More Comey

Sorry for so little blogging.  Been keeping pretty busy doing college professor stuff.  That said, but reading lots of good takes on Comey.  Here’s sampling of what I think are some important points.

1) Seth Masket on the Republicans– it’s not cowardice, it’s politics.  In this case, I’d argue, “politics” is basically cowardice.  Some times call for leadership.  So, I’m going with politics and cowardice.  Seth:

The typical Republican member of Congress today faces a district that is considerably more Republican than would have been the case 40 years ago. And even before he’s going to worry about reelection, he has to worry about renomination. Conservative groups are far more active and potent in primary elections than they were 40 years ago, and the typical Republican member is more worried about facing a well-financed challenger in the primary should he fail to stand up for the president. Joining with Democrats to call for further investigations of Trump might gain a few laudatory headlines but will likely only make reelection and renomination harder.

Partisanship does have its limits, and we may soon reach those. Trump’s popularity can’t drop a whole lot more without him becoming a substantial albatross around Republican members’ necks. But again, if Republicans start attacking Trump at that point, it will be for the same reason they’re largely protecting him today. They’re responding to political incentives. To expect a politician to do something different is like expecting a businessperson to give away her money or a compass to point somewhere other than North.

2) Nice take from Marc Fisher on how Trump’s deep pathologies prevented him from even realizing the massive backlash he would unleash:

Trump appears to have expected that his sudden and dramatic sacking of FBI Director James B. Comey on Tuesday might be greeted the way audiences relished his ritual firings of job applicants on his hit TV show, “The Apprentice” — as a sign of power serving truth, and in this case as a politically incorrect roundhouse punch that Republicans and Democrats alike would welcome.

If the president didn’t see that his precipitous firing of the man in charge of investigating the Trump campaign’s connections with the Russian regime might instead alienate some of his allies and outrage much of the public, that’s no anomaly. Rather, it’s an illustration of several of the president’s core character traits — a belief that the past doesn’t matter, a penchant to act swiftly and unilaterally, and a conviction that even the most unpopular actions can help build his brand.

3) Dana Milbank is on the cowards angle:

Will they, like their predecessors 40-odd years ago, be able to recognize that Trump’s action Tuesday night and McConnell’s mindless defense of it are more a danger to country than to party?

As Democrats thundered about the need for a special prosecutor, Republicans quietly expressed unease and White House officials fabricated facts to justify Trump’s actions, the president took to Twitter. “When things calm down,” he wrote, everybody “will be thanking me.”

Sergei Lavrov and the Russians may thank Trump. But in America things won’t “calm down” — they can’t calm down — unless a few brave Republicans find the courage to set this right.

4) And EJ Dionne is all over the craven McConnell:

But by speaking Wednesday on the Senate floor in defense of President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, McConnell made what is likely to stand as the most important mistake of his long political career.

The Kentucky Republican, who is measured and calculating about everything, should have known better. He chose to ally himself with a man who becomes unhinged whenever the subject of his campaign’s possible collusion with Russian interference in our election arises…

Is McConnell really sure he wants to stand with a man who will spew out attacks on anyone and everyone who gets in his way?

By contrast, many of McConnell’s Republican colleagues have begun disentangling their party from a presidency that is likely to end in a train wreck. Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) said he spent “several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it.” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.) said he was “troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey’s termination.” Sen. Ben Sasse (Neb.) joined in calling the timing “very troubling.”

Someday, McConnell will wish that he sounded more like Flake, Burr, Sasse and similarly minded Republicans. They all are aware of how absurd it is for Trump to pretend that a concern over Comey’s behavior in the Hillary Clinton email investigation — the very behavior the president once praised as demonstrating Comey’s “guts” — is the actual reason for the firing.

5) Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessy with the most shared take I’ve seen, “The Nightmare Scenario: Trump Fires Comey, the One Man Who Would Stand Up to Him. ”

6) Conor Friedersdorf take on the above is especially compelling.  Wittes is the canary in the coal mine; and it’s dead:

Over all the years that I’ve been sounding alarms about drone strikes and NSA surveillance, Wittes has retorted that civil libertarians like me are being unduly alarmist. During a debate on lethal drone strikes at the University of Richmond, when I urged a moratorium, Wittes took the lectern and mounted an emphatic defense of drones. When Edward Snowden revealed mass surveillance on U.S. citizens, sparking alarmed calls from civil libertarians like me for sweeping NSA reforms, Wittes insisted that the professionalism of NSA staffers and existing checks within the executive and legislative branches were sufficient to protect Americans.

This man is as informed as anyone about the workings of the national-security bureaucracy and federal law enforcement. And his predisposition is nearly always to trust it.

So I’d never choose Wittes to serve as my canary in a coal mine. I’d be afraid that he would somehow manage to keep chirping merrily even as all the miners had suffocated. But for those inclined to use heuristics to determine when to worry, Wittes is very useful. If even he is alarmed at the potential for abuse, everyone should be alarmed. [bold mine; italics original]

7) The lies after lies after lies from the Trump administration have reached a new level.  Enjoyed this Post story on Trump’s latest lies.  And the deconstruction below is of just one of many breathtaking, bald-faced lies:

In the NBC interview, Trump said Comey came to eat dinner with him at the White House. “I think he asked for the dinner. . . . And he wanted to stay at the FBI, and I said I’ll, you know, consider and see what happens … But we had a very nice dinner, and at that time he told me, ‘You are not under investigation.’ ’’

The exchange as described by the president is remarkable since he said the FBI director was discussing an ongoing investigation with the president — something Justice Department policy generally prohibits — at the same time Comey was seeking assurances he would remain in his job.

Current and former officials said Trump’s description of statements by Comey is not accurate, but they declined to elaborate. Legal experts also expressed doubts about Trump’s account.

“I just can’t even begin to think about that comment being true,’’ said Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland who has previously worked in the Justice Department. “It defies belief in general because of the practices of not commenting on investigations, and it would especially defy belief in the case of Comey who prides himself on strict observance of propriety.’’

8) And a piece from Aaron Blake on the many, completely contradictory lies after lies coming from everybody surrounding Trump.  This is not normal!

Politically, Trump can hang in there fine as long as Republicans remain cowardly politicians.  And for the vast majority of them, there’s no sign of that abating.  That said, a few Republicans with even a modicum of courage– here’s putting you on the spot NC’s Richard Burr– could really make a big difference.

 

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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