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July 21st, 2017

Insight

Trump, Comey ... and the Wound that Just Won't Heal

 Bernard Goldberg

By Bernard Goldberg

Published May 12, 2017

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For a while now Democrats have had about as much confidence in FBI chief James Comey as they have in Donald Trump. Next to none, and I'm being generous with the "next to" part. They've wanted Comey removed from office because they believed he was a big reason Hillary Clinton lost the presidency. Now, thanks to Donald Trump's decision to fire him, they got just what they've wanted. Except now, they no longer want it.

If Hillary Clinton had won and fired Comey, Democrats would have said he got what he deserved. But Donald Trump could sign an executive order supporting sunshine and lollipops and Democrats would run to the TV cameras and with a straight face proclaim that this is proof that the president is a climate change denier who thinks kids should eat more sugar and get diabetes.

Let's take a look at some of the things Democrats have said about James Comey before they changed their minds and wished they'd never said it. Last September, when Harry Reid, then the Democratic leader in the Senate, was asked whether he believes Comey should resign, Reid replied, "Of course, yes."

Then there's Reid's successor, Chuck Schumer, who last November said, "I do not have confidence in him [Comey] any longer."

How about Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters, who thinks Donald Trump should be impeached. "The FBI director has no credibility," she said.

And Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, last November called on "FBI Director James Comey to resign his position after his recent communication with members of Congress regarding the bureau's review of emails potentially related to Hillary Clinton's personal email server."

That was then when James Comey was Judas and before he became Joan of Arc, as Kellyanne Conway put it. Now, Democrats are comparing President Trump to President Nixon. They're resurrecting the ghost of Watergate. They're weeping about the death of the Constitution and American democracy. These are people who give hypocrisy a bad name.

But in spite of their knee jerk partisanship, Democrats make a couple of points worth considering. First, are we really supposed to believe the early version of the story, that President Trump fired James Comey because he didn't treat Hillary Clinton fairly? This is the same Donald Trump, you'll recall, who had such animus of Mrs. Clinton that when his supporters chanted, "Lock her up," he encouraged them.

And why didn't he fire Comey right after he took office in January? Why now? Could it be, as Democrats claim, because he was leading an investigation that might soon have connected dots from the Trump campaign to Vladimir Putin's effort to throw the election to Donald Trump?

But the Watergate comparison, while expected, is a political cliché by this point. Mr. Trump didn't fire the FBI. He fired its director. The investigation will continue - at the FBI and in Congress, and probably without missing so much as a beat. Democrats know this.

But there's also this: Last October, when James Comey said the FBI was re-opening its investigation into Mrs. Clinton's emails, candidate Trump said Comey acted with courage. "It took guts" to do what he did, Mr. Trump said at the time. So now we're supposed to accept (again, the early version of the White House story) that he fired Comey in May for the very same reason that he praised him last October? Really?

So what was this unexpected dismissal really about? Is it meant to "forestall whatever storm is coming," as one conservative detractor of the president believes? Or is it something more basic to President Trump's personality?

Let’s remember that Donald Trump didn't appoint James Comey, who was getting almost as much face time on TV as the president himself. This is no small point given the president's narcissism. And “the last straw” according to a spokeswoman for the president, was when Mr. Trump watched Comey on TV tell a Senate committee that the idea that he might have influenced the election - an election won by Donald Trump - made him "mildly nauseous."

Given the president’s thin skin, it's no surprise that James Comey was skating on ice that was getting thinner and thinner by the day.

If they can clear the air long enough, the question both sides need to ask is whether James Comey was the right man for the job. Did he make too many mistakes during the campaign? At one time or another, both Democrats and Republicans said they didn’t have confidence in him.

If Donald Trump quickly nominates a well-respected, non-partisan replacement for James Comey at the FBI - maybe a federal judge with impeccable credentials — that should calm things down. But it probably won't.

Politics in Washington has become a wound that just won't heal.

JWR contributor Bernard Goldberg, the television news reporter and author of several bestselling books, among them, Bias, a New York Times number one bestseller about how the media distort the news. He is widely seen as one of the most original writers and thinkers in broadcast journalism. Mr. Goldberg covered stories all over the world for CBS News and has won 10 Emmy awards for excellence in journalism. He now reports for the widely acclaimed HBO broadcast Real Sports.

He is a graduate of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey and a member of the school's Hall of Distinguished Alumni and proprietor of BernardGoldberg.com.


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