So, if he is not, as some now say, addled, how else to explain this miserable performance?

Mueller is not nearly as young as he used to be. He will turn 75 next month. And not unlike many other players in our current political arena, he is showing some signs of that aging. Clearly, he cannot hear so well — especially in a noisy room. It happens to most of us. Give any 75-year-old (especially a veteran of combat or rock-and-roll) a hearing test.

He seemed slower than he once did in processing what was being asked of him — much of which was confusing, multipart loaded questions — and in formulating his responses. In my aging mind, his slowness is easily explained by a heightened sense of deliberation, a determination to answer politically charged questions with careful and precise answers and thus avoid traps for headline writers to distort his report one way or another.

He seemed resigned to his fate. Even when trying to respond after a pause, he was often talked over by a preening inquisitor. Some ignored that he was trying to speak. Others, even Democrats, would interrupt him to say, “In the interest of time, sir,” and then start speaking again. In the interest of whose time? The nation’s? Mueller’s? No. Their time. Mueller just shrugged. This is the resignation of wisdom brought on by attaining a certain age.