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?

13 thoughts on “Good Guys/Bad Guys

  1. "he said Cohen was advising him on real estate"

    Yeah like: hey Mike, how do I set-up an LLC so I can buy my GUMA a nice apartment in the city without the wife knowing?

  2. “Slime ball.” From the President* of the United States.

    Churchillian, no?


  3. According to Cohen, he had three clients.  For two of them, he was involved with payments to a porn star and a prostitute.  Wonder what he did for Hannity.  Hmmm.

  4. Interesting that already the obvious has been noted by one writer, and at the same time there is a deafening silence everywhere else.

    Ryan is running for President. He'll run in 2020, he'll run in 2024, he'll run forever. He's hooked on the job, or as they used to say, he has the fire in the belly. He was sucked up from his backwater job as mawkish hawker of nonsense in the House — the geek who knows how to budget — by the hapless campaign of 2012, where he discovered the joys of bodyguards and being treated like a numeric rock star. He loved it. And then his new-found fantasy blew away on election day.

    Ryan was the last real candidate on the regressive ticket. I disregard Romney for this honor, as just another rich imbecile with the usual rich delusions. Ryan is another story, though, not particularly wealthy, scrawny resume, long on bullshit, decent party credentials. And now, infected with higher ambition. Boehner did spoil the game a bit by quitting — kudos to John for recognizing his own impending doom as the leader of the mob — and convincing the wavering Ryan to take the worst job in politics. Now, as the fires of Hades are heating up the place, he is having his own Boehner moment, jumping ship to go and raise the cash it will take to make a run at the top. And he's relying, surely, on his party's history of plopping the last VP candidate into the running in the next available election. It's his turn, just like it was McCain's turn in 2008.

    Ryan has no credibility, on anything. He's going to be blamed for the blowout in November, possibly rightly. He can't add a column of two one-digit numbers, if his magical budgets are of any worth. And he has no experience at much after being the driver of the WeinerMobile. That makes him perfect among the crowd that intends to rule forever.

    Prediction: Ryan will go away for a week or two to build a portfolio of publicly staged photo ops with his family, then he'll disappear into six months of chartered jets, private speeches, and schmoozing for money. In about December, after the carnage, he'll show up with Sheldon Adelson in tow, and begin the slog in Iowa. You heard it here, early if not first.


  5. I do think Comey laid it on a little to heavy with the humble quest to serve virtue routine. It's just not natural. Even the Psalmist (David ?) of the old testament had no qualms about asking the Lord to shatter the teeth and break the bones of his enemies. There's nothing wrong with wanting a good payback and nothing wrong with voicing your desire to see your enemy get fucked up or fucked over. Revenge is sweet, but it's a lot sweeter when you don't have to steer it to where you want it to go.



  6. I don't think Comey's a "hero". He made some dumb-ass mistakes but calling balls and strikes isn't always easy. That he's offended partisans on both sides indicates his bad calls aren't corrupt – they are just screw-ups. Obama mad some horrendous decisions. When you are the president or the director of the FBI, the decisions aren't easy or they'd never hit your desk. Instead of divining motives and asking for perfection, let's follow the facts and apply them to the law, With that metric, a comparison of Comey to Trump wins Comey a halo (which he hasn't earned).

    Politically astute Republicans want out of DC. Trump and his band of merry followers will DEMAND abject loyalty. The problem is the kingdom is going to implode. Pledging loyalty for a candidate in 2018 will be required and it will be hung around your neck forever. Not good if Trump goes down for outright treason and there's a picture of you kissing his ring. The first to bail was Jason Chavetz – Ryan, applied the same "get out of DC" reasoning, I think.

    Re Hannity. There has to be something IN WRITING in the Cohen files that Cohen, Hannity and Trump do NOT want prosecutors to look at. What it is concerns one piece of real estate – 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  How is anybody's guess but it's IN WRITING or on tape. It's solid and it's damaging. If it's illegal, it's not covered by privilege. 

    Don't lose sight of the end game. If Cohen is nailed, he will offer up Trump to get out of jail. Cohen knows all the illegal deals that Trump was party to and he may have hard proof in his files. Cohen knows who knows and how to turn them. Forget Trump and forget Hannity. Nail Cohen's ass and let him sing. That's how you get Trump.

  7.  If Cohen is nailed,

    You mean when Cohen gets nailed. The situation would never have gotten this far if they didn't have the goods on Cohen. I hate to deny him the presumption of innocence,but if you live by the sword you die by the sword. Cohen has prided himself in being the big badass fixer who can push his weight around because he was attached to Trump's image of immense wealth and power. The reality is that Cohen is a glorified New York street punk who crafted an image of himself as a heavy duty high powered lawyer. His legal maneuverings concerning his illegal activities that have been thus far exposed has shown that he's in way over his head in maintaining control of the situation. He never anticipated the idea of being exposed.

    Complacency ? I could be wrong, but I vaguely remember seeing Cohen listed as an officer in the Trump Organization. If my memory is correct, that would make him an inseparable and infectious entity into Trump world. Not good at all!

  8. I don't agree with how Comey handled the email thing but he makes a somewhat convincing argument if you give him the benefit of the doubt, which I think given his life of service, he's earned? This media/book tour on the other hand seems like a consious effort to degrade Muellers invesigation. He's a witness in the prope and he's out there talking shit like a common Trump, unseemly at best? He should have waited until the investigation wraps IMO?

  9. "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."

    That is indeed Comey's explanation, but it's not the whole truth. Yet I think he can be excused for glossing over some important details, which were reported in the press at the time. There was (is … but I think they are neutralized by now) a faction in the FBI that, among other things, hated Comey. This faction, led by Jim Kallstrom and closely allied to Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey, was rabidly pro-Trump and anti-Hillary. They were angry with Comey because in July he had cleared Hillary of criminal charges. At the time, Giuliani said as much: “The decision perplexes me. It perplexes Jim Kallstrom, who worked for him. It perplexes numerous FBI agents who talk to me all the time. And it embarrasses some FBI agents.”

    This faction had and still has an open pipeline to Fox news. This same faction has actively participated in the propaganda that Mueller has conflicts of interest, must resign, etc, all of which plays on Fox.

    The significance of the otherwise insignificant Wiener files is that they allowed the pro-Trump faction to exert great pressure on Comey to reopen the Clinton investigation. Again, Giuliani said as much, attributing it to “the pressure of a group of FBI agents wo don't [sic!] look at it politically."

    Comey gave in because he believed that if he did not, the Kallstrom faction would leak the nonsense to Fox in a sensational manner and it could have a major impact on the election. He was in an awkward position and figured it would be better to take charge of the situation, knowing or at least strongly suspecting that nothing of any relevance would be found in the Wiener files.

    It was a difficult decision and no doubt part of the rationalization (that in his hands it would do less harm) was that, yes, it would affect Hillary, but not all that much, because he presumed Hillary would win anyway.

    As for inoculating the FBI from charges that they helped her win, what Comey actually did is that he prevented the pro-Trump FBI faction from being able to bloviate through Fox News that FBI director Comey had helped her win (i.e. by clearing her in July and then NOT reopening the case because of the Wiener files).

    I think it can be understood why Comey did not give the fuller explanation I've sketched here. It would just reignite the issue, adding fuel to the anti-Mueller campaign and giving new fury to Comey's detractors.

    I think this stuff about Comey as a self-promoter is just more spin, a combination of pro-Trump sentiment and pro-Hillary grudge. Comey is not a self-promoter, he's just trying to sell his book, which he not only has a right to do, but which is good for the country, because he's an extremely important witness to the truth about Trump.

    So, is Comey a hero? Let's just say he took a hit for the team — for the country and for the honor of the FBI. It was almost as if he grabbed an activated grenade and tried to stop it. But it was still a grenade and it blew up in his face. The precise way it blew up in his face is that it was something that he had to do that was guaranteed to make him look bad. I think Comey, in his war record, and in his efforts to stop Gonzalez taking advantage of Ashcroft (and the country) when Ashcroft was in the hospital, deserves the benefit of the doubt, especially if we see what was behind his decision. It may not have been the best decision, but under the circumstances I don't know what would have been.



  10. Comey was never really a good guy. His mild reputation for integrity during the Bush administration/catastrophe was overblown. When Comey was appointed director of the FBI, it was just another one of Obama's stupid "reach across the aisle" gestures. If there is ever another non-Republican President, I hope he or she will have learned not to reach across the aisle.

  11. Listening to Maddow last night – there SEEMS to be specifics in the warrant for Cohen's stuff (five paragraphs) that describe Trump-related materials. If true, some of that the NY DOJ is after concerns a crime committed by Cohen w/ Trump. It must be unrelated to Russians or why would Mueller send it out.

    Holy Shit, Batman!

  12. It must be unrelated to Russians or why would Mueller send it out.

    Probably because Trump's criminal activities are so expansive that Mueller's investigation simply can't handle the volume of the crimes. I mean Mueller only has 16 top notch investigators, so it would make sense to augment that insufficient number with at least a small brigade of investigators who are skilled in dealing the typical scum you find in the New York underworld.

     Trump might have gained some success in portraying himself (hoodwinking) as a sophisticated businessman to much of the country, but to us native New Yorker's who have been raised from the cradle to understand and identify a greasy slimeball when we see one it kinda adds an element of zeal for NY prosecutors in wanting to see Trump and Cohen get their just desserts.

    • It must be unrelated to Russians or why would Mueller send it out. It may be unrelated to the Trump campaign or company but not unrelated to Russians. It’s long been suspected that Cohen does a lot of business with the Russian mob.

Comments are closed.