Bitching About Poor James Comey Is Missing the Damned Point
Our resistance doesn’t hinge on Trump’s meddling at the FBI
by ANDREW DOBBS
In his hapless ambition and bland, bureaucratic weakness of character, ousted FBI director James Comey became the perfect reference point for the shifting values of the American political class.
Democrats kinda liked him when he didn’t indict Hillary Clinton, and Republicans hated him for the same reason. Then it became clear that his non-indictment rhetorical take-down of Clinton was wreaking political havoc — and Democrats resented that he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
When he issued his late campaign letter alluding to a reopened investigation of Clinton’s emails, Democrats full-on hated him and the GOP was quick to defend his honor. Pres. Donald Trump kept him as FBI director and gave him a hug in the Oval Office before deciding to attack him on Twitter and, ultimately on May 9, 2017, shit-can him.
At that point Democrats identified him as a noble and independent hero bravely struggling to expose the underside of the Trump administration, while Republicans saw him as the very sort of swamp creature they hoped Trump would flush down the drain.
Comey has no moral content or any meaning in his own right, but in his very ethical mediocrity he allows us to see just how unprincipled and unmoored the U.S. political system has become.
More importantly, this phenomenon helps us to answer the central question in world politics today. Is Trump a fascist, a wannabe strong man despot just waiting for his moment? Or is he a total incompetent, a bored nincompoop yelling at the T.V. without even the minimal intellectual capacity needed to be a Nazi? Is he establishing a dictatorship or is he barely hanging on?
Comey’s firing shows that the answer is both and neither, and that the essential character of Trump’s presidency is a creative tension between his corruption and his incompetence. He is corrupt in an incompetent way, and his incompetence allows for tremendous corruption. Both produce and necessitate the other even while they undermine and contradict themselves.
It seems probable that Trump fired Comey because of the advancing investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russian state interests. This is an act of corruption, but he did it in the most incompetent way possible. He fired Comey mere days after the director requested more money for the investigation — and one day before Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov visited the White House.
Why not agree to the money but then drop the hammer before it was actually delivered, long after Lavrov had gone back to Moscow? Shit, it was May — he couldn’t wait two and a half weeks to fire him the Thursday or Friday before Memorial Day, dampening the news coverage?
This is what a competent crook would do. It’s so stupid that it makes you wonder if maybe it really wasn’t corrupt, maybe Trump just got a wild hair up his ass and decided to fire the guy because he’s a petulant dipshit with no sense of how these things work.
And that would make sense if it weren’t for the corrupt way this incompetent decision was handled. Rather than just fire the guy and say, “I fired him because I don’t like him,” or whatever he actually cooked up a paper trail of patently dishonest rationale.
Trump fired Comey in May 2017 because the guy was too hard on Hillary Clinton back in July the year before? This is what Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo said in a memo clearly thrown together with nothing other than basic news coverage for evidence and issued the same day Trump delivered the termination.
Everyone knows that the document was created to justify a decision Trump had already made. The justification is total bullshit.
Trump then went on to say in his termination letter — without context and without prompting — that he was glad the director had assured him three times that he was not under criminal investigation.
This is like if your husband comes back from a work trip and the first thing he says on the ride from the airport is, “Boy, I sure am glad I didn’t sleep with Karen from accounting while I was there!”
You should probably be sniffing at his collars.
The tone of these communications is likewise weird and suspicious. Government documents rarely flat out say that a top state figure is a fuck-up and ought to be out on his ass, and if they are calling into question the character or ability of someone as powerful as the director of the FBI they usually combine substantial evidence with cold bureaucratic prose.
Rosenstein’s letter reads like an angry op-ed. It’s down right polemical.
This is unusual because government communications in this country always have to take into account the fact that they have no idea who they may need to work with in the future. Your enemy today may be your most crucial ally tomorrow, and the person you are terminating right now may have good friends you need later.
Tough words come out, but there are limits, and circumspection is almost always advisable. No entity in the state can assume that they will be all-powerful, and so they have to keep their coalition options open.
Over the last decade or so, however, this habit has been breaking down, and acrimony and enmity have become far more intense. Conditions have changed.
When you have ample resources and you’ve limited the political class to one narrow band of the population — say, to just white guys — then there is power and money to go around and everyone in politics can work together most of the time. Even if they have to give a little at one point they’ll get a little more at another. Compromise and collaboration are the best long-term strategy.
But resources are depleting rapidly, and new social elements have pushed their way into the discussions — even worse, they want even more than what they have now. The risk today is that if you play nice you might get cut out entirely, so rough play and enemy-hunting are not bad strategies, after all.
Trump is both a product of and a major aggravating factor for this political trend. Only in an era of hateful desperation could someone like Trump come to power, and his clueless, venal communications style — that wretched mix of corruption and incompetence — escalates the conflict, makes the tone even uglier.
It assumes that he’ll win a zero-sum game and he’ll get what he wants without having to work with anyone else — the end of even nominal democracy, the birth of an autocracy.
The only way to avoid this outcome is to shift the math back in the favor of democracy by getting more resources and distributing them more fairly, first by shaking needed resources out of the hordes of the megawealthy and then by stripping the old ruling class of its disproportionate power.
This means taking the side of the rising classes and using their superior numbers to force this showdown, thus ending the fight by winning it.
The Democrats refuse to do this, however, preferring instead to clutch their pearls and express shock and outrage at how far off from The West Wing things have gotten.
They found a grounds for “resistance” that didn’t actually challenge anything about the structure of power in this country, the Russia plot. The only value they’ll stand for is an opposition to Russian interference in U.S. politics, which hardly demands courage.
It also doesn’t matter to the marginalized and oppressed people who are the only hope for actually ending the Trump threat. Working folks, the poor and non-voters filled with resentment at the status quo don’t give a fuck about the Russia shit.
Nobody has connected the dots between this scandal and their suffering because there is no connection beyond the way the Democrats have used the story to avoid addressing the injustices their donor base counts on.
In this way the whole Comey shitshow has become a Rorschach test where everybody sees what they truly desire. Liberals see another chance to talk about the Russia scandal, and the right sees Trump finally sticking it to “the establishment” despite his Goldman-Sachs-occupied government.
Everyone else sees it for what it is — a crooked fuck-up of a president acting out and liberals kissing a pig’s ass in order to maintain their sense of superiority.
None of this is to say that Comey’s firing is unimportant — obviously it’s literally world-historic. Trump now has a golden opportunity to bring this powerful political police agency — and liberal shock at the “politicization” of the force that tried to make Martin Luther King kill himself is one of the dumbest parts of this supremely dumb episode — more directly under his control.
To the extent that he is exposed to Kremlin influence or that his government is riddled with figures willing to assist rivals of the United States for pay or power, this is a big deal.
But it’s just as likely that Trump got butthurt over something unimportant Comey said and decided to fire him on a whim because that’s what terrible, abusive, reckless dumbasses like him do when they have the power to do it.
Most likely of all is that it’s both of them in some dynamic and toxic combination, and until we have a force in our politics ready to fight the fight democracy demands right now things will get dumber and more dangerous.
Until then and to that end — stay defiant.
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