Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Comey firing (what else?!)

My dissertation advisor, Nelson Polsby, used to tell a story.  Lots of stories, but one in particular comes to mind at times like this.  The former executive editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, used to say that he wanted people to open up the newspapers every morning (remember those things?) and say, "holy shit!"  In order to get that to happen, they would call us, the professoriate, to get a few choice quotes for their stories.  They would say, "holy shit, right prof, holy shit?"  And, Nelson would say, it was our job to tell them, "no, not holy shit, this is normal and expected and here's why this is exactly what happens on a regular basis," or something to that effect.

Um...

HOLY SHIT!!!

The Trump era is so filled with true "holy shit" moments that we are in danger of becoming inured to them, but really:  HOLY SHIT!!!

So, when Comey introduced the first real October surprise that ever measurably switched an electoral outcome, I put up a few posts parsing his motives.  First, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt with this post, arguing that the "mini-max regret rule" would push him to release the information about the re-opened Clinton investigation in October.  A few days later, I argued that a better predictor of Comey's general behavior was whatever would screw over Clinton, and the investigation even went back to his bizarre decision to castigate her during the initial announcement not to prosecute, while trying to usurp that whole thing from the AG.  Basically, yeah, the investigation looked at his overall behavior, and combined that with his latest lies about the Abedin/Weiner computer, and it really does look like he was just out to get Clinton.  Gotta agree.  That was my conclusion based on Mill's Methods, last year.

Is that the real reason Trump fired him?  Clearly no.  Does the phrase "lock her up" ring a bell?  Yeah, Trump isn't going to fire Comey for going too hard after Clinton.

When I first got news of the firing and the investigation into Comey, I had to re-read the story a couple of times, thinking I had mis-read it.  I thought that the investigation must have concluded that Comey was wrong to not seek charges, and that's why Trump fired him.  That would have made sense, given the whole "lock her up" thing.  Trump can't seriously be pissed off about what the investigation actually concluded.  He can't.  Yes, Comey was WAY THE FUCK OUT OF LINE.  In SO many ways.  But that isn't why Trump fired him.

Is this really about Russia?  Who the hell knows?  This isn't something that political science can really help with here.  I hate to say it, but we need....  damn, this kills me to type it... journalists here.  Real, old-fashioned, investigative journalism, of the type that has been pushed aside by a combination of laziness and market forces.  Get to work, journalists.

If this is about Comey looking into Russia...

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5 comments:

  1. If this isn't normal, is it a crisis? Or is it too early and unclear to understand what we are living through at the moment?

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    1. The phrase "constitutional crisis" has a different meaning from the colloquial word, "crisis." It refers to a problem that cannot be solved within the constitutional system because of a breakdown of the constitutional order. If Trump got a court order that he refused to follow and Congress shrugged, that would be a constitutional crisis.
      The president has the authority to do this, and Comey really did fuck up pretty badly. He should have been fired long ago. So, on paper, this doesn't look like a "constitutional crisis" unless this really is a cover-up for Comey digging too far into the Russia thing, with Congress complicit in the cover-up (clearly, a lot of Republicans REALLY don't want to look into any of this). Colloquial-crisis? We have an idiot-psychopath child of a President. We are living in a generalized crisis. What is this, specifically? Too early to tell, by far.

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    2. Well, in a sense, when you don't have the special prosecutor available any more, and Congress is run by partisan hacks, and you have a president willing to fire anyone who dares question him....it's kind of a problem (Trump possibly being in bed with the Russians) that apparently the constitutional system cannot solve.

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  2. BTW, journalists have been doing that work. It's basically already out there: this is about Russia.
    Comey asked for more money to investigate Russia recently, a grand jury just returned subpoenas for some Flynn associates, and Trump tasked a guy who just got hired to sack Comey for him. And, of course, Trump's letter pretty much proves it's about Russia.

    So, yeah.

    The thing I have to keep reminding myself is that it took about 10 months from when Nixon fired Cox for the whole shitshow to truly come crashing down.

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    1. I was amazed at how fast some of this came out, like the thing about Comey's request for more money for the Russia investigation, Trump demanding an excuse to fire Comey BEFORE the internal investigation of Comey concluded... All of that came out yesterday. The thing I have to keep reminding myself is that Trump and his people are fucking stupid.

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