Barr is a criminal.
All because he dared used the "S" word: spy. It is a word the Democrats and the left in media loved using when applied to the Trump campaign. But when it is applied to them, they panic and shriek, with much showing of teeth.
"I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal," Barr testified in April to questions from New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. "The generation I grew up in, which is the Vietnam War period, people were all concerned about spying on anti-war people by the government.
"I'm not talking about the FBI necessarily, but intelligence agencies more broadly."
Shaheen: "You're not suggesting, though, that spying occurred."
Barr: "I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was predicated, adequately predicated, and I'm not suggesting that it wasn't adequately predicated, but I need to explore that. I think it's my obligation. Congress is usually very concerned about intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane, and I want to make sure that happened. We have a lot of rules about that. I've said I'm reviewing this."
And the roar that followed? It was borne of fear.
As Barr tasks his team to ferret out the origins of the Trump/Russia investigation, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is putting his own report together, and I suspect that the intelligence chiefs of the Obama administration, and former FBI Director James Comey, won't like it, nor will the journalists who were fed so well.
Horowitz won't have access to a federal grand jury. But the attorney general has access to one.
This didn't start with George Papadopoulos. And we don't know how it began, exactly, weaving its way past Obama/Clinton political paranoia and FBI rogue agent Peter Strzok smelling Trump supporters at the Walmart, and Comey's odd musing about the eating of souls or sins, but we will.
"Well, we are going to see accountability," former Attorney General Michael Mukasey told Fox News Channel's Maria Bartiromo on "Sunday Morning Futures" the other day.
"We will find out who was responsible for what happened, which I think accounts for a lot of the reasons people are accusing him (Barr) falsely of making false statements to Congress," Mukasey said. "That's an attempt to discredit what he's about to do. But he's not a man easily deterred."
Which is why they're afraid. And why they must discredit him before we know for certain what they did.
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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM.