James Comey and The Great American Reckoning

Comey, congress, cameras

There’s a bizarre queasiness one develops when their less politically inclined friends start giving a damn. I use that phrase loosely, as turning on CSPAN is hardly activism, but perhaps passes for it in the age of the tweeting President. I woke, 10:30am, to the sudden realization I’d overslept part of the Comey testimony and bolted to my living room with the urgency of missing a long-anticipated appointment. The image that greeted me was what I expected; Comey, surrounded, yet confident, assured, staring down congress, and the world, with the detached self-assurance of a man thoroughly within his element. And he remained in that element.

Regardless of his handling of Clinton’s emails, The tone that the former FBI-Director took was one of deliberation and clarity, holding back what he could considering the public setting, noting often that he couldn’t interfere with the still-ongoing investigation. His restraint demonstrated why the FBI has been so loyal in the weeks following his dismissal, as his awareness of protocol showed a man determined to keep the wheels of that investigation turning. Yet Comey didn’t shy away from soundbite. His “Lordy” when discussing the possibility of Oval Office tapes, referencing Henry II with “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and commanding a tone throughout that was all but mocking Trump’s Russian paranoia with his own clearheaded contrast within the narrative.

The trouble lies in the spectacle of the hearing, offering a preview of a very different type of politics to come in the age of the Trump. While since the very day Trump was elected we’ve been barraged with a bizarre, somehow at times polarizing, cacophony of belligerence, this is the first calculated answer from the punch-drunk vestiges of reason that still exist in Washington. The slowness of the investigation deceives its severity, as even Nixon’s impeachment proceedings took over a year, and concerned a far less tangled international web of possible threads to follow and unwrap. What today showed was that politics can be factual, tedious, and interesting concurrently, and isn’t going to stop anytime soon.

I turned off the trial a half hour before its end, only to hear my roommate arrive home and turn on its conclusion in the living room. I find myself nauseated by my and my fellow American’s enthrallment with the spectacle of world governance that’s taken hold this year. I thought myself revolted by the perceived apathy within moderates that set in during the Obama years, which was not without gaping problems, but, as Americans further entrench themselves in their respective corners, I wonder what comes next? If Trump somehow isn’t as guilty as we think he is, how do we slow his destructive (though small outside of metaphor) hand in the world stage? If the plot goes far deeper, from pissing prostitutes to Ukrainian blood money, as many hope and think it will, what is the victory in that? How does whatever government we salvage in the coming years reconcile with the amorphous menace of Russia, when tensions seem far too high already? I find it odd to live in a country in which an effort among rational, intelligent citizens is being made against a dangerous despot, in which there is an apparent and ready danger from the man we put in office, either by intent or apathy. Perhaps the citizens of modern Iraq, Pinochet’s Chile, Gaddafi’s Libya, and others can find some common ground with us for once. Perhaps this is the beginning of a sort of Great American Reckoning, or so it seems, in the nation of narcissism.