Friday, May 12, 2017

Comey Deserved it

Last October, right before the election, FBI Director James Comey detonated a nuclear chain reaction of caterwauling among Democrats when he announced that his agency was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified documents. The Democrats were understandably livid, seeing this as an announcement that could only hurt Ms Clinton's chances in the upcoming election. They called Comey everything from incompetent to dishonest and would have been delighted had President Obama fired him at the time.

Well, President Obama didn't but President Trump did, and now many of the same people who were outraged at Comey, and who wanted to see him cashiered, are now outraged that Mr. Trump did the very deed they wanted done in the first place. It seems that it's not Comey's dismissal that has them in a swivet but rather the fact that it was the nefarious Donald Trump who dismissed him that they find so galling.

Someone on television the other night observed that if these people didn't have double standards they'd have no standards at all.

Be that as it may, none of the reasons Trump's critics adduce to explain their displeasure with his move make much sense. Removing Comey doesn't stop the investigation into Mr. Trump's alleged "collusion" with Russia, nor was it an unconstitutional powerplay. Indeed, President Clinton fired his FBI Director and no one thought he exceeded his authority in so doing.

But all the criticism aside, lost in the media sturm und drang is the fact that, as Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, writes, Comey deserved to be fired:
There is a simple fact that makes analysis of the firing of FBI Director James Comey difficult: he deserved to be fired. At any point over the past nine months, prominent members of both parties have contended that Comey had to go. It is far easier to advance a convincing argument that Comey’s behavior over that time represented the wrong course for the FBI Director to take in every single instance, from his decision to hold his press conference, his decision not to recommend indictment, his decision to publicly continue to talk both on and off the record about these matters, his decision to publicly reopen the case in the manner he did, his decision to rely upon a laughable dossier constructed by the President’s political opponents, and his continued decisions regarding what he says in public and private, and what he implies about current investigations. The overall appearance he creates as the head of the FBI has seen an utter collapse in that time from that of a respected independent career official to someone who is viewed fundamentally as a political actor who cares more about his personal image than the department he leads.

At every juncture, Comey might have been better off adopting George Costanza’s approach: just do the opposite, and see what happens.

So here is the problem: James Comey deserved to be fired. But the timing of his firing lends itself to questions about the Russia investigation and conspiracy theories that threaten to send talking heads rocketing into the atmosphere like a thousand wide-eyed Yuri Gagarins. Talk of a coup or a constitutional crisis or comparisons to Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre overwhelmed the airwaves yesterday, as did utterly unjustified claims from the likes of Jeffrey Toobin that Comey was fired because he somehow had the goods on the President and that the White House intends to replace him with a stooge who will shut down existing investigations into campaign associates.
Domenech elaborates on this last point:
The New York Times editorial page claimed: “Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president.” That is a very bold claim – no such claim appears in The Wall Street Journal or USA Today editorials, who view the dismissal as deserved. The comparisons to a despot rolled in, while the whiplash from the announcement had its best representation in the crowd at the taping of Stephen Colbert, which erupted in hoots and applause at the news of the firing, only to be chided for wrongthink. No, see, you have been sitting here in the studio and not watching CNN, so you do not know this is wrong now.
Colbert's audience apparently thought Comey's firing was a good thing until Colbert managed to teach them the proper opinions to hold on the matter:
The rest of Domenech's column fleshes out his argument that Comey was the wrong man for the job he was chosen to do. As one who only observed Comey's behavior from afar and who was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt - even when he made the incredibly puzzling announcement last summer that despite Ms. Clinton's obviously felonious mishandling of classified information the FBI would not recommend an indictment because she didn't mean any harm - I think Domenech is correct. Comey's behavior has been both befuddling and bizarre, and has tarnished the reputation of the FBI for integrity and competence. It was past time for him to move on to the next phase of his life.