Like Watergate? Surely They Jest!

politicainIt has been most interesting over the past week to try and get above the “trees” where it seems the attention of everybody in the media is focused since President Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey and look at the “forest” in which those “trees” are growing — i.e., look for the bigger picture, the broader perspective. I think the effort has paid off, and in this post I’ll share some of that payoff.

Ignoring all the “spin” in the mostly liberal-leaning media coverage, it seems to me that the only questions that matter about the Comey firing are the following:

    1. Did Trump have the authority to fire Comey?
    2. Did Comey deserve to be fired [moot if the answer to question 1 is “Yes”]?
    3. Ignoring all speculation, are there any known, provable facts that would indicate that Comey’s firing was motivated by anything other than honorable intentions — e.g., to ensure that the FBI’s reputation gets out from under the “cloud” that Comey has created, to ensure that key principals in the current administration are the best people to have in their roles, etc?

Let’s briefly consider each of these questions.  On question 1, I don’t think I’ve heard a single person, even among Democrats, say that the President does not have the authority to fire the FBI Director [for any reason, whether with specified justifying rationale or not].

Although the “Yes” answer to question 1 makes question 2 moot, I’ll point out some things that I believe make the obvious answer to it “Yes” as well. I’m hearing almost nobody arguing that Comey did not deserve to be fired, and I certainly count myself among those that don’t think that’s an issue. All of the arguments regarding appropriateness are focused on the timing — i.e., why now? why not as soon as Mr. Trump was inaugurated? And, even those arguments relate to how the decision was made and how it was communicated — i.e., who communicated what about it, and when, and do all the statements from the Administration, including Mr. Trump’s, line up with each other?

For anybody interested in the details of Comey’s actions that strongly support the president’s decision to fire him, I’d suggest watching a video clip of the 7/5/16 announcement he made regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server issue [click this link for a list of at least seven offenses Comey cited in that announcement: Comey – List of HRC Offenses]. … For the video itself, click this link: Comey – Video]. Many legal experts have since indicated that these seven and possibly other offenses cited in that announcement were law violations that would have resulted in indictments against any other public official.

So it comes down to question 3. … The only reasoning people behind all the commotion posit for their outrage is their suspicion about whether the action was part of a “cover-up” of the investigation into whether there was Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and whether any such collusion, if it existed, directly affected the outcome of the election. I would be among the first to say that an investigation into that issue [potential meddling by the Russians or anybody else into American elections] is needed if initial evidence-gathering suggests more than just “potential” meddling. However, it should be clear to anybody looking at all this objectively that this whole matter is being driven by the Democrats who still can’t accept the fact that they lost the election not because a boogeyman stole it, but because 1) their candidate was not the “least despicable of them all” [see my post Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall ,..] and 2) their campaign message and operational strategy were not as effective as Trump’s. If they hadn’t zeroed in on the story that Hillary Clinton’s loss was because the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians to undermine her credibility, they would have found some other boogeyman to blame and the media would be abuzz with that storyline today.

So Does This Really Compare With Watergate?

The short answer is “No, not by a long shot”. As usual on every hint of any issue that can continue to drive the Russian conspiracy narrative, the “all from the same script” unanimous cry from the Democrats is that this is “Watergate”, and it’s now clear that a special prosecutor must be appointed to get to the bottom of this “cover-up”. Some RINOs [establishment Republicans, or Republicans with an axe to grind, like those who were never pro-Trump from the get-go and are now only “non-resistant”, not actually “supportive” — or those who may be looking toward a run for the presidency themselves] are also throwing their hats into this ring [tepidly, to avoid showing outright support of that narrative].

Let’s back away and consider this comparison to Watergate objectively.

First, a special prosecutor was not appointed in the Watergate matter until AFTER: a) former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James W. McCord Jr. had been convicted of conspiracy, burglary and wiretapping in the Watergate break-in incident; b) five other men had pled guilty to charges stemming from the break-in; c) Nixon’s top White House staffers, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst had resigned over the scandal; and d) White House counsel John Dean had been fired. These events occurred over a period of about four months in 1973. It has been six months since the 2016 election, and even now, the level of “smoke” generated by the current Russian interference / Trump campaign collusion investigation is nowhere near that level — even at this stage, not one actual piece of hard evidence has pointed to any “fire” [this is coming even from the mouths of Obama appointees like former Director of Intelligence James Clapper].

It was fifteen months from the time a special prosecutor [Archibald Cox] was appointed [after all of the above-described convictions] until Nixon resigned. My guess is that Democrats know that if they are successful in getting a special prosecutor / independent counsel appointed, this investigation will probably consume that amount of time and continue to dominate the news. To the extent news coverage tends to wane at times because nothing new is being found [quite likely in my opinion], every little “discrepancy” in communication from different parts of the Administration and every tweet from Trump with even a scintilla of potential for filling in those gaps in consumption of media time can be exploited to the fullest. By then, the 2018 mid-term elections will be in last-few-months thrust mode, and Democrats will be able to continue campaigning on negatives alone, with no overarching directional message. It will be most interesting to see if that strategy works out well for them, or if it backfires.

All The President’s Men

A few nights ago, I was not sleepy at my usual bedtime, and I was channel-surfing for a movie to watch. I noticed All The President’s Men was about halfway through, and remembering it as a very good movie I tuned to it and watched approximately the last half of it [this was the movie about Watergate, starring Robert Redford as Bob Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who spearheaded development of that storyline]. One thing stood out to me as I watched it: the tenacity of their boss [Ben Bradlee, played by Jason Robards] in insisting that findings from their research be verified and corroborated before going to press in the next edition. Today, that kind of journalistic integrity is non-existent. Media outlets rush to print or broadcast stories based on the slimmest of source material — “It was reported in Newspaper X that Government Official Y said Z, according to ‘sources close to Y’ ” — and by the end of the day practically every media outlet is dedicating 25% or more of its print space and air time to that “issue”, with speculation from Legislators and panels of experts about whether Y really did say Z, and if so, what that may mean in their opinion.

A classic example of this lack of journalistic integrity consumed entire news broadcasts the evening of May 16. There was a New York Times article that day about Mr. Trump “allegedly” telling then FBI Director Comey to drop the Michael Flynn investigation. This entire story was based on third-hand information from one source about a Comey-written memo [the existence of which is based on this uncorroborated source’s discussion with the reporter] that the source read to the reporter over the phone. Even if the story turns out to be proven 100% true, the rush to go public immediately is a great example of the stark difference in journalistic integrity then [1970s] versus now.

Kudos To Steve Hilton!

Observations of Steve Hilton [former special adviser to former British Prime Minister David Cameron] on the 5/16/17 Special Report broadcast on Fox News provide a great way to close this post [particularly because of his ability to provide an “outsider looking in” perspective]. …

“I just think there’s a pattern emerging here in that President Trump does something or says something that is out of the realm of what a normal professional politician would do. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes not so. But the reaction all the time is this eruption of pompous bloviating about a constitutional crisis and a threat to democracy. Most of the time I think that’s a misunderstanding. The real story here is likely to be cockup rather than conspiracy. It’s someone who’s not done this before and encountering the complexities of office. And you say, ‘Well that’s the point of having an outsider’. And the real question, I think, is ‘Is it even possible for an outsider to really lead and govern? Or are they going to be so consumed by the complexities of the job, and actually attacked and destroyed by the professional political class that can’t stand the fact that he’s there in the first place that we’re going to be stuck with professional politicians forever after Trump?’ ” … It’s another example, I think, of President Trump being treated differently because he’s an outsider. In my experience working in government, political leaders are indiscreet with each other and with people they shouldn’t be revealing things to all the time. You should hear the way that diplomats and civil servants talk about their political principals. They literally talk about going around with a poop scoop to clear up the messes they make. Not [just] President Trump, but people like Obama, like David Cameron who I worked for, Angela Merkel. This is normal. It happens. They’re human beings. But because it’s President Trump, and because he’s an outsider, the system — to use Lindsey Graham’s term — is just rejecting him. And I think we’ve got to get back some sense of proportion over the things that are really troubling and important, and those are frankly no different than things that go on all the time. … Now if something really nefarious was done by the president in this case, no one, I think, has any doubt that that will be handled appropriately — but no-one has established that yet. So the real point I’d like to leave our viewers with is wouldn’t it be great if we could just focus — to coin a phrase from Charles [Krauthammer’s] book —  on the things that matter — the things that matter to real people’s lives, which is none of this process that goes on in Washington, but it is the issues that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell was talking about: tax reform; what are we going to do about healthcare; how are we going to get jobs back and incomes up. That’s what we should be discussing. … The American people put Donald Trump in the White House knowing his flaws. It feels to me very much like something is building among the political elite in the establishment. They want to get him out, and I think it’s going to be very interesting to see how that plays out. I think that is what we’re seeing here.”


img_7026 Charles M Jones

Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

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