Monday, June 12, 2017

A Morality Play

The takeaways in the media from James Comey’s testimony last week were certainly interesting. For many, the argument to be had was over whether Comey was saying that Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice. Comey was very careful to not say that himself, but he also explained why not. Comey as a private citizen has no standing to bring that charge, and that legal distinction is important to him. Keep in mind that Comey was our nation’s top law enforcement officer until Trump fired him. However, his testimony was an offering to Robert Mueller. If Mueller wants to pursue the charge of obstruction, Comey just let him know what his evidence would be. The media also spent a lot of time on the Republican’s attempts to defend Trump. But if Trump was just inexperienced at governing, or just too immature at age 70 to know better, why did he have everyone leave the room, even waiving off Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jeff Sessions when they tried to stay behind, before discussing the Michael Flynn case with Comey. That was a clear act of intent. You do that only if you want to make sure there are no witnesses later to what you are about to do. If the Republican excuse that Trump was simply handling things the way he did as a businessman was true, that is very interesting information, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t obstruction. It just means that when he pursued this tactic as a businessman, he grew used to it working so well that we never heard of it until now. Meanwhile, what Comey was willing to come right out and say was that Trump’s lies about the Comey firing constituted defamation of character. Comey knows that that is a legal charge, and that he has the standing as a private citizen to bring it. He is not a man to use the words without being fully aware of the legal implications.

But the larger picture is that the testimony gives the Democrats a huge marketing opportunity for the 2018 elections and beyond. The Republicans, in their responses to the Comey testimony, showed a complete lack of morality. When the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal arose, the Democrats had the decency to be ashamed that one of their own could behave in such a manner. Privately, that stance may well have involved cynical calculations, but the public act is what concerns me here. The Democrats make mistakes, but they have the good grace to be ashamed, and to apologize. The Republicans do not. John McCain surrendered the last claim he may have had to be the conscience of the Republican Party with his line of questioning. Republicans, faced with behavior that was clearly wrong, rush to explain why they are OK with it. And it’s not just the Comey testimony either. Donald Trump sat back and let the Republicans in the House and now in the Senate craft their own versions of a healthcare bill, and the results once again show a complete lack of morality. As long as there are tax cuts for their donors, Republicans simply do not care at all who their legislation hurts. Remember too that it was not the current Republican president who wove an elaborate tapestry of lies to get the nation into a completely unjustified war that may have been nothing more than a personal vendetta. Here again, there was no concern with the innocent Iraqi or even American lives that would be lost. The Republicans do pretend to care what happens to the veterans of that war, but their legislative actions say otherwise

. So the Democrats must put all of this together, and start making the case to the American people that the Republicans are a once respected legislative partner that has lost their way. It is not simply that Donald Trump is immoral, although he certainly is. But he is a Republican for a reason, and the Democrats need to say soon and often what that reason is. Make Republican a bad word, in the same way that the Republicans made being a liberal anathema. There were articles last year about how the Republicans were destroying themselves by making Trump their standard bearer. What we should have learned from his victory is that that destruction will not happen by itself. We need to help it along, and we were just handed an easy way to get started.

Muddy Waters gets the nod for the song this week:

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