Good Guys/Bad Guys

One of the fascinating aspects of our current outrageously convoluted concurrence of scandals it is the way that it confounds sorting many of the players into good guys and bad guys, as we humans tend to want to do.

Take James Comey, for example. Over the past couple of days a number of lefty-leaning commentators have written that Comey is no hero. See:

Adam Serwer, The Atlantic, “James Comey Is No Hero.”

Charles Pierce, Esquire, “James Comey Is No Hero.”

Alex Ward, Vox, “Why James Comey isn’t the hero you think he is.”

Ryan Cooper, The Week, “James Comey Is Not a Hero.”

And so on and so on. Cooper provides the clearest explanation:

Let us recall Comey’s last-minute intervention in the 2016 election, when he loudly announced the reopening of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails on Oct. 28, then quietly closed it again after a few days. So far as anyone can tell, it directly caused a sharp decline in her poll numbers, and quite possibly may have tipped the election outcome on its own. (Of course, only Clinton’s extraordinarily unpopularity allowed the election to be close enough to tip in the first place.)

This was in direct violation of FBI rules on public statements about ongoing investigations. For very obvious reasons (which Comey unquestionably understood), national law enforcement must tread with extreme caution when it comes to investigations of political candidates. Claims that a candidate is corrupt is towards the top of the list of how authoritarian governments undermine fair elections.

Let us also recall what Comey did not say: that the Trump campaign was also under FBI investigation at that same moment — and for possibly colluding with a hostile foreign power, something that is considerably worse than violating government rules about proper email management. He left a New York Times story relating false claims of anonymous FBI sources that the agency saw no connection between Russia and Trump stand without correction.

In short: During the 2016 election, James Comey in his capacity as FBI director behaved as a committed and highly effective partisan of Donald Trump.

As I understand it, Comey’s explanation is that he presumed Clinton would win, and he wanted to inoculate the FBI from any accusations that the Bureau helped her win. But at the very least he should have been more forthcoming that the Trump campaign also was under investigation. But now Comey is on the front lines against Trump. He was the one factor outside of Clinton’s control that probably did cost her the election, but now he’s on “our” side. And, believe me, I’m not suggesting we should ask him to leave. If he can help bring down Trump, let him do it. Just don’t put him on a pedestal.

(And, before moving on from the damn emails, let us lay some blame on Hillary Clinton also. She may not have done anything criminal, but she herself mishandled the email situation from the beginning, starting with not notifying the State Department that she was setting up her own server and then mixing up government and personal emails in the same account. And then she let the situation fester way too long without addressing it more forthrightly. As Matt Yglesias wrote, it was a bullshit story, but Clinton allowed it to become a bullshit story.)

And then there are the #NeverTrump conservatives. It’s a bit disconcerting to find myself agreeing with the likes of Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, after their years of knee-jerk support for the Right. I assume that if America survives Trump, at some point in the future I’ll find myself calling Boot, Rubin et al. idiots once again. We’ll see. Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg is still an obvious idiot, even if he dislikes Trump; this keeps me grounded. (But see also this interview of Rubin in Politico.  It appears scales have fallen from eyes.)

Charles Pierce wrote,

I am told regularly by people I admire and respect to hold my cynical tongue about all the career conservatives and television flotsam from the late and unlamented Avignon Presidency who now are all over the airwaves deploring the terrible things being done to the Republic by the president* and his dwindling band of loyalists down at Camp Runamuck. Be nice, I am told. These are valuable allies.

Try not to say so loudly that, as soon as the Republican Party casts off the First Millstone, these people all will be right back to promoting the ideas and the policies that made him possible in the first place—voodoo economics, wars of choice based on deceit, ticking-bomb excuses for torture, and night sweats over the impending rise of the liberal power elite. Keep that stuff to yourself, they say.

Both Boot and Rubin played their part in creating the Right-Wing Neverland of alt-truth that allowed Trump to run for the presidency without having to make sense or answer for his own sordid “business” background. Jonathan Chait wrote,

What implications might be drawn from the implacable support of the party base for the manifestly incompetent, scandal-ridden party leader? One might entertain the conclusion that no combination of facts and logic can dislodge the Republican base from its tribal loyalties. This interpretation could be supported by such evidence as the fondness of Republicans for birtherism, their distrust of climate science, and so on. Perhaps the Republican base as currently constituted is hopelessly immune to reason and a reasonable person such as Brooks should instead refocus his political energies on curtailing its political power.

Maybe somebody should send Brooks the quiz for conservatives in Charles Pierce’s post. Sample question: “Please provide an example of how you pushed back against the entire Swift Boating of Kerry. Did any of you upbraid the people who were peddling Purple Heart Band-Aids at the 2004 Republican Convention?” Do read it all.

Something else to read: Nancy LeTourneau, “What Was Speaker Paul Ryan Doing in Prague Three Weeks Ago?

To be honest, I have no idea what any of this means. But it is important to keep in mind that Ryan is better known for his ideological commitment to Ayn Rand economics than as a foreign policy expert. It sure looks like he knows that the whole Trump-Russia conspiracy is about to blow up and, as a final act, positioned himself for a 2020 presidential run as the non-Trump candidate. I’ll admit that is pure speculation on my part, so what do you make of all of this? Could it all be just one gigantic coincidence?

Finally, what’s up with the Sean Hannity-Michael Cohen thing? Why did Cohen’s lawyers make a big bleeping deal about keeping the “third client” anonymous, but then they blurted it out in open court? And then Hannity couldn’t deny being Cohen’s client forcefully enough. But then, he said Cohen was advising him on real estate. Cohen is not a real estate lawyer. Cohen is, however, involved in big real estate deals in a non-lawyer capacity. One might assume Hannity was up to something involving Cohen he doesn’t want the world to know about, wouldn’t one?