Thoughts on the Comey hearing?

Comey, right after he said of Trump's excuses for firing him, "Those were lies, plain and simple..."

Comey, right after he said of Trump’s excuses for firing him, “Those were lies, plain and simple…”

Well, the public part is over, and the senators will move on to the SCIF for the good stuff behind closed doors.

My initial impression: Comey came across as a completely credible witness, and in terms of integrity, honesty and respect for the rule of law, Donald Trump’s polar opposite.

You? Thoughts?

My favorite bit may have been when Comey quoted my ancestor Henry II, as a way of saying he thought Trump’s stating aloud about what he wanted (for the Flynn investigation to be dropped) being tantamount to an order. Although I’m not sure who, in the analogy, was Becket.

Anyway, y’all get started, and I’ll join in later…

Now, the senators and Comey move on to the classified portion of the hearing, in the SCIF...

Now, the senators and Comey move on to the classified portion of the hearing, in the SCIF…

126 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Comey hearing?

  1. Pam Wilkins

    I found myself thinking that John McCain was either having a bad day or needs to retire. He seemed confused.

  2. Mark Stewart

    McCain sounded nearly incoherent. Not in speech, but in mental facilities. He sounded confused at his own words.

    Big take-away; Sessions is likely under criminal investigation as well as Flynn. That’s the door to Pence. This may be an administration in melt-down – orchestrated by Bannon whose rhetoric / strategizing created the ground for the Russian vines to grow. But he seems in the clear so far; which is bad for all of us.

    Flip side, glad Comey pilliored Lotetta Lynch; that seemed well deserved.

    1. JesseS

      Even on Sunday morning talk McCain has sounded pretty bad for the last couple years.

  3. Sally

    This is not on point, but like Mark, I was startled at McCain’s questioning. He seemed quite addled. Low blood sugar? Maybe all his questions were already asked? Did he doze off during the hearing?
    However, considering how well respected McCain is on foreign policy matters, his appearance seems troubling. What else is he mixing up?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Now THERE’S a stretch.

        The closest thing we have to a successor to Strom is Joe Wilson — or maybe Tim Scott, although it’s still soon to tell.

        Strom was a rip-snorter when he was young, but by the time I started covering SC politics in 1987 (after years of doing the same in other states), he had hit on the formula for longevity: mouth “conservative” sentiments, support the military, and don’t do ANYTHING in Washington other than vote for expenditures on your home state, and give GREAT constituent service. If a constituent needs anything, however trivial, from the government, get your staff all over it. But don’t concern yourself with passing laws, or with playing any significant role in debates over the issues of the day. See yourself not as a legislator, but as a trouble-shooter for individual constituents.

        The other person who came closest to perfecting that formula while Strom was still alive was Floyd Spence. Floyd LOVED being a congressman, but he never did anything with the power of the office except constituent service.

        Taking Spence’s seat after his death, Joe Wilson has stuck to the formula religiously. Except for that one, out-of-character “You lie!” outburst, he’s kept his head down and his mouth shut, voted a straight party line (poor Joe; when the Tea Party started crowding out the real Republicans back in 2010, he didn’t know whom to follow for awhile), and taken care of the all-important constituent service.

        So far, Tim Scott seems to be following the formula. Quick: Name three initiatives he’s associated with on the national scene. OK, name just ONE. I can’t.

        But maybe he’s just settling in. Too soon to tell…

        1. Tom Stickler

          Scott also seems to have perfected the “grease my palm” for “access” routine. Everyone seems to be eager to “contribute” to his campaign.

  4. Doug Ross

    ” Low blood sugar?”

    He’s an elderly man who should have retired after losing to Obama. He’s the current prime example of why we need age limits and term limits. We don’t need another Strom Thurmond. But as long as he has handlers who can cover for him, McCain will occupy one of the most important positions in the government.

      1. Doug Ross

        But it’s not like he hasn’t acted bizarrely in the past. Selecting Sarah Palin was one of the dumbest political moves in my lifetime.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          That was a bad one, likely the worst of his career.

          But judged by the information available at the time, it was no dumber than Bush picking Dan Quayle in 1988. Both were inexperienced blank slates. It’s just that, as things unfolded, Palin was way, way worse.

          I TRIED to find out what kind of governor Palin had been at the time, and found NO indication of the kind of flake that she was. I’ve resented the newspapers of Alaska ever since for their disservice to the country, by failing to portray her as she was.

          Several months before, I had spelled out in no uncertain terms why McCain should not in a million years consider Mark Sanford as a running mate. I knew that some of his people in SC would see it and maybe pass it on, and if there was any slight chance of my helping avert such a disaster, I was determined to do my best. And after than editorial, whenever the abominable idea came up again, I’d slap it down again (and stomp all over it) — at least here on the blog (can’t remember now whether I addressed it any more in the paper).

          No editorialist in Alaska performed any such service, based on my searches of the available record. And that was inexcusable on their part…

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Actually, I was reminded of the way McCain was when he came to see us just before the GOP primary here in 2000.

    He and Bush came to visit the editorial board within a day or so of each other, and each was a weird experience.

    Bush was the most “on” that I’ve ever seen. He was quick, articulate, making nimble intellectual associations between ideas (showing it wasn’t just having memorized talking points). I had never seen him speak so well before, and I don’t think I ever did again. Maybe it was the time of day — we met at 8 a.m., at his request — or the coffee he was drinking, or what. But he was sharp.

    By contrast, when McCain came in (perhaps later that same day), he was definitely off. He was hesitant, slow to respond, distracted, depressed. The Bush campaign’s dirty tricks were just starting to have an effect, and he had just been confronted by a kid in the Upstate who said something like “You used to be my hero, but not now after the things I’ve heard about you.” It was like he’d suffered a physical blow, and he didn’t know what to do about it.

    I’ve had a number of opportunities to talk with him over the years, both before and after that instance, and at no other time has he ever struck me that way.

    Until today, when I saw a suggestion of the same thing — although not nearly as bad. I don’t know what’s going on with him…

      1. Doug Ross

        The rest of the universe disagrees with you. But that’s to be expected.

        He’ll likely get a pretty rough treatment on the late night shows, Daily Show, etc.

        1. Claus2

          Will SNL pick up on this or not? Someone can update us on Monday, since I haven’t watched the show in decades.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yeah that was good. But the very best was Dave Barry’s column, in which he had Strom saying, “Soamwhoan ben cudrin’ mheah widm tan’ bfust drang,” which he translated as, “Somebody has colored my hair with what appears to be Tang breakfast drink…”

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          Disagrees with me on what?

          And what’s the basis of their erroneous belief? Were they there when he acted the same, only worse, in 2000?

          1. Doug Ross

            “Disagrees with me on what?”

            That he was just having an off day like one you had seen in the past. Were your co-workers concerned he was having a stroke or experiencing the effects of dementia that day? That’s the prevalent opinion I’m seeing across the board.

            1. Doug Ross

              McCain is third in trending topics on Twitter. He was that bad. And now he’s blaming it on staying up too late to watch a baseball game? Well, that’s the spin his lackeys are trying to put out there.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                And it was the Diamondbacks! Who cares that much about the Diamondbacks?

                But in any case, the important thing here was the Comey testimony…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I mean, when McCain was on, I thought, “Well, that’s weird…”

                  But then I moved on to the overall issue of the significance of Comey’s testimony, and what it means in terms of how much longer we’ll have to suffer the indignity of “President Trump…”

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  But hey, if we want to talk side issues…

                  I saw that “Becket” is now available on Amazon Prime, and I haven’t seen it in years. I think I’ll check it out tonight…

                  And is no one going to give me a hard time for calling Henry Curtmantle my “ancestor?” Oh, OK, if you twist my arm: He’s my 24th-great grandfather. That’s the good bit. The bad news is that I’m related to him through King John — the villain in all the Robin Hood stories — rather than his brother Richard the Lionheart, or Geoffrey (whom I portrayed in “The Lion in Winter” many year ago), or Henry the Young King….

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              We weren’t sure WHAT to make of it. But it cost him our endorsement — or at least, saved the publisher from having to FORCE me to go with Bush. When we put it to a vote, we were split right down the middle. And a split that has the publisher on one side and me on the other goes to the publisher.

              At least, it did that time, which was the only time I’d seen anything like that happen. Once I saw that people I thought would stick with me had been swayed over to Bush, I figured what’s the use? Especially after his weird performance.

              I’d done what I could. Over the weekend, stuck in a hotel room in Texas, I’d written a 4,000-word memo for the publisher’s eyes only spelling out why we HAD to go with McCain. But when I didn’t get the votes, I figured I’d fought it enough.

              Also… I had to hand it to the publisher. He didn’t come in saying, “Do what I say.” He came in with a foot-high stack of documents and made a strong case, and I think that impressed all of us. I still disagreed, of course, but basically I’d lost the argument.

              Only time that ever happened…

              1. Mark Stewart

                If McCain had won, he could well have died in office and we would have then had President Palin. It might have been a step up from President Trump, but do give that some consideration.

  6. Doug Ross

    “I don’t know what’s going on with him…”

    He’s 81 years old. That’s what’s going on. He’s going to be 86 when his current term ends — and if he’s breathing, he’ll run again.

  7. Mark Stewart

    Comey proved he is an adroit operator.

    Whatever happens however, he did call President Trump a liar. That is going all-in. Comey wins and brings down the President, or he will wins and mortally wounds Trump. Trump doesn’t win here.

    Other topic; either Trump’s criminal attorney is an unbelievable bluffer, or else he is so far out of his element in the hothouse media environment of Washington that Trump really is in deep, deep trouble. Integrity matters. None exists on Trump’s side.

    1. Claus2

      Wilson publicly called Obama a liar on national television, how did that hurt his career? Seems to me he’s still in office several elections later.

      1. Mark Stewart

        Ummm, Wilson occupies Floyd Spence’s seat in Congress representing the whitest parts of South Carolina. Telling our first black President as he did that he was a liar seems to be a sick badge of honor around here.

        Anyway, the rest of the country only knows Joe Wilson for that borderline racist outburst – and nothing else. Just the way Joe likes it, invisible on the national stage…

        So to reject your insinuation, SDII, Joe Wilson’s outburst in no way parallels Comey’s considered declaration today.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Wilson brought in millions in campaign contributions over “You lie!” So did his Democratic opponent in that year’s election.

          Of course, you can spend millions or not spend a thin dime — you’re still not going to beat a Republican in that district…

            1. Bubbles McCloskey

              Yeah – I learned of this technique the hard way. They always have a choir, usually even has members posting from a different time zone, even.

              As to Floyd Spence’s and Joe Wilson’s America – the times they IS a changing. Lexington is still a Stepford Town – but just on the veneer.

  8. Karen Pearson

    I can only hope that our version of Henry II doesn’t send his goons after Comey.

  9. bud

    McCain was the big story. He should resign right now.

    Not a whole lot new except that we have more evidence that Trump is a serial liar. Coupled with the non answers given by Trumps people the previous day we have all the proof we need of obstruction, even if not strictly in a legal sense.

    1. Claus2

      I didn’t see any of it, but from what you’re saying… it sounds like they questions mostly career politicians and lawyers.

    2. Doug Ross

      We also learned that Comey had some issues with Lorreta Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton and Lynch telling Comey not to call Hillary’s matter an “investigation”. Maybe you missed that.

  10. Bryan Caskey

    I found Comey to be earnest, credible, and on the whole, very open about things. As someone who has taken plenty of depositions and cross-examined plenty of witnesses, he did very well.

    I was also pleasantly surprised by the Senators in their lack of speech-making and lack of grandstanding. I was happy that Comey didn’t read his statement into the record and that they just pretty much jumped straight into the questions and answers.

    Some of the Senators asked questions that had already been asked (Susan Collins, I’m looking at you) and wasted time on question already asked and answered. I actually didn’t see McCain, because I had to take a phone call from a client, so I left the room where we had the hearing streaming.

    As for the substance, I think it’s sort of what I’ve been thinking all along. Trump is a dopey buffoon who thinks he can just bigfoot his way around the Executive Branch the same way he did in his own company. The problem with that (for Trump) is that there are plenty of people who don’t owe him anything. For example, Comey doesn’t need Trump. Comey was never going to lay down for Trump because there’s nothing in it for him, and he’s an honorable guy as far as I can tell.

    From all accounts, I think it’s clear that Trump took a situation where he had little to no problems, and sort of created a problem for himself. Unfortunately, Trump either doesn’t know any better (or doesn’t care) than to talk to the FBI Director about a prosecution and asking him to lay off someone. I don’t think it’s a federal crime to do so, but it’s certainly a dumb-dumb move.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      But… but… wasn’t it considered “the smoking gun” when Nixon was caught on tape asking someone else to ask two other people (not even doing it himself) to ask the FBI to back off on Watergate?

      This is the president HIMSELF directly asking the FBI director to back off.

      At least Nixon had the sense to ask that the FBI back off on national security grounds, rather than because the subject of the investigation is “a good guy”…

      So, you know, isn’t this WORSE? (I know it’s certainly stupider.)

      Oh, if only there are tapes, as Trump threatened. That would greatly simplify things…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Between Trump telling Comey he owes him because of “the thing,” and justification for dropping an investigation because Flynn was “a good guy,” we’ve pretty much got a gangster movie going here.

        Comey is Tom Hagen, and Trump is Tattaglia…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          No, Tattaglia is too meek and humble.

          Trump is Moe Greene. Or maybe Jack Woltz… Crude, crass, and thinking he’s a god in his own little sphere…

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Yeah, Trump is a lot like Woltz. He’s set up in his own little world, lives in opulent surroundings, and thinks he can just bully his way through things.

            The dinner scene where Woltz starts yelling at Tom – and Tom just sits there quietly eating his meal – then politely asks to be excused so he can return to New York and let the Don know that the answer is “no”….

            Yeah, that sort of has some parallels to the Trump/Comey dinner.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        It is true that among the impeachment charges leveled against President Richard Nixon was one for obstructing justice, but didn’t Nixon commit the independent crime of instructing his aides to lie to the FBI?

        I’m just saying that I don’t think there is an actual, criminal statute that applies. I’m not 100% sure of this, but I think the reason that the FBI is in “independent agency” isn’t because of some particular law. I think it’s this way because there has been decades and decades of Presidents who have ceded their authority over the FBI because of republican deference. (That’s republican with a little “r”.) In the past, Presidents have directed that the DOJ prosecute (or not prosecute) individuals. That’s a historical fact. You can go look it up.

        What if Trump had told Comey, “You are no longer authorized to legally investigate Flynn because I’ve decided to pardon him.” Would that be obstruction of justice? No, obviously.

        But we elected this knuckle-head who doesn’t really do “deference to power” or worry about “conflicts of interest”. Rather, he did the clumsy, classless, entitled guy thing of just being stupid. I think it’s abuse of power, unethical, and outside of the standards of decency that have been set and respected by Presidents since time out of mind.

        But I don’t think it’s actually a crime. Sorry if you don’t like it. If the President has the Constitutional authority to fire the FBI Director, he certainly has the authority to tell him what to do (or not do). It doesn’t mean that he should, but it sort of does, in fact, mean that he can.

        At the end of the day, it’s not Trump’s fault. It’s our fault. We elected this scrub. So, it’s sort of hard for me to come down really hard on the moron we elected President because the country did, in fact, elect him. It would be like electing a fish to run a 100 yard dash and then getting mad at the fish because he can’t run. It’s not the fish’s fault it can run. It’s your fault for making a fish try to run. It’s a freaking fish, you ninny.

        Democrats, maybe next time around you won’t run the most unlikable, entitled harridan to be the candidate. Everyone owes a big apology to the founders. We really screwed up. Who knows, y’all don’t really seem to be getting this particular lesson. Maybe Hillary will be the candidate for President until she either dies or wins. Anything is possible with the Democrats.

        I’m not trying to carry Trump’s water. I have nothing invested in him. I didn’t vote for him. I wish he weren’t the President. But, I can look at the facts, look at the law, look at how our Constitution works, and see that this isn’t a crime based on what I’ve seen thus far.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          There’s a precedent for fish walking. So I would expect to see a fish running before I would expect to see Donald Trump act like a president. And speaking of how “we” elected him — it will be a mystery to me to my dying day how anyone could have pictured him in the role…

          And did you mean to say Hillary was a harridan, or a termagant? Or a ptarmigan?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I mean, I don’t mean to be harsh about Trump, but he’s not quite the thing, you know?

            He would never pass for a seaman OR for a gentleman, don’t you see? The foremast jacks would smoke it at once. You can’t fool them. He’s a wrong ‘un…

            1. Claus2

              “I mean, I don’t mean to be harsh about Trump”

              I don’t know who to quote, Donald Trump, “Wrong” or Joe WIlson “You lie”.

        2. Scout

          Your fish analogy would work except for the fact that in this case the fish believed that he could run, volunteered to run, and spent a lot of time actively convincing people and claiming that he could run (i.e. lying). Yes, it’s still ridiculously stupid that people believed him for a second and put him in that position. But that does not give me any sympathy for the stupid lying fish who wanted the job.

          1. Mark Stewart

            This is the truth. There is no excuse that Trump is just inexperienced and doesn’t know better. He ran to be President of the United States of America. No “gentleman C’s” are to be given. Yes, Presidents do deserve some running room. But the way Trump has behaved is how he interacted as a real estate developer in NYC for decades. It was no more ethical or acceptable then, but it was dismissed as the same slim others engaged in. Being President means rising above others. It has its own set of expectations.

            Trump has proven himself incapable of fulfilling the responsibilities of the office of President. The choice here is for the Congressional Republicans to either sacrifice him as metastatic to the party and nation, or ignore their duties under the Constitution and thereby destroy the party – and our nation – over the next four years.

            Narrow readings of criminal law are meaningless here. This is a political crisis. It’s a civic crisis, actually. We have certain minimum expectations of a President; whether they are someone we agree with politically or not. Trump fails this acid test for everyone; not just with regard to Comey, but also to the Emoluments Clause as well. These are the significant facts to be addressed here. By us, the people. And our representatives in Federal Office.

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          Bryan, your thoughtful comments are just what I was looking for on this post — they were lucid, intelligent, well thought-out. Lawyerly, too.

          But I’ve given you both Godfather and Aubrey-Maturin references, which you haven’t begun to address! I won’t have that in my court…

        4. bud

          So, it’s sort of hard for me to come down really hard on the moron we elected President because the country did, in fact, elect him.

          The country most assuredly did NOT elect him. At least in the sense that they didn’t vote for him. The arcane electoral college did. Big difference. So don’t lay this at the feet of the voters. That’s just not fair.

          As for whether this is crime or not that’s pretty irrelevant. If congress says it’s a crime, its a crime. This congress is unlikely to ever say anything is a crime. We’re pretty much stuck until the next round of elections. Trump’s 40% approval rating seems to etched in stone.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Here’s the problem, though, Bud. Even if you had your way and it was decided by popular vote, we’d still have a huge problem that so MANY people voted for such a man. It’s indicative of a profound sickness in our democracy that so many people could be THAT alienated.

            Admittedly, the crisis wouldn’t have been as acute as it is, but it still would have been a crisis…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Bully, jerk, and a number of other things that would violate my own rules for the blog.

            Of course, there can’t be a perfect match because they describe different kinds of behavior. For instance, a harridan bullies with her tongue rather than fists, I gather

    2. Dave

      There’s this bizarre argument circulating among Republicans today that Trump is just naive. Actually it’s not bizarre, because it’s very convenient for them. They’re saying he’s new to these things so he just doesn’t know what’s acceptable. What they seem to want everyone to forget is that Trump pretty much based his *entire campaign* last year on the argument that the type of behavior he tried to engage in with Comey was unacceptable and that he had to “drain the swamp” as a result. I mean, how many times did he say how unacceptable it was for Bill Clinton to talk to Loretta Lynch on her plane because he was interfering with an investigation?? And now we’re supposed to believe that the same guy didn’t know it was inappropriate for him to try to interfere with Comey’s investigation? Come on. And if he didn’t know it was wrong, why did he ask Sessions and Pence to leave the room so he could talk to Comey alone?

      Come on folks. It’s blatantly obvious that the Republicans are using the “Trump as naif” argument to minimize the gravity of what he was doing. And their argument flies in the face of the *entire 2016 general election campaign*.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, I’m thinking about doing a post on that. So weird that Republicans are saying, “Aw, come on! We all knew he was an idiot! Give him a break!”

  11. Brad Warthen Post author

    Hey… anybody notice that Trump didn’t Tweet ONCE today? Here was his last one:

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Actually, I don’t. If he Tweets something worth commenting on, I’ll always hear about it. In this case, I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any reports about his Tweets today, so I went to look.

        I wonder who persuaded him to hold back? Whoever it was would be doing Trump a huge favor by exerting that influence every day.

        Of course, he resumed the usual babbling nonsense several hours ago:

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Trump is the one person on the planet that I see no reason ever to follow — because his Tweets are so widely reported.

          That means I don’t have to waste one of my 600 or less follows on him.

          As I’ve mentioned before, that’s the limit I set myself for follows. To people who don’t care for Twitter, that sounds like a lot. But for those of us who are really into, that’s pretty abstemious.

          I find 600 to be just right, like Baby Bear’s porridge. With that number, I find I’m able to follow everything I want to — every major news and commentary outlet here and in Britain, quite a few politicians, a lot of the better individual journalists (better at Twitter, that is) plus several dozen people and entities (say, The Onion) that are just consistently fun.

          Each time I add one — which happens every week or two — I look to see if I’m getting close to 600. If so, I scroll through some of them and weed out the ones that are either outdated (say, a political campaign that’s over) or have stopped Tweeting regularly.

          It keeps my feed lean, mean and relevant…

  12. Harry Harris

    My biggest reaction over the last several days is to the overwhelming volume of coverage on this issue, though important, while Senate Republicans are cooking-up health care stuff behind closed doors, House Republicans are getting ready to promote another tax shift away from the top incomes as “tax reform” and an economic boon. Banking regulation is on the chopping block (especially that pesky consumer protection outfit). Our partners overseas have decided they can’t count on us for much except to fuel an arms race around the world and utilize harsh rhetoric. No balanced coverage in my view.

    Comey’s testimony was straight, careful, and professional. The questioning was as expected – Republicans trying to make their own points with push-poll type questions, and Democrats taking aim at Trump with loaded questions. Most commentators, citizens, and partisan hacks I’ve seen are seeing two divergent realities and jumping to predetermined conclusions. Black vs white witnesses to the same event come to mind.

    It seemed apparent that McCain’s attempt to conflate Ms Clinton’s email issues with the President’s actions in order to tar Comey (and the FBI) with a double standard problem got him confused because it was so far off-base. He ignored or didn’t grasp Comey’s explanation of the difference between a complete investigation and one that was still unfolding and not too far out of the gate when Comey was fired – for not loyally damping the probe or making public pronouncements he thought were unwarranted and improperly encouraged.

        1. Doug Ross

          Imagine – Congress actually passing legislation as they were elected to do. Writing bills, putting them up for vote, and then passing them. How terrible! If only Democrats had an option to win more elections and have the same opportunity.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            “If only Democrats had an option to win more elections and have the same opportunity.”

            … which they don’t, because the GOP has completely outmaneuvered them on redistricting for the last three decades.

            Yes, they’ll probably pick up seats in 2018, maybe even temporarily have a majority again. But my sense is that the playing fields isn’t even. Of course, my perspective could be skewed by the fact that I live in South Carolina, where Jim Clyburn has his seat for life because the other six congressional districts have been drawn and redrawn to make them ever safer for Republicans…

            1. Doug Ross

              They had the majority when Obama took office. They blew it. They don’t win governorships ,state houses, Congress, or the Presidency. They have lousy candidates, no message beyond blaming Republicans, no plans, no leaders under the age of 70… it’s a party in disarray — self inflicted mainly by Clinton sucking all the air out of the room.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Remember, I don’t care which party has the majority. I’m just saying that from where I sit, it’s harder for Democrats to gain and keep control.

                And that’s because of Republicans’ dominance in state legislatures — which is self-perpetuating, if you’re clever with redistricting. And Republicans have been VERY clever about it, outsmarting Democrats since about 1990.

                Back then, a lot of liberals still thought, The more majority-minority districts, the better! There are probably still some who think that. Which is a classic case of how blind Identity Politics can make you.

                The more majority-minority districts, the stronger the GOP becomes — which means the minorities that mainly see their interests as lying with the Dems are giving away any influence they might hope to have over policy. When most districts don’t have enough minority voters to matter, they elect representatives who don’t give a damn what minorities care about…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Put another way…

                  Republicans now control 32 state legislatures. State legislatures draw the lines. That puts Democrats at an electoral disadvantage, all the way to Congress…

                2. Doug Ross

                  Not for President, Senator, or Governor. They can’t win those either. Who is going to unseat Graham, Scott, or McMaster in the next election? Nobody. Why? Partly because Democrats can’t find a viable candidate.

                  Saw on Fitsnews that even Vincent Sheheen might have a challenger – his district went 60-40 for Trump.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    You know, they’ve been talking about that area going Republican since the ’80s. I used to hear that Vincent’s Uncle Bob was having more trouble every two years because of that.

                    And yet a Democrat — Laurie Funderburk — still represents Camden in the House. I’m not sure that’s the same district, or if it is the “same” district, it bears any resemblance to the way it was drawn in Bob’s day. But whenever I think about that, I wonder — what happened to that GOP trend I used to hear about? It certainly happened everywhere else; why not in Camden?

                3. Mark Stewart

                  The Camden area is a complicated socio-political stew; more so than other small towns in SC.

  13. Doug Ross

    Meanwhile, Richland County government is stealing money left and right (voted to spend $164K on a questionable park that has been stealing money for years), raising taxes for schools that are underperforming… but let’s all focus on what Trump tweeted today.

    Brad – imagine if you put all your energy into fighting the Malfunction Junction re-routing through your neighborhood. What would have a greater benefit?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, if it did, it would be a personal benefit. And journalists aren’t comfortable with that sort of thing.

      I’ve thought about writing something this past week, after The State had some stories — some of which were kind of misleading, if you’ve followed the issue.

      But I’ve been torn about what to say (except to say “Thanks a LOT” to the head of our neighborhood association who, as quoted in the stories, isn’t particularly bothered by the plan, suggesting he’d kinda like to be bought out). And that’s complicated by the strong aversion to write about my own problems. The closer a journalist is to something, the more uncomfortable it feels.

      People like Trump and others who are all about their own self-interest would find that impossible to understand, of course.

      You know, I see these sad people who worked in the coal industry and others who continue to express a child-like faith in Trump restoring their jobs, still talking about how that’s why they voted for him, and it’s so hard for me to relate to it. I can’t imagine justifying to myself voting for someone just because I think it would benefit ME or “people like me.” Especially when it would obviously be so BAD for so many others. And if I did, I’d be too ashamed to admit it…

      The only reason I feel like I can write at all about the proposal to destroy my neighborhood is that it seems completely unnecessary, and the alternatives seem objectively better. I’m pretty sure that I would think it a stupid way to go if I weren’t involved at all, if it was someone else’s neighborhood being unnecessarily razed when there were less-disruptive options.

      But I still feel weird when I write about it…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Of course, the benefit wouldn’t be ENTIRELY personal. It would also benefit many hundreds of my neighbors. And it would save taxpayers from paying for something pointlessly destructive.

        But it would still benefit ME, which is where it gets complicated.

        And it might be futile.

        DOT claims that since this is a federal project and there are regulations requiring the decision to be made strictly by the data, it’s fully insulated from state or local political influence. Others scoff at that as so much B.S…. And I don’t know who’s right. I’d probably find it easier to form a judgment on that score if my emotions weren’t getting in the way.

        We Mentats don’t like having emotions complicate our computations… 🙂

        1. Mark Stewart

          They are chasing the most expensive, most objectionable proposal because it will make the others options so much more doable. It’s political theater. Relax.

          But quite honestly; the DOT would probably prefer someone mobilized against this third-rate conceptual design … just sayin’.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and folks, I’m tired of the “Trump doesn’t matter; he’s distracting us from the important things” meme.

      It’s ridiculous. It’s completely lacking in the one thing it proposes to champion: Perspective.

      I’ve spent my life trying to get people to pay more attention to state and local issues, because those things don’t get enough attention. It’s appalling to me, for instance, that most people don’t know who their state legislators are.

      But at the moment, my state and community are not in crisis, but the nation is. And since we’re the most powerful nation in the world, the world is in crisis, too.

      I don’t see any way that spending a few million on a Richland County park could lead to nuclear Armageddon. I do see how a Trump tweet could do that….

      But that’s not what I worry about. I worry about our country’s rapid slide downward, and the way we seem to be taking the world with us. Or perhaps they’re taking us with them. I’m appalled by the British election result. And remember, this insane trend started with Brexit…

      1. Doug Ross

        “I don’t see any way that spending a few million on a Richland County park could lead to nuclear Armageddon. I do see how a Trump tweet could do that….”

        If you’re right, we won’t know it. If you’re wrong, you wasted your time.

        I don’t understand why you can’t understand that elections are a response to events — economic, social, whatever. Trump is a result of people’s general disgust over the past couple decades with government. People think government is either doing way too much or way too little. And the career politicians who have guided us into this morass are untouchable. Trump is a result of Boehner, Pelosi, and the rest of the useless career politicians.

        In Britain, I didn’t follow it closely but it seemed like there was a big issue with the supposed “gold standard” NHS system. I saw some ads that suggested people were dying waiting for treatment. Not a shock when you try to make something “free”.

        1. Doug Ross

          Some facts on NHS from February:

          For the first time he (head of NHS) accepted that some of the care being offered to patients was not at the level anyone would want for their own family.

          It comes after the NHS saw record waiting times in A&E wards in December, as well as a big spike in the number of people waiting to start treatment or be transferred from hospital into social care.

          The number of A&E patients seen within the target of four hours fell to a record low of 86 per cent, while those waiting longer than 12 hours to be admitted to a hospital bed doubled to more than 2,500 in 2016.

          And new figures have revealed almost three quarters of hospitals in England have had patients wait for more than 100 days to be discharged – even though they were medically fit to leave.

          This is what I expect if the U.S. implements single payer. Mediocrity will be the high bar of achievement.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ve been told this about a million times:

          “Trump is a result of people’s general disgust over the past couple decades with government.”

          And it continues to make ZERO sense.

          Sure, there are lots of problems with our politics — such as insane partisanship aggravated by gerrymandering that is engineered to produce precisely that destructive result. That’s my personal favorite, but as Bryan says, your mileage may vary.

          Donald Trump is probably the last person on the planet that a rational person would choose as the solution to ANY of our problems — a shockingly ignorant, aggressively offensive, arrogant, reckless, inarticulate, pathologically self-interested individual who has never done anything in his life indicating the slightest concern for anyone but himself.

          Drag a net down the street, and you’re certain to come up with someone better than him to address whatever problems you perceive. Buckley’s observation about the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book comes to mind. (Although I’d prefer it were the LAST 2,000 names. Those people at the start of the alphabet have been lording it over us Ws for far too long.)

          Donald Trump is the opposite of what you would look for to cure what ails the system.

          It’s an explanation that holds not a drop of water…

      2. Harry Harris

        Sorry, Brad, I’m the guilty one here. I see much of what Trump does as not just ignorant china-breaking, but as tactic. He does and says something outrageous to make a far-out pull-back position seem reasonable. The Republicans see it as a useful tool. Demand the sun; settle for the moon.
        This doesn’t diminish the seriousness of his behavior with regard to Russia. This issue just brings blood-thirsty opponents to such a frenzy that they ignore or do a poor job formulating sound dialogue on issues that are likely more important in the long run.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          “I see much of what Trump does as not just ignorant china-breaking, but as tactic…”

          But that only makes sense if someone is pulling his strings. And no one is. Last year demonstrated that the Republican Party as a whole could not stop, much less control, Trump.

          As for Trump being his own puppetmaster, I find that incredible. He’s not even in control of himself. And it supposes that he really cares about the ideological stuff that Republicans care about, and is craftily maneuvering to achieve those things. He only cares about that stuff to the extent that it benefits him or strokes his ego. If Congress passed single-payer tomorrow, he’d proudly sign it as long as everybody gave him credit.

          Sure, the Paul Ryans of the world may be using the distraction he provides as cover so they can do stuff THEY want to do (they, at least, have coherent intentions), but they’re not in control. They’re just trying to exploit the situation. Never let a good crisis go to waste, and this is certainly a crisis…

          1. Doug Ross

            Here’s what you’re fighting, Brad. This guy in SC got a COVEFEFE license plate in SUPPORT of Trump.

            “He like Trump “because he is sort of against the grain and fed up with the status quo,” Cranford told The State.

            Previous presidents have mostly been “the same,” but that’s not true with Trump, Cranford said.

            “He’s coming out, he’s preaching something completely different.”

            (Brad’s brain just exploded)

            1. Mark Stewart

              And also the fact that this 34 year old has NEVER voted before the last election.

              It’s just staggering to think that someone educated enough to own a resume-writing service is otherwise so shortchanged educationally. Home schooled, perhaps? Yeah, I know, I sound a little bitter. All the advantages of living in America today squandered in every civic sense… like our society today is truly just resting on the efforts of our forebears. Maybe we are too lazy, too self-congratulatory and generally undeserving of our place in the world?

              1. Richard

                How many first time 30+ year old voters were there in 2008? How many of those voted purely based on the race of the candidates?

                It’s interesting how you associate a popular personalized license plate to someone “home schooled” or “short-changed educationally”. What would you say if he went to Hammond or another prestigious private school? The last I read (yesterday) there were only 4-5 states where this personalized plate was still available.

            2. Scout

              I don’t think I’d want anybody with this sort of judgement writing my resume. Thankfully he has now let us know he is an idiot, and people can act accordingly and avoid him and his bad judgement.

            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, Doug were my brain to explode over that, it would have happened sometime back.

              Those are the things Trump supporters ALWAYS say. And essentially, they are babbling nonsense.

              He’s right that previous presidents have been “the same.” They’ve all been qualified (with perhaps the exception of Andrew Jackson, and maybe one or two others — Buchanan comes to mind).

              The way that he’s different from the others is that he’s grotesquely unfit, and it’s so obvious it’s a sickening thing to behold.

              People who behold his difference and think it’s a GOOD thing really shouldn’t be voting.

              The Trump travesty should cause us all to have a long, careful think about this whole democracy thing…

  14. bud

    Doug has a point, we should be focusing on other issues. I saw where Epipens still cost $600 a 2 pack. The CEO of the company that makes them was paid $160 million. The Feds are suing for overcharging Medicaid. Also the darling of the Libertarians, Uber, in in trouble for sexeual harrasment and other issues. Is extreme deregulation really the path we need to go down right now?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The Epipens are too close to me, too.

      By the way, I don’t have one on hand that’s not out of date. I last bought them before the price was artificially hiked.

      Doctors want me to carry one. But they’re awkward, clumsy things that don’t fit easily in a pocket, and I’ve never once needed to use one in my life. I mean, I’ve had adrenaline shots from medical professionals, but I’ve never had the EMERGENCY need for one…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        If the price goes down enough to where they’re basically giving them away, I’ll pick one up — and do what I always do, leaving it in a drawer at home…

    2. Doug Ross

      Leave it to bud to conflate libertarianism with some people doing bad things. As far as I know, the only President we’ve had in my lifetime who was a serial sexual harrasser was a Democrat.

      I use Uber twice a week and every driver I talk to loves working for the company. They are FAR better to deal with than cab drivers and the cost is 40 % less to everyone who uses them. Why would that be, bud? Could it be the government regulation artificially inflated the costs? NO! Not when a cab medallion was costing $330K in Chicago a few years ago and now is worth $35K. We’re seeing the beauty of the free market in ride sharing. Eventually the government will step and and screw it up in the name of “fairness” for some politically connected entity. But til then I’ll enjoy the cheaper rides with a driver who speaks English and has bathed in the past week.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        My son drives for Uber, as a second job. It’s how he came up with the money to go visit his sister while she was in Thailand with the Peace Corps.

        Now, he continues to do it because his expenses (rent, etc.) have gone up and he needs the money.

        Unfortunately, Uber has cut back on how much drivers can make, which has put those drivers who are completely dependent on the income in a bad situation.

        The problem isn’t the government. The problem, from what I gathered on the radio recently, is Uber wanting to make more millions for itself. Rather than it being a “ride-sharing” thing between a driver and passenger, it’s more about how much more the company can squeeze out of that arrangement…

        1. Doug Ross

          And that’s why other companies are springing up — which is how it is supposed to work. Lyft is an option… there will be more. Uber was the springboard to breaking the monopoly.

          1. Doug Ross

            But also be sure that driverless cars will put people out of jobs in the future. They are being tested in Pittsburgh where I work. If you have a job that can be replaced by technology, you should be looking ahead for options.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Which could be pretty much ANY job.

              This morning while working out on the elliptical, I rewatched the start of “The Matrix,” so I’m freshly reminded about the machines taking over…

  15. Brad Warthen Post author

    A confession regarding that picture from “Tinker, Tailor” that I included for fun on the original post…

    Until a few months ago, I didn’t know what a SCIF was. I forget exactly when I learned the term. It might have been when the news was that Trump did NOT use one, but conducted a classified discussion openly at his table at Mar-a-Lago, in front of the Chinese and club members.

    Anyway, when I hear it, my first thought is that it’s something Huck and Jim might have used to get between the raft and the shore.

    Then, when I remember what it is, I tend to picture the secure room from “Tinker, Tailor”…

  16. bud

    Here’s more on Uber’s very bad behavior. An amazing 20 senior executives have now been fired for a variety of infractions mostly related to sexual misconduct. The whole libertarian notion that Adam Smith’s “guiding hand” will always solve the problems inherent in capitalism, especially when companies grow large, is simply nonsense. I’ll stick to regular cabs rather than promote this culture of sexual misbehavior. If it costs me a few pennies more so be it. At least my conscience will be clear.

    1. Doug Ross

      Bud’s definition of libertarianism: anyone who has a private sector job who makes more than 75k.

      I bet there’s a bunch of liberals in that silicon valley crowd.

    2. Doug Ross

      ” If it costs me a few pennies more so be it. ”

      It’s not pennies. It’s ten dollar bills. A taxi ride from Pittsburgh airport is $55 versus $32 for Uber. Try that twice a week for a year. Is it worth $2000 to you?

      You’ll vote for the woman who supported a serial adulterer and sexual predator but stand firm on taxis? Ok.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Nice comeback, Bud.

          Not that I’m taking sides in this (in fact, I forget where this thread started and I’m not going back to see because it’s irrelevant to the point I’m about to make), but I continue to wonder why Doug blames Hillary for Bill’s sins.

          Hillary Clinton was far from an ideal candidate, but Bill’s betrayal of her is not something that should be laid at her feet.

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