Showtime’s two-day replay of Trump’s ascent to power is a useful repackaging of the entire disgraceful episode. It is evidently based on the perspective of James Comey himself, with all the possible biases that might entail.
The foundational bias is Comey’s judgment that he was compelled to torpedo the candidacy of Hillary Clinton to protect the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There is an historical parallel in the colossal flop of the Mueller probe. Mueller was similarly constrained in his pursuit of Trump, evidently in observance of Department of Justice conventions.
In both cases, neither of these lifelong Republicans seemed to have considered that their attempt to protect institutions in the near term would set the stage for their utter corruption subsequently. We see that now in the form of Attorney-General William Barr’s rubbishing of the Department of Justice.
A couple of characters’ reputations are well skewered in this account. The lead shitweasel is Rod Rosenstein, who betrayed Comey and the FBI. He had been on a high-level career track but was used and discarded by Trump. He is now mothballed at the elite King and Spaulding law firm. There are worse fates.
A bit more surprising was the nonfeasance of Obama Attorney-General Loretta Lynch, who permitted Comey to destroy Clinton and committed the blunder of meeting with Bill Clinton in the middle of this clusterfuck. She is now ensconced at the elite Paul, Weiss law firm. Obama himself could be accused of low energy throughout the affair.
And then there is Comey himself. Jeff Daniels plays him as if he has a stick up his arse. I wonder, does Comey realize it? If not, it explains a lot.
The story takes decided note of the Russia connections but does not overplay them. Indeed, there is no way to confirm the true extent and impact of Russian interference. Proof of collusion is also murky. And there’s not a lot of evidence the public cares much about Russia, one way or another. We’re a long way from Ronald Reagan’s bear-in-the-woods commercials.
The real locus of Trump Administration criminality is less in the Russian agent sphere than in the dazzling display of abuse of power and garden-variety graft, all for the most part arcane matters that fail to excite the public. The Democrats’ signal failure in this vein was trying to make more of the Russian side than could be supported and making little or nothing of all the other shit.
The Left’s conceptual difficulties here are twofold.
One is indifference to the national security frame used by the House, especially in the impeachment resolutions. Not surprisingly, the left is internationalist in orientation. There is no moral case for criticizing Russian interference, such as it was and is, while ignoring the long history of much more egregious acts by the U.S. government.
However, the case need not devolve to Cold War jingoism. After all, Russia is no longer Red, and V. Putin is no friend of the international working class. Any interference by Russia in any other nation’s politics cannot be welcome.
Second, we on the left are not instantly motivated to rise in defense of “The Rule of Law.” In the past, this formulation, or its more agitational cousin “Law and Order,” have been deployed against both legal protest and non-violent civil disobedience, frequently to justify criminal behavior by the authorities.
But there is a use for the law. Otherwise thousands of attorneys in the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, etc. have been wasting their time. We want public officials to be bound by the law, rather than able to ignore it willy-nilly, as Trump does. We spend a lot of time trying to improve the law. The rule of law is flawed but potentially benefits us, at least to some extent. At the very least, it would be impossible to protest, organize against, or vote out a completely lawless regime. So be careful how you discount the Rule of Law.
“The Comey Rule” ties up with a bow the utter failure of ordinary criticism of Donald Trump and his Republican Party. As the recent debate showed, we are no longer in a political contest. Trump is running against democracy, and democracy is a law we need.