Trump, Comey, FBI, Nixon, Cox, Trump, Comey, Free Speech

  • 44 years ago, President Nixon fired Prosecutor Archibald Cox for demanding tapes incriminating Nixon. Bumper stickers appeared: “Impeach the Cox Sacker” (Sorry Aunt Tildy, but some things are simply true). Unless you are that creative, how do you add insight to the worldwide tsunami of comment about the Comey firing?
     
  • Infidel753 does it right, with his usual responsible due diligence, noting my President’s rage and panic about investigations “into his (alleged) ties with Russia” before deciding that “the obvious inference is that the firing was meant to derail the FBI investigation.” Then he describes, and links to, reactions from around the political spectrum.
     
  • John Scalzi at Whatever takes a break from book reviews to explain why it’s not hypocritical, or even contradictory, for liberals to think James Comey was horrible at his job and, simultaneously, to think he was fired as part of a coverup.
     
  • At The Swash Zone, Capt. Fogg watches Donald Trump disintegrate.
     
  • As President Trump declares himself “a very active President,” Tommy Christopher agrees, pointing to threats to the press, the FBI, and democracy itself — all before breakfast.
     
  • Vixen Strangely at Strangely Blogged uses all her legal training from years of watching Law & Order to speculate on what lawyers would tell Donald Trump.
     
  • At The Intersection of Madness and Reality, rippa has his own perspective on the firing of James Comey. “Donald Trump pulled the illest, most gangsta move of his presidency to date.” Turns out it’s not an endorsement of the firing.
     
  • Max’s Dad does have the vocabulary for epic rant. He uses it with great effect to express a lack of love for Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and Republican lawmakers. Aunt Tildy urges younger readers to cover their ears as they venture into this link.
     
  • nojo at Stinque does not think the tepid Republican response to the dangers of Trump comes from political loyalty or ideological fervor, but rather from something deeper.
     
  • Steve M points out that, for a very long time, conservatism has not primarily been about policy.
     
  • North Carolina pastor John Pavlovitz sees rock solid support for my President among a large percentage of American Christians who cling to a desperate version of imagined oppression as white Christian privilege slips away. President Trump is not so much their friend as the enemy of their enemies. He and they share a burning resentment of common targets: undeserving recipients of ethnic and religious tolerance, and those who support that tolerance.
     
  • In The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, former pastor and current atheist Bruce considers the ethics of using high pressure salvation tactics to scare kids and teens into getting saved.
     
  • The Big Empty has discovered amazing photos that demonstrate how the stress of being in office can change a President.
     
  • Libertarian Michael A. LaFerrara at Principled Perspectives argues that the Electoral College was not established to protect slavery. His argument is that those who were eventually successful in ending slavery did not also end the electoral college. No kidding, that’s his logic.
     
    Actually, the historical record is fairly explicit. According to accounts at the time of the debates carried out during the Constitutional Convention, protection of slavery was exactly the purpose. The only purpose.
     
  • It should have been a joke. Frances Langum is astonished at one bit of press criticism of Donald Trump. Has to do with not offering ice cream and a diet soda to the journalist. Come on, Francis. Chris Cillizza may be superficial – – but that’s only on the surface.
     
  • Jon Perr at PERRspectives takes a step that was beyond each Republican who voted for Trumpcare. He looks into the bill itself, along with analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, and determines the effect on health care. In fairness, the CBO study did not exist when Republicans voted the plan through Congress. They refused to wait for it even a few days.
     
  • Last Of The Millenniums has discovered the reason behind all those emails.
     
  • “It’s hard to imagine it was possible,” says James Wigderson, “but the situation on college campuses has grown so bad, Senator Bernie Sanders spoke out in defense of Ann Coulter’s right to speak at Berkeley…” James writes his endorsement for an anti-noise bill in Wisconsin, that would prohibit the drowning out of a speech or presentation. In passing, James mentions that “even even former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean” is defending free speech.
     
    Yeah I’m amazed that things have gotten to the point where even elderly hippies like me would be for freedom of speech, along with a few James did not notice: like Elizabeth Warren. Imagine that. Things are so bad, even Robert Reich supports Coulter’s right to hate speech. In fact, things have gotten even worse. Why, even Bill Maher says she has a right to speak. You know it’s bad when even folks who are not rock solid conservative support the right to express unpopular opinion. Even Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar have joined in, explicitly supporting the right of conservatives like Ann Coulter to speak. One of my favorite liberals, Kevin Drum angrily supports … well … you get the idea.
     
    As Drum puts it, before slamming the excesses against Coulter, “college campuses are teeming with smart, verbal, overconfident 19-year-olds. Of course they do stupid things. We all did stupid things at that age.” He gets angry at the kids. He has even less patience with a few others who should know better. It seems predictable some of the most fervently committed will sometimes forget the common contract that obligates all members of a free society to defend the right to freely express ideas we regard as anathema.
     
    James believes things must be really bad if even liberals are for free speech? Maybe a little history will help. We love you, James, but sometimes you need to think things through. Even.
     
  • This Week In Trumpian ‘Alternative Facts’, we have, well, this.
     

Convicted of Laughing Derisively

On television, 17 years ago, a fictional President speaks to his Chief of Staff:

President Bartlett: When I think of all the work you put in to get me to run. When I think of all the work you did to get me elected.
[Pause]
I could pummel your ass with a baseball bat.
[Two join in laughter]

– From The West Wing, October 6, 1999

It happened years ago, but the hostile work environment left its mark in my memory. Sometimes, a bad time can leave a longtime scar. Like a hit in the head with a frozen boot, this experience made an impression on my mind.

There was no doubt that new middle management intended to get me out. And word was floating about the office gossip mill that I was one of two targets. The quality and amount of my work was well regarded. There had to be something else.

The first two written complaints concerned my disrespectful attitude toward two fellow employees. One of those employees became furious when she discovered that her name had been used in a complaint against me. There had been no disrespect.

The other? Well, we had some professional differences.

Both complaints stayed in a file that had been established for me.

The third complaint was entitled “Corporate Misconduct” with a subheading, “Final Warning”. The misconduct was that I had, a few weeks before, laughed derisively at a co-worker.

Derisively laughing? Really? In a later calmer moment, I remarked that the complaint ought to have been written in crayon.

I sought out the co-worker to apologize. I remembered the incident. She had unintentionally said something she felt could have been offensive. I had told her there was no offense, and we had joined in laughing it off. Or so I had thought. Now I wondered whether my laughter had been misunderstood.

And so I apologized. She was bewildered. What was I talking about? She had made no complaint.

Word eventually filtered upward. I was told later that upper management, including the corporate legal department had gotten interested, then involved. The harassment stopped.

I remembered the series of written complaints as I heard the news of James Comey’s dismissal. There is no doubt in my mind that he was unsuited for the job. His violation of long-standing policy had tilted the presidential election. It was one of several factors, any one of which could have been said to be decisive. All of them were, I suppose.

After Senator John F. Kennedy became President John F. Kennedy, he spoke ruefully about the small popular margin. That was back during the naive days in our republic when it mattered, at least morally, that the winner of the electoral vote was also the choice of the voters.

Kennedy told one audience that he felt like the mayor of a small town who was elected with a one vote margin. For his entire term, at least one constituent each day would say to him, “I’m the one who put you in office!”

Experts tell us that, without James Comey’s violations of protocol, Donald Trump would have remained citizen Trump. Hillary Clinton’s use of private email had been subject to multiple public, partisan investigations. Comey called her out on it.

It is true that the remnants were still being wrapped up by the FBI. But possible collusion between Donald Trump’s closest advisors and a hostile foreign government, the subversion of the American election, was also under investigation.

James Comey conducted a shrill, scolding denunciation of Hillary Clinton. The much more serious investigation of Donald Trump remained unknown outside of government circles.

Comey should have resigned months before he was fired.

And yet. The man leading an investigation was fired by a President whose administration is the target of that same investigation. He was fired at the recommendation of an Attorney General who had had been forced to recuse himself from that same investigation because of his close involvement with those who were being investigated.

In every respect, it fit the definition of a bad situation.

Leaks from within the White House show that almost any bad situation can get worse. Reports now surface that President Trump had personally ordered the Justice Department to find a reason, to find any reason, to justify firing the head of the investigation into Russia, and the Trump campaign, and the Trump administration, and potentially into Trump himself.

Any reason.

Does fear of investigation necessarily extend to intolerance of criticism? Is that same fear and loathing shared by those around my President?

The national atmosphere has not been a happy one for Donald J. Trump, or for his administration. A prickly President, overly sensitive to the slightest criticism, intolerant of dissent, seems not to have been pleased by recent testimony before Congress by his FBI Director. His displeasure had to have been amplified by the request of that FBI Director for more funds to expand the investigation.

The over-reaction to criticism has extended like a bad case of garden infestation to his overly submissive Attorney General. It spreads to the Senate supporters of that Attorney General, colleagues of the former Senator.

A fellow member of the United States Senate was voted into silence by a partisan majority when she quoted civil rights icon Coretta Scott King. These are the words of Mrs. King as quoted by Senator Elizabeth Warren:

Mr. Sessions has used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.

Coretta Scott King, March 19, 1986

The Republican Senate Majority Leader also spoke:

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.

Senator Mitch McConnell, February 8, 2017

And an otherwise nearly silent protester, at least up to the moment of her arrest, was convicted for giggling softly at an absurd endorsement during a Jeff Sessions confirmation hearing.

Jeff Session’s extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law is clear and well-documented.

Senator Richard Shelby, (R-AL), January 10, 2017

If Senator Shelby heard the soft chuckle behind him, he did not show it. The assembled onlookers did not appear to notice it.

The arrest of the giggler and her later conviction for derisive laughter at the absurd whitewashing of a record notable for a distinct lack of sympathy for the rights of black people … well, it did all bring back memories for me.

Derisively laughing? Really? Did the Senate, for that derisive moment, become a sandbox?

The diligence with which the Attorney General of the United States searched for any excuse for which the President could fire a public official also brought to mind a more anxious time in my own professional life when middle management looked for reasons.

During those precarious months, I sat one morning with my initial boss, who was still there but in another position. He was aware of the tension. I remembered that old television episode as he and I spoke.

And so I reminded him of how he had recommended my hiring, how he had been a supporter and a mentor over my initial years.

“When I think of how you made it possible for me to have a career here – – I could just pummel you with a baseball bat.”

We laughed. Perhaps he laughed more than did I.

Today, patriots are not laughing at what is being done at the highest levels of our country.


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