My next newspaper column:
[Update: Russia claims it dictated what targets in Syria were acceptable. Unsurprising, isn't it?]They say the best contract is one in which both parties think they got screwed. (They also say, “Ruby you’re like a dream,” which I quoted in the introduction to my college biology research thesis, but that’s not important right now.) The point is that James Comey has managed to anger both political parties, which, by the aforementioned standard, suggests he did something right.
My feelings are mixed. Unintended outcome it may be, but his actions in the months leading up to the 2016 election, by not revealing that Russia was helping Trump get elected, yet making a last-minute disclosure of what turned out to be nothing new in the Clinton email scandalette, thumbed the scales. Even Kelleyanne Conway accidentally admitted Comey swung the election to Trump. That email announcement was a momentum changer, by the accounts of many informed observers and pollsters.
But I have sympathy: like President Obama when Bush left him with only bad choices in Iraq, all the options Director Comey faced were lose-lose. Had the “discovered” emails contained damning material, it’d have been a blot on the FBI’s and, sure, the election’s integrity, assuming Secretary Senator Clinton had won. Still, having withheld the Russia information, the standards look a little doublish.In that sense, it’s odd that popular-vote-loser Trump, and Trumpists, see Comey as a villain. Almost as much as they do Putin, voter ID laws, and the Electoral College, the creation of which was intended to prevent the seating of an amoral reprobate like Trump, they owe him for their win. And he has retrospectively admitted concern for rightwing chatter might have influenced his decision publically to criticize Hillary Clinton back in July.
Mr. Comey might come off as self-serving, but it’s unmistakable that, unlike Trump, he’s not an inveterate liar. In a he-said/he-said competition, who’s more credible: a person recognized, throughout decades of government service, as one of integrity, selected for high office by presidents of both parties, approved all but unanimously more than once by the world’s formerly greatest deliberative body; or one whose business career and personal life consisted of shady deals, lying, cheating, adultery, serial bankruptcies, being sued thousands of times, suing hundreds, and who, since taking office, has disgorged falsehoods at a documented average rate of six per day? It’s not a close call.In matters large and small, critical or not to our security, it’s untenable to have an American “president” about whom the default assumption, at home and abroad, based on repeated observation, is that he’s lying.Which brings us to Syria.
When you’ve lost Alex Jones… (Warning: decidedly, emphatically, hilariously NSFW) Unlike Jones, and Russia, I’m no conspiracist. But right after Trump proclaimed he wanted out of Syria immediately, (remember when he and the rest of the rightwing screamers castigated Obama for announcing withdrawal plans?) Assad used chemical weapons. Then Trump announced missiles would be coming sometime soon, giving Putin and Assad time to hide their ass…ets.
Ignoring SecDef Mattis’ appeal to get Congressional approval, Trump loosed the missiles. And then… what, exactly? No after-action reports, no cool damage-assessment videos. Was anything there? What was accomplished, and in whose interest? It was done to protect the Syrian people, Trump assured us. After which, confirming his definitely not-fake Christianity, he announced plans to welcome refugees. (Kidding. I kid. But he did proclaim, without irony, “Mission Accomplished.”)
Later, Nikki Haley declared tougher sanctions on Russia were coming. But wait, there’s less! Donald's mouthpieces said she was confused (back on which she pushed, angrily), and he assured the Russians they’re not. This is nuts: it’s presidency as omnishambles, with North Korea talks coming next.
Narcissistic above all, Trump has no coherent policy. Impetuously, he pulls out of the TPP. Realizing he gifted economic supremacy to China, he wants back in. Then, like plans to fire McMaster, denies it. His treasury department reported last week that China and Russia aren’t unlawfully manipulating currency, after which he says they are. This isn’t, as my friend Mike the Trumpist says, crazy like a fox. It’s crazy like crazy.
By what criteria can anyone -- friend or foe, edified or Foxified – believe anything Trump says? Rejecting expertise, preferring sycophancy, he basks in the company of toadying crooks, incompetents, and Fox talking heads. This diminishes us all. It diminishes America. It’s Ping-Pong policy by a Ping-Pong president.