What IS the deal with Comey?

This business of the FBI director’s letter last week has a lot of puzzling aspects that we could discuss.


Comey’s official FBI portrait. I almost don’t recognize him, smiling.

I almost did a post yesterday based on a couple of headlines out there, one of which was this: “Did FBI Director James Comey’s Email Announcement Break The Law?” To that, I could only say, Who cares? What if it did? Sure he could be prosecuted, fined, jailed, whatever — it wouldn’t affect what he has done to this election, whatever that is. The damage can’t be undone. If his actions result in the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, keelhauling him might make a lot of us feel avenged, but it wouldn’t save the country.

Another headline — which I can’t seem to find now — said he may have a report on what is found in the new emails before the election. To which I could only say, whoop-te-frickin’-do. When would that be? Election eve? So if the news is detrimental to Hillary Clinton, or merely leaves a cloud over her, that could be the finishing stroke. And if it clears her of any further culpability, Republicans will charge to the polls in a fine lather, willing even to vote for Trump to express their ire.

There’s a lot more this morning. I was intrigued by an interview I heard on public radio this morning with Donald Ayer, deputy U.S. attorney general under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush between 1989 and 1990. He made a fascinating point. He said that when Comey had his announcement/speech back in the summer, everybody kind of went, OK, so Hillary did some irresponsible stuff, but it didn’t rise to the level of being prosecutable. Republicans were outraged and Democrats relieved, but everyone went on with their lives.

And, Mr. Ayer said, no one stopped to think just how wildly inappropriate it was for someone with prosecutorial power to make a lengthy speech about the merits of a case he was deciding not to prosecute.

Anyway, the point was that that error set up this one. Having told Congress and tout le monde that he was done investigating and there was nothing to prosecute, he felt honor-bound to say last week, Uh, fellas, I found something else we need to take a look at….

(Being bound by honor is a very fine thing and all too rare these days. But I confess I’m on the verge of losing patience with Mr. Comey’s delicate sensibilities…)

So now we have this situation in which everybody’s mad at him — Democrats for possibly throwing the election to Trump, and Republicans for not telling us all right now just how much these emails damn Hillary.

Here’s another interesting wrinkle: “Comey was concerned publicly blaming Russia for hacks of Democrats could appear too political in run-up to elections.”

Yeah, right? He had his excuses for why he was concerned about the FBI’s purity in that case and not this one (and you should read the story), but still…

Finally… As y’all know, Bret Stephens, deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, has written some extraordinary columns lately damning Trump and all-but-endorsing Hillary. Today, he had one simply headlined, “Resign, Mr. Comey.” An excerpt:

These aren’t partisan acts. They are self-regarding ones. Mr. Comey is a familiar Washington type—the putative saint—whose career is a study in reputation management. He went after investment banker Frank Quattrone. He threatened to resign from the Bush administration over its warrantless wiretap program. He vouchsafed the case against Steven J. Hatfill, the virologist accused of the 2001 anthrax mail attacks, in internal White House deliberations. He appointed his close friend Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the leak of CIA analyst Valerie Plame’s name.

One common thread in these cases is that Mr. Comey was always on the right side of Beltway conventional wisdom. The second is that he was consistently on the wrong side of justice….

FBI directors are supposed to be above politics, not in them. President Obama has the authority to fire Mr. Comey but will be hard-pressed to do so politically. That goes double if Mrs. Clinton is elected. Who knows what a President Trump would do.

All the more reason for Mr. Comey to do the right thing. He has lost the trust of his political masters, his congressional overseers and the American people. Wanting to spend more time with family is the usual excuse.

Mr. Stephens is understandably ticked.

One wonders where Mr. Comey’s conscience will take us next. Although what it’s done so far is quite enough…


88 thoughts on “What IS the deal with Comey?

  1. Mark Stewart

    This would be the appropriate outcome today:

    “My public remarks have been consistently inappropriate, ill-considered and damaging to our Republic. Therefore, effective immediately I am resigning as Director of the FBI. God bless America.”

  2. Claus

    The man is doing his job. He was advised not to do his job during the first investigation after she and Bill met to “discuss their grandchildren”. What difference does the election time period make from an organization investigating criminal activity? If someone is running for office and shoots someone, does that person not get investigated until after the election? Hillary is going down, if not before the election, after the election. What will be interesting is if she wins the election and obvious criminal activity can be traced back to her before she’s sworn in.

  3. Doug Ross

    He’s going to resign anyway if Hillary wins, right?

    If there is actual evidence of a serious crime that would result in the impeachment of Hillary, isn’t it CRITICAL that the American people know about it before the election? Remember, Hillary’s team hand selected the emails they turned over. That was their second mistake (after putting them on a private server in the first place) that opened this can of worms. Every single action taken by Hillary and her team has been to obstruct, deflect, deny, redirect away from the truth. You know what would have prevented this whole escapade? Turning over the email server immediately when requested. If you have nothing to hide, this whole process would have been unnecessary.

    So now, what if there are some damaging emails on Weiner’s computer? Are we then going to go through months of “well, we missed those… sorry (not sorry)” or “I don’t recall that email” or “this is obviously a right wing, Russian, Bernie Sanders led conspiracy”.

    If there is a single classified email on that laptop and that can be determined before Tuesday, Comey has the obligation to the American public to make it known. If it causes Trump to win, that’s not Comey’s fault – it’s Hillary and her bumbling band of sycophants who caused it.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’m impressed. You said “unbiased news” and cited the Daily Mail in the same comment. Not everyone can pull that off.

      And I see headlines like this in this country — they’re usually on the National Enquirer, at the grocery checkout…

      1. Claus

        England’s 2nd largest newspaper.
        The Sun 1,787,096
        Daily Mail 1,589,471
        Metro 1,348,033
        Evening Standard 898,407
        Daily Mirror 809,147

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Oh, it’s a biggie. Very popular, like reality TV.

          I picked it up a few times when I was in England several years back. Although for serious reading, I turned to The Guardian and The Times…

  4. Bart

    Hillary Clinton was the one responsible for turning over all of the emails on her private server and for insuring all emails contained on her staff’s computers that were connected to anything associated with her duties as SOS were surrendered to the authorities. That is it in simple terms. No need for debate or excuses, she should have complied fully when she was required to adhere with the request. By not doing so, we are all aware of the subsequent events that followed and are still ongoing.

    If you are the head of anything no matter if it is in the government or private sector and no matter at what level one is, when the responsibility of your area, sector, or whatever description you want to use, if you have the ability to control events within your department, then anything that goes awry comes back to rest on your shoulders and you are the one who must answer for the actions of anyone working for you. And you are even more accountable for your own actions well above the actions of the ones who serve under you.

    Republicans were upset with Comey for not recommending legal action against Clinton, Democrats were happy and had nothing but praise for his actions. Then through chance, more emails that are connected to the time Clinton was SOS were discovered on Anthony Weiner’s computer. Although Comey had closed the inquiry for all practical purposes, when the new emails were discovered and Clinton’s aide had made the declaration she did not have knowledge of any other emails, her comments were wrong. Whether she had actual knowledge if the emails still existed or not is debatable but what is not debatable is that they did still exist and well outside the confined walls of the State Department.

    Comey was faced with a decision that only he could make and he did what he thought was the right thing to do. He had the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head and no matter what he decided to do, he was going to be skewered by one side or the other, perhaps by both. Can anyone imagine the immense pressure he was placed under after the new information was discovered by the NYPD while they were investigating another of Weiner’s sexting messages to a young girl in North Carolina and the FBI was informed that information other than sexting was on his computer?

    The Clinton camp is going after Comey but lest we forget, Comey did not place the emails on Weiner’s computer, someone else did and it had to be someone closely connected to Clinton. Does anyone believe Weiner downloaded them on purpose for nefarious reasons? Exactly how did they end up on his computer? Comey was given new information concerning a case that was never tried by the DOJ or any criminal court. Everyone simply assumed the case was closed and would remain dormant.

    I cannot defend Trump but I can ask a sensible question and if the partisan politics are laid aside, it is a reasonable one to ask. Question – given the fact that the server used by Clinton was not a secure State Department server and that personal and State Department emails were intermingled, what does that tell us about the way Clinton views security and whether she considers herself immune to following proper procedure and security measures while serving as one of the highest profile and ranking members of the president’s cabinet? The excuse that Rice and Powell did it does not excuse Clinton’s actions in any way, shape or form. That is the excuse children use when caught with their hand the proverbial cookie jar. “Well, Johnny took cookies when you weren’t looking so why should I be punished?” Well, Johnny didn’t get caught, did he? Not excusing Johnny but two or three wrongs do not make another one right.

    One more thing to consider, given the continuous revelations about the emails may be a non-issue to her supporters but to me, it is an indication of how she will govern as POTUS and that greatly concerns me as it should anyone who cares about the rule of law and consequences of having the attitude and apparent opinion she is not subject to being held accountable as you and I would be.

    If this latest “October Surprise” ends up giving Trump the winning hand, Hillary Clinton can only look in the mirror when she seeks someone to blame.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Of course, that’s true. Your last sentence I am specifically referring to – though it also and even more importantly, means that Trump would have been elected to President of the United States. Think about that one. We have had losey choices since the beginning of this primary campaign; but these are the two choices we now have. It’s ominous. For all of us.

    2. Doug Ross

      “The excuse that Rice and Powell did it ”

      That has already been debunked by Powell explicitly. He said (and there are emails backing this up) that Hillary should not use a private server and that what Powell did was maintain a separate AOL account for personal emails and a secure State Department email for government business. Nothing wrong with that at all.

      Let’s also not forget that the servers and smartphones that were requested were intentionally wiped or destroyed by members of Hillary’s staff. Why?

      The coverup is worse than the crime.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “The coverup is worse than the crime.”

        In all fairness, the crime here is being grossly negligent with classified information. That’s 18 U.S.C Sec. 793(f) for you sports fans scoring at home. You can get ten years in Leavenworth for it. Sooo….Kinda bad.

        1. Bill

          You need to get a better handle on Westlaw, counselor. The part of the code you cite has to do with national defense information. That’s not the State Department beat. That’s DoD and its affiliated agencies. What you wanted was Title 18 Pt. I Chapter 93 §1924(a).

            1. Bill

              It’s really a sad thing when a lawyer shows no appreciation of applicable law. Better stick to drawing up wills or whatever legal grunt work you do, son, and leave stuff like this to the big boys who know something about it.

                1. Doug Ross

                  Nah, just not a guy living in his mother’s basement pretending to be a lawyer.

                  “Ma, the MEATLOAF!”

              1. Bryan Caskey

                Okay, Bill. Please stand up explain to the class why you consider the statute to be inapplicable.

                Why is 18 U.S.C.A § 793(f) not “applicable law” as you say? Is it your position that this statute may only apply to a member of the Department of Defense? Is that your legal theory? If so, please provide us with the text in the statute or any decisional law interpreting it which you believe best supports your position.

                We’ll wait….

                1. Bill

                  All ya gotta do is read the whole thing, not just part (f). And use a little common sense. Or maybe pick up a newspaper and read it (yeah, friend, it’s been reported on). But jumping on your high horse won’t get you there.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Bill, come on. You’re not even trying.

                    “All ya gotta do is read the whole thing, not just part (f).”

                    Where? What are you reading? Be specific, Bill. Use your words.

                    “And use a little common sense.”

                    I am. I’m simply reading the words of the statute and giving them their plain and ordinary meaning, which is how you construe a statute. How do you interpret the word “whoever”?

                    “Or maybe pick up a newspaper and read it (yeah, friend, it’s been reported on).”

                    Okay, please cite a newspaper article in which a lawyer has made the argument you’re making. And think about it for a minute with your “common sense”. Are you seriously telling me that no one outside of the Department of Defense can be charged under this section? That’s ludicrous. Come on Bill, make it happen. We’re all waiting for you to dazzle us with this interesting theory you have.

                    Or you could just admit you’re being a silly-head.

                2. Bill

                  The only folks who’ve been continuously harping on part (f) are conservative news & opinion outlets (Fox, National Review) and right-wing blogs (Breitbart & Co.). In other words, the usual Hillary-hating crowd. Why? Probably because it sets a more drastic penalty: max. 10 years. Plus, it supplies that powerfully damning word, “espionage.” Sort of rhymes with “traitor,” at least in the minds of the “lock her up” crew. “Removal and retention of classified information” (§1924) just doesn’t sound nearly as juicy, by comparison. But as others have pointed out, including this professor of law:


                  part (f) has “virtually never been used.” And Director Comey agreed that it doesn’t apply in this case either.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Good, so you’ve abandoned your silly notion that it doesn’t apply to her because she wasn’t in the Department of Defense. I accept your concession.

                    Also, Vladek’s piece doesn’t even really argue Hillary isn’t guilty of violating this statute. He just says “There’s an easy answer here, and it’s to not use Clinton as a test case for an unprecedented prosecution pursuant to an underutilized criminal provision, even if some of us think what she did was a greater sin than the conduct of some who have been charged under the statute.”

                    He’s arguing that Hillary shouldn’t be prosecuted because…people aren’t often prosecuted under this statute. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of her innocence, here.

                3. Bill

                  Nope, no concession.

                  Just this observation: You share a few character traits with Donald Trump: you enjoy disparaging people, like snark and can’t resist preening when you think you’ve scored a point (even when you haven’t).

        2. Doug Ross

          Here’s why we have lawyers.. why use one word when a dozen will do?

          “Whoever, for the purpose aforesaid, and with like intent or reason to believe, copies, takes, makes, or obtains, or attempts to copy, take, make, or obtain, any sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, document, writing, or note of anything connected with the national defense; or”

          This is how we end up with Bill Clinton saying ” “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. “.

      2. Bart

        I should have included that the Rice and Powell has been debunked in my comments, my oversight. The willful destruction of smartphones and cleaning of the servers by Clinton’s staff is indeed indicative of a cover-up. Why smash smartphones with a hammer? What was so damaging that would require drastic measures to that proportion? This is on par with Nixon’s secretary explaining how she was able to wipe off the 18 minutes from the tape recorder. I had been willing to give Nixon the slightest benefit of doubt before watching her show how the 18 minutes “happened” to be erased. Cirque de Solis could have used her as a contortionist performer after pulling that one off.

        The actions bring to mind scenes from the movies when the authorities serve a warrant to secure documents and the staff are running around shredding documents, erasing tapes, etc.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      There’s no question, she shouldn’t have had the private server for official email.

      And there’s no question she should immediately have turned over everything. I stress “immediately,” because if there had been anything there sufficiently bad to sink her campaign, it would have ended then, and Joe Biden would have run, and he’d be comfortably ahead of Trump, and we’d all have a lot less stress now.

      But that didn’t happen. And — it always comes back to this — in the actual universe we live in, she is all that stands between the world and a President Trump.

      It is absolutely inconceivable to me that there could be anything on that computer that would make a President Trump OK. You realize, of course, that I’m dismissing the possibility that the emails contain the minutes of a meeting Hillary had with Dr. Evil at his underground lair, plotting to blow up the world…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        … although wait a minute. I just realized that this situation has Dr. Evil’s M.O. all over it..

        Assume he’s in cahoots with Hillary. What he has done is place Trump in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic political death, and Trump is now in the process of escaping from it…

      2. Claus

        “and Joe Biden would have run, and he’d be comfortably ahead of Trump, and we’d all have a lot less stress now”

        “stress”, what stress? I’m perfectly content.

      3. Doug Ross

        Short of a murder charge (I hope!), is there anything that could come out in the next seven days that would cause you to refrain from pulling the lever for Hillary? You can still vote just abstain from that particular matchup.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Not that I know of, unless you have information that Trump is going to resign from the race.

          That’s what it’s about, folks. Saving the country from Trump. That’s the thing that matters — so everybody, please FOCUS…

  5. Doug Ross

    “According to the FBI’s summary of their April interview with Abedin, she told agents that after she left the State Department in 2013, Clinton’s staff transitioned to a different email server and she “lost most of her old emails as a result.” ”

    That doesn’t even pass the sniff test. Maybe in 2003… but in 2013? No backups, no migration of emails, no notification from system administrators to back up any important emails? Right….

    Huma is a liar and she learned well from her mentor. There isn’t anyone in Hillary’s circle – Donna Brazile, Huma, Podesta, Debbie Wasserman Schulz, etc. etc. who isn’t a liar. And Democrats don’t care. You could have had Bernie.

    I think enough right minded people will just decide not to vote at all rather than pull the lever for her. They would never vote for Trump but they can’t in good conscience vote for Hillary. Turnout will give Trump a puncher’s chance Tuesday.

    Oh to see Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews faces if Trump wins!

    1. Doug Ross

      It SHOULD be welcome news though to gender warriors that women now appear to have closed the lying gap between men and women significantly during this election. Where women were once thought to be higher on the ethical scale, Hillary has made great progress in lowering the bar down to the levels men previously had achieved. Way to go, girls!

        1. Doug Ross

          I do totally. Someone terrible will be elected president. Only one may be in jail before she takes office.

          You want Hillary, you got her.

              1. Claus

                Tell that to retired Marine General James Cartright who will be sentenced to prison for the same offense as Hillary. The only difference is his leaks were fewer in number.

            1. Doug Ross

              Yeah, bud, an accusation of something that allegedly happened 22 years ago is surely going to bring down Trump. Your link is so weak in terms of analysis that it is embarrassing. “He had to have done it, he said bad words about some women”. Did you read the complaint? The accuser says she attended four parties under the assumption she would get a modeling career and was raped by Trump four different times at parties she attended. Think about that. Four separate times she went to a party and was raped every time by Trump supposedly. There is zero chance of this seeing a trial. She’s looking for a payoff 22 years later. She’ll never show up for a trial.

          1. Mark Stewart

            All this from a guy who decided the best he could do was put his head in the sand and not vote in a relevant way. I don’t get that.

            We have a choice between two options. They both suck; I get that. But we have two options. A or B. The choice is ours to make. I voted today for one of those choices. I make myself accountable. And make a commitment with my vote.

            That is also a choice that many SC Republicans are going to make (or have made already). Country over politics. That is what is at stake this year. There is no hyperbole in that. None.

            1. Doug Ross

              Yes, Mark, I put my head in the sand. That’s what I did. I paid careful attention to what was said and done over the past year and then decided that neither Hillary or Trump was worthy of the office. I don’t vote for liars. It’s a quirk I have that I’ll just have to live with.

              You proudly voted to support “more of the same”. When Hillary wins, you’ll be able to take credit for all the great things she will do and invent all the tragedies she avoided with Trump.

  6. Burl Burlingame

    Whatever happens next week, what happened last week is Comey’s legacy, what he’ll be remembered for.

    1. Claus

      Nothing that he shouldn’t have been remembered for starting in July rather than November. The man who brought Hillary down. If I were him I’d have that engraved on my tombstone. People from all over would lay flowers on my grave for centuries to come.

  7. Bart

    Is it just me or does the mud and pig crap get deeper as each day passes in this so-called election of a new POTUS. It is beyond the two candidates now, it is infecting our society to the point where no matter which one wins, they will be rendered useless and irrelevant and neither will have the backing of most of the electorate with the exception of their hardcore supporters. Hopefully the winner will stay within the confines of the White House and not venture out into the public very often. Personally I have seen and heard enough of both to last a lifetime and then some. Yet, after the election, the victor will wave to the cheering crowds of supporters, smile and be gracious for a while, and life will go on with either one as if what they and their sycophants have put this country through doesn’t matter at all.

    It is an embarrassment to even go to the polls and vote after the way this campaign has been run by both sides. If I wouldn’t be arrested, I would probably wear a mask or place a bag over my head when I go to vote.

    No way can I defend Trump but I can offer the opinion that if he indeed is guilty of the things he has been accused of, it is more than likely he would have been exposed a long time ago. The rumors about Bill Cosby have been circulating for several years but only recently has his predilection to drug women been brought to the public’s attention. It is almost a certainty that if the recent information about Trump is all true, it is also very likely there would have been rumors circulating about his groping and fondling. A celebrity like Trump cannot escape the tabloids and anything he does will get the attention of the public.

    There is another point to the article bud linked us to. Trump and Epstein apparently engaged in a violent form of sex if you want to call it sex and if true, Trump should be in prison for his actions. So we don’t want this man in the White House. Conversely, Bill Clinton has been directly linked to another sexual predator who recruits young, underage females for his chamber of sex on wings and if Hillary wins, Bill Clinton will be back in the White House, not as president but in a position to exert influence and authority once again.

    Comey will be blamed for informing Congress of the latest email revelation and some will and have already made his actions his legacy. The man was placed in a Catch 22 and either way, he was in a lose-lose situation. If Hillary loses, her supporters will pin the blame on Comey but we need to keep the most important aspect of the entire sordid situation in mind. Comey was not the one who sent and received the emails and it was not the FBI. It was Hillary Clinton when she was SOS and her staff, not Comey. Trying to blame him for her failures is deflection, plain and simple. He will be remembered that way by the ones who want to remember him that way. If the DOJ had done the job the department is assigned to do, it wouldn’t have mattered if an FBI investigation impacted the election or not, they have a job to do and the job should be above anything political. But politicizing the DOJ, FBI, IRS, INS, and just about every other governmental agency is the norm and anyone going outside the circle informing the public about what is going on inside is considered a pariah.

    The next four years will be interesting to say the least.

  8. Harry Harris

    What’s most alarming to me is the digression of our politics into personal attacks, mostly exaggerated, and intended to win an election based on denigrating the other person’s fitness for office. Can anyone deny the directions and positions each would advance as President? However, nobody with a voice seems to care. With Trump, we get a lot of vague promises and a lot of threats. He has put forward a few positions. Step out of any trade agreements he thinks are “bad deals.” Build a border fence and bully Mexico into “paying for it.” Deport (or maybe not) a lot of illegal residents (now, maybe just the bad ones). “Take the oil” from Iraq. Back out of the nuclear treaty with Iran (allies positions are irrelevant). Do away with estate and gift taxes. Lower corporate taxes to 15%, and likely allow LLC’s and other pass-throughs to pay at that rate. Cut income taxes for all but the poorest who pay none or little and families with 3 or more kids and moderate income, allow for maternity leave (yes, women only) paid by Social Security. His tax proposals alone add 600B annually to the deficit.
    He definitely offers a great deal more rancorous public discourse, a leap upward in crassness, and an endorsement of accusatory rhetoric over expertise. He damns the media and press over being biased against him. I lack respect for them for not doing their job and allowing the relevant to become marginalized.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Harry, I don’t think the relevant has been marginalized at all. The issues are his character, his ignorance (and unwillingness to learn), his announced intentions of abandoning allies (and nuclear proliferation) and his embrace of dictators willing to say slightly flattering things about him. And especially his childish (which is unfair to children, actually) inability to focus on anything but what he regards as the latest personal slight against him.

      Those are the things people NEED to know about Trump.

      Specific policy proposals, especially domestic ones, are pretty irrelevant with this guy. I don’t expect him to continue to hold those positions more than five minutes, and in any case they are the province of Congress…

      1. Harry Harris

        I don’t diminish at all the threat of Trump’s unhinged, vitriolic, and vendetta-prone character. Where you and I disagree is the idea of a Republican controlled government putting into place the kind of policies the Ryans, Cruzes, and, yes, Kasiches propose. “Saving” Social Security on the backs of workers instead of shoring-up the system with sensible expansion of the funding. Huge tax cuts for the upper 1% and huger ones for the top .1% at the expense of expanding the federal debt and much higher debt/GDP ratios. Did you know that of the 10.5 trillion of debt prior to 2008, 80% added under Republican Presidents – all with the promise of reducing deficits and shared prosperity. Yet they constantly blame it on Democrats. Did you know that over two thirds of the budget deficits under Obama were the result of 2 unfunded wars, a Medicare prescription drug plan, and tax cuts heavily favoring the wealthy? Those were under a President who inherited a projected budget surplus, low unemployment, and left a 1.2 trillion deficit and added 80% to the national debt? Who killed community policing? Bush and the Republicans. Who nearly wiped out federal aid to states and cities. Same. Who keeps advocating for public financing to attend private schools? Who call estate taxes the “death tax” when over 70% of large estates is unrealized capital gains (never been taxed). It’s not just Trump, it’s also most of the Republicans who are cowed by the TEA party crowd that has made this country nearly ungovernable.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          How can Congress do away with community policing? I missed that. Seems like that is something entirely up to local governments. It’s something that, almost by definition, can’t be done on the federal level…

          But of course, that’s one area I disagree with Democrats on — they’re always wanting to perform local functions, such as education and law enforcement, from the federal level.

          Here’s something I disagree with Republicans on: I have one concern about having both a Republican president (by which I mean a Republican president, such as Bush or Kasich) and a Republican Congress (which, as you say, is the Tea Party’s toy) — they would do away with Obamacare, and replace it with nothing, zip, zero, nada…

          Which I would call nihilistic, if people didn’t get on my case about it…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Of course, if you had a Republican Congress and Trump (instead of a Republican president), you would get something replacing Obamacare.

            No details, but it would be terrific. You would love it.

            Trust him.

            How would he get Congress to do this thing it would absolutely not want to do? The same way he’s going to make Mexico pay for his wall.

            Trust him…

          2. Harry Harris

            Replicating community nationwide was a was a B Clinton initiative, federally funded and locally implemented. It dried up (with its funding) under GW Bush. As to Obamacare, the alternatives hinted at (eg premium support) puts the insurance companies back fully in charge.

    2. Doug Ross

      “Can anyone deny the directions and positions each would advance as President?”
      Yes. I base that on what Obama said he’d do and what he did. He ran as a change agent and ended up a generic President with little to show for his eight years. His greatest achievement (ACA) is now headed toward repeal or major restructuring.

      That’s why I don’t fear a Trump presidency. What he says he will do and what he can actually do are quite different. Same for Hillary. She won’t get free public education.. she might get some worthless vouchers for low end schools that will only drive up the costs. She won’t get a pathway to citizenship. She might get a few more DREAM act bandaids.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, again — Doug is focusing on legislation, the province of Congress. And Congress can’t even get ITSELF to do things, much less do what a president wants.

        Where a seriously unhinged person is dangerous is in the day-to-day interaction with other countries. This is a guy who, if he finds himself in a diplomatic minefield (which presidents do multiple times per day), will jump on every single mine. The most basic social interactions are way over his head, much less the complex interactions in which every word has to be extremely carefully crafted and delivered. He (and his followers) have contempt for taking such care; they’re not capable of seeing the need.

        He will also cause as much havoc as one man can (when he’s the most powerful man on the planet) in our domestic politics.

        I’m not that worried about what LAWS would pass. I’m worried about the daily leadership disasters that are completely within reach of a POTUS acting unilaterally.

        I’m also worried about the exponential acceleration of the dumbing-down, and degradation, of the presidency, and of our system of government.

        Trump has shown us over and over that as seamy, as tawdry, as appalling, as gross as he’s been so far, he’s perfectly capable of going lower, and can’t wait to do it, and take America with him…

        1. Doug Ross

          a) He will never be in a room by himself with another world leader. I expect that if he somehow becomes President

          b) He has somehow managed to negotiate contracts with leaders of the international business community. Somehow he was able to do that for decades without an international incident. I’m not saying they all liked him, but that’s not the goal is it? The goal is to do what is best for the U.S., not the world. Or do you disagree with that objective?

          If he is tough with the leaders of other NATO nations and tells them we expect them
          to live up to their side of the agreement or face consequences, that’s fine. Or if he tells the Mexican President that the U.S. will use trade restrictions unless they do something to control illegal immigration across the border (i.e. pay for a wall), that’s his right.

          Maybe he’ll be too tough in some situations. But maybe we need someone with a backbone in the White House too.

          1. Doug Ross

            ” a seriously unhinged person ”

            Your hyperbole is what kills your message. It’s no different than those who call Hillary a murderer. Trump is an egotistical blowhard… but he has run a very well organized campaign for six months that has put his “this close” to being President. To suggest he is unhinged when people are moving toward him and not away is a mistake.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              That’s not hyperbole.

              A guy who is awake at 3 a.m. Tweeting attacks on a young woman he insulted decades ago is unhinged — and I think, rather seriously.

              A guy who keeps on and keeps on damaging himself by attacking Gold Star parents, day after day, is a guy who has gone ’round the bend.

              This is a man who has no sense of either propriety or proportion. The fact that he does his own social media reveals to us the bizarrely immature man that his campaign cannot hide.

              Then, of course, there are all the things he does in public, from physically mocking a handicapped man to muttering “Such a nasty woman” in a live, televised, highest-stakes presidential debate.

              It’s a man who speaks admiringly of how “strong” brutal dictators are, who thinks we should be “unpredictable” in whether we deploy nuclear weapons, and won’t rule out using nukes in Europe because hey, “Europe is a big place.”

              This is a 70-year-old man who is incapable of the kind of self-control that we expect children to have mastered by the time they’re out of kindergarten.

              “Seriously unhinged” is a straightforward, unadorned, plain way of describing that. It’s not hyperbolic…

              1. Doug Ross

                “A guy who keeps on and keeps on damaging himself by attacking Gold Star parents, day after day, is a guy who has gone ’round the bend.”

                Day after day? When did this last happen?

                Your examples are someone who is a bully and a boor, not unhinged. You haven’t spent enough time north of the Mason Dixon line to understand that people talk like Trump in various places around the country. It took a long time for my New York born wife’s co-workers to understand that she wasn’t yelling at them because she speaks quickly and at a higher decibel level than the Southern Belles are used to.

                He has had a plan since day one and has executed on it. It has worked to put him close to the White House. That’s not unhinged.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yeah, Hitler had a plan, executed it over the course of more than a decade, and conquered Europe.

                  I guess he was in good shape, then…

                  Doug, Trump is where he is right now for one reason: Among a disturbingly wide swath of the electorate at this moment, crazy sells like hotcakes. The more outrageous, unfiltered, immature and hostile he is — that is, the more he is seriously unhinged — the more they love him.

                  And that is a serious danger to the country right now. And the most important thing that needs to happen in this election is that Trumpism — a political movement based in being seriously unhinged — be defeated…

              2. Claus

                Which Gold Star family did Trump attack yesterday, I wonder what Gold Star family Trump will attack today. Brad if someone didn’t know you, it wouldn’t take them long to figure out you were in the story telling business.

              3. Brad Warthen Post author

                Ummm… fellas…. where were y’all during the week after the Democratic Convention?

                The whole story at the time was that Trump didn’t just have a momentary lapse and attack the Khans in a 3 a.m. Tweet — he did it for DAYS after, with the whole world marveling at the way he kept it up.

                And that’s EXACTLY what I said — he did it, and he did it day after day…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Doug, the point here is this….

                    I’ve spent decades getting to know hundreds of politicians, and it’s been my job to study thousands more.

                    I had never, before Trump, met one who would do something SO outrageous, so antisocial, so politically suicidal, as to attack the grieving parents of a dead war hero even ONCE.

                    Much less REPEATED the maneuver. This is unhinged behavior.

                1. Doug Ross

                  He’s not a politician. Start with that. He’s a New York real estate developer who has developed a certain personality that has worked for him to be successful in that arena. He’s adapting on the fly…

                  Notice the little things like his hair and fake tan being toned down… he knows exactly what he’s doing. What’s the worst thing he’s done in two months? Calling Hillary a nasty woman? Big deal.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    That’s right, he’s not a politician. And his supporters LOVE that about him. But it means he’s useless, completely lacking in the requisite skills, and has no business running for president of the United States.

                    It’s like a guy coming to rewire your house saying, “I’m not an electrician.”

                    Everybody who has run for the presidency, and succeeded in the position, has been a politician. “What about Eisenhower?” you ask. Well, what about him? He’s probably the most skilled politician ever to come out of the Army. He wasn’t a battlefield commander. He did a masterful job in a profoundly political job, running the Allied coalition against Hitler. Almost no one ever won the presidency with such high-stakes experience in international relations.

                    The presidents we tend to admire most — say Lincoln, or FDR — were the very most skillful politicians. If they hadn’t been, they wouldn’t have accomplished the things they did.

                    Tell me someone isn’t a “politician,” and I immediately lose interest in considering that person for public office…

                2. Claus

                  I wired up an addition to my house, I’m not an electrician but the city inspector signed off on it. There’s no law saying you have to be licensed, all you have to do is do a qualifying job.

                  The most useless person I can think of is a career politician. I really don’t have any use for one, if they all went away tomorrow I don’t know if they’d be missed.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Oh, you’d miss them. Because you’d live in absolute chaos, like Somalia or Yemen or Aleppo or Mosul.

                    And congratulations on doing the wiring at your house. But if you come to MY house and offer your services, and I have the option of hiring an electrician instead, I’m going with the electrician. No offense; I’m just cautious…

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    You are absolutely right in the first sentence. We live in the greatest country in the world because of our political system, and the people who have served in it over the years since the 1770s.

                    Your second sentence is outrageous, a profound insult to the people and institutions that have made America great…

                3. Doug Ross

                  Yeah, how about we roll back the laws back to when all that greatness happened 200+ years ago?

                  Our system is so great that more than 70% of Americans feel we are on the wrong path and Congress’ approval rating is 11%. The candidate you support for President has a 41% approval rating. That’s the system you hold up for admiration.

                  You revel in the theory of a fantasy government and ignore the reality of how it doesn’t work. Most of the rest of us aren’t impressed.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    “Yeah, how about we roll back the laws back to when all that greatness happened 200+ years ago?”

                    Yeah, that Lincoln really stank up the place. FDR, too. So did Truman. And didn’t LBJ suck with that Civil Rights Act?

                    Don’t you EVER get tired of being so unrelenting negative? I would be SO depressed if I saw things the way you do….

                4. Doug Ross

                  The only thing that depresses me is the government. I’m happy all the time otherwise.

                  Now, tell me some of the great things the government has done since I entered kindergarten. You know, in the fifty years that I have been observing it and living with it — not reading about it in a history book with my rose colored glasses on.

                  If you’re happy with a country that is led by people like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Chuck Schumer, Ted Cruz — great… I hope their stellar leadership brings you great joy every day. I hope that when you pay your taxes, you say “This is a fantastic deal! Look at what I’m getting for 40% of my income!!!”

                5. Mark Stewart

                  Doug just can’t see that Government is designed to meet a civic and not an individual need. It isn’t designed to be efficient; it is designed to be representative. It is forged of compromise.

                  That’s what Populism never understands. They are the system. Instead they are always trying to lock horns with a thing that simply does not exist in the way they can oppose.

                  The Democrats have had the same problem in past decades – the Independants, too, several times. Want to change the system? Do it by advocating from within the system. That’s the way. But it isn’t comprehensible by the people who want pap answers to questions they do not actually even understand.

                6. Doug Ross

                  Mark – I know EXACTLY what the government should do. I don’t want it to do anything for me individually. I want it to build roads, build and run schools, provide fire and police protection, provide a national defense (key words: “national” and “defense”), offer a court system to adjudicate disputes, and offer temporary safety net programs to citizens who need them. Isn’t that enough?

                  What I don’t want is things like paying taxes to run the zoo, a broken Social Security system that has gone far beyond its original intent, a military that goes way beyond what we should be doing, a healthcare program for seniors that is plagued by fraud and abuse, a penal system that jails far too many people.

                  Every time I explain that I want a smaller government that works efficiently, someone tries to turn it into I want something for myself personally. I don’t. I want less government, not no government. And I want less because I think it would be best for EVERYONE to remove as much of the bureaucracy, waste, and corruption from the government. I don’t smoke pot but I don’t want the government to stop anyone else from doing it. I’m not marrying a guy any time soon but I don’t care if someone else wants to.

                  The system is corrupt. Incremental fixes won’t work. They take too long.

                7. Claus

                  When I think of Washington, DC I often think of those well spoken words in the movie Blazing Saddles, “This town needs an enema”.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    Are you sure that line is from Blazing Saddles? I recall lots of lines from that movie, but not that one.

                    I do recall it from Jack Nicholson’s Joker in Batman.

  9. Bryan Caskey

    Anyone seen Bill? Just checking. I figured since it was “common sense” and there were tons of newspaper stories supporting him he would have some info in a jiffy. Don’t worry. We can wait.

    1. Brad Warthen

      Now, now, gentlemen. Let’s have peace in the gunroom.

      A glass of wine with you, sir! The bottle stands by you…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Well…now I cannot be antagonistic. 🙂 Although I have nailed my colors to the mast, it is no use carping on the same string.

        I wish all here the joy of Game Seven of the Fall Classic. The youngsters have been fed in the galley, and I have a bit of bourbon in hand now that my watch is over.

  10. Bryan Caskey

    “Nope, no concession.

    Just this observation: You share a few character traits with Donald Trump: you enjoy disparaging people, like snark and can’t resist preening when you think you’ve scored a point (even when you haven’t).”

    So you’re still arguing that the statue cannot apply to someone outside the Department of Defense?

    Again, you’re just being silly, as there’s no support for that argument whatsoever. Lots of people come into contact with classified information who are not in the Department of Defense. Heck, the CIA isn’t under the DoD. You don’t think a CIA officer could be prosecuted under the 18 USC 793(f)?

    Again, go re-read the text of what Comey announced back when he laid everything out. Comey said that he didn’t think what Hillary did with her e-mail led to culpability because she didn’t “intentionally” mishandle classified information. Now, leaving aside the entire discussion on whether gross negligence requires intent, it’s crystal clear that Hillary is subject to this federal law. He just

    You want to know why I’m pressing you so hard on this, Bill?

    1. You made an obviously incorrect statement about the law’s applicability, and you did it without leaving yourself any margin for being wrong.

    2. You provided absolutely zero support for your argument.

    3. You did it in a way that annoyed me.

    It annoys me that you are so wrong in your thinking, but mostly it annoys me that you’ve given so little thought to the issue. You haven’t thought about it at all. You just seem to be making this silly argument because you don’t want your beloved candidate to potentially be guilty of a crime, so you’ve decided that this law cannot apply to her. (FYI, she’s going to be POTUS anyway, so enjoy the moment, bro.)

    No one else has ever made your argument. No one in the entire world. You’re all alone on your little island of DoD applicability, here Bill, and the reason you’re all by yourself on this one is because it’s not even arguable. I am so tired of people making arguments about things they haven’t thought about and just saying bird-brained things. You might as well be arguing that the law doesn’t apply to her because Hillary has a law degree.

    It annoys me that you can’t even find the best legal defense for Hillary.

    If you want to argue that Hillary’s not guilty of violating 18 USC 793(f), fine. Be my guest. But do so in an intellectually honest way, and try and use solid legal reasoning. You could try arguing lack of intent as a mitigating factor, if nothing else. You could argue that her actions weren’t even grossly negligent. You could argue that it would be her aides who should be charged, not her. You could argue, as Vladek does, that prosecution under this statute would be unprecedented.

    Any of these arguments at least has the merit of being supported by some plausible theory.

    As for the balance of your comments comparing me to Trump: First, I don’t enjoy disparaging people. However, when I see unthinking analysis, I point it out and call it what it is. In your case, your analysis is unsupportable. The reason you can’t find anything supporting your argument is because you’re wrong. I’m disparaging your critical thinking ability.

    I’m not trying to break your balls. I’m trying to show you that you’re wrong. Just talking. If I was trying to break your balls, I’d tell you to…

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