We Americans have a habit of putting fundamental social and political questions out of our minds by turning them into technical legal questions. This tendency is one of the forces at work in the increasingly dramatic showdown between the Department of Justice and the President of the United States.

There is certainly a set of discrete technical legal questions at the heart of that showdown, of course. These have become increasingly difficult to understand, and I recommend seeking out a knowledgeable and level-headed expert analyst whose lead you might follow on that front. Andy McCarthy should be first on your list.

But there is more going on, and as the drama proceeds we should keep in mind the deeper questions it should force us to confront regarding the state of our governing institutions and political culture. They are depressing questions, but important ones.

My sense of the basic facts at issue is that the president’s defenders and his critics are each right about different things.