You might think, since I got up at 5AM on Saturday to kick FBI Director James Comey for his incredibly selfish and damaging action, that by the time I hit the Midnight start of writing APR, I’d have cooled down. Errr ... nope.
Even though a thousand pundit (not to mention Republican) voices were raised on Friday saying that Comey wouldn’t have taken this extraordinary step unless he’d found something really, truly significant and serious. It turns out that, yes, yes he would.
When FBI Director James Comey wrote his bombshell letter to Congress on Friday about newly discovered emails that were potentially “pertinent” to the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, agents had not been able to review any of the material, because the bureau had not yet gotten a search warrant to read them, three government officials who have been briefed on the probe told Yahoo News.
Comey talked to the DOJ about this and was advised not to do it. He had literally no idea what was in the emails, no reason to think they’re related in any way to his investigation. What he did know was: The emails were not on Hillary Clinton’s server, the emails were not from Hillary Clinton, the emails were not to Hillary Clinton, and the content of the emails is completely unknown because Comey didn’t even both to secure a search warrant before he dashed off his hugely ill-advised letter to Congress.
With zero evidence of a connection, warned by Justice that his action was not only unwarranted, but in violation of standard practices, Comey went ahead and tossed his sh*t grenade. There may have been stupider, more self-centered, self-righteous actions taken by an official at some point in American history … but I’ll be damned if I can think of one.
James Comey doesn’t deserve to hand in a letter of resignation. He deserves to be dressed down, drummed out, and fired. And don’t give me the “years of service” bit. He. Blew. That. Up.
Now, let’s go read some pundits, while I try to fix the keyboard tray I just smashed in frustration (note: this really happened).
APR content is usually taken fresh from the editorial page using a #3 paint scraper. But sometimes I make exceptions.
Jamie Gorelick and Larry Thompson are first up with their Comey commentary.
The Justice Department has a proud history of enforcing the federal criminal law without fear or favor, and especially without regard to politics. It operates under long-standing and well-established traditions limiting disclosure of ongoing investigations to the public and even to Congress, especially in a way that might be seen as influencing an election. …
As former deputy attorneys general in the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, we are troubled by the apparent departure from these standards in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server. First, the FBI director, James B. Comey, put himself enthusiastically forward as the arbiter of not only whether to prosecute a criminal case — which is not the job of the FBI — but also best practices in the handling of email and other matters. Now, he has chosen personally to restrike the balance between transparency and fairness, departing from the department’s traditions.
There’s no doubt that Comey buckled to pressure in a way that is completely counter to how any law enforcement official, not just the director of the FBI, should operate. In order to guard against the possibility that he might be accused of being less than transparent at some point in the future, he cast aspersion on a candidate in the middle of a political campaign. That’s not an apolitical action, that’s a deeply biased action. It’s simply wrong on every level.
As it stands, we now have real-time, raw-take transparency taken to its illogical limit, a kind of reality TV of federal criminal investigation. Perhaps worst of all, it is happening on the eve of a presidential election. It is antithetical to the interests of justice, putting a thumb on the scale of this election and damaging our democracy.
Frank Bruni on how Comey raised the temperature on an already over-heated campaign.
How strange but how fitting. This entire election is being conducted in the key of hysteria, and Comey just found a way to amplify that ugly music. ...
Comey obviously felt that he was in a bind and clearly believed that by disclosing the emails as soon as possible — and not, say, delaying until he had some sense of what the F.B.I. was dealing with — he had the best chance of avoiding any possible charges of a cover-up later, and was acting with the cleanest conscience.
But his desire to be a Boy Scout may have eclipsed sound judgment here, and rectitude is a quaint, shortsighted notion in an election this rife with accusations of bias, this primed for scandal, this frenzied.
Again, there’s an enormous, well-nigh infinite difference between “being a Boy Scout” and waiving a giant neon banner that says “Look at me! I’m a Boy Scout!” in front of the entire nation. What Comey did isn’t about protecting the election, protecting the evidence, or doing the “right thing.” It was entirely about making a show of “being impartial” by doing something that was massively, incredibly ‘partial.’
He told F.B.I. employees in a memo that he was hoping, with his announcement, not “to create a misleading impression” of some hugely significant discovery. But that’s exactly and predictably what he did.
I’d like to say “James Comey is not that stupid.” But I’m not sure I believe it. If he’s smart enough to understand what he did, then he’s also smart enough to understand why it was an unforgivably partisan act.
Dana Milbank on the how Comey went from loving transparency, to being opaque.
When FBI Director James B. Comey testified before Congress in July about his recommendation not to prosecute Hillary Clinton, he mentioned at least 10 times how important it was that he be transparent. ...
Now, in the final days of the presidential election, Comey has shocked the nation by announcing that he is reopening the investigation of Clinton — and he is offering no transparency at all about what is going on here. And something indeed seems squirrelly.
A quick pause to say … The FBI is not “re-opening the case.” The letter doesn’t say that. No matter how many pundits or Trump surrogates say it, that’s not how FBI investigations work. Okay, moving on …
I’ve long believed in Comey’s integrity. But if he doesn’t step forward and explain his October Surprise, he may inadvertently wind up interfering in the political process — perhaps even reversing the outcome of a presidential election — in a way that would have made J. Edgar Hoover gape.
I’ve long been told about Comey’s integrity. But that’s not what was on display this summer when Comey played police, judge, jury, and pundit on Clinton’s email server, not just waving around half-digested information, but providing a running commentary that was completely uncalled for. Even then Comey was obviously much more interested in defending himself—in proving that he had that much-talked about “integrity”—than he was in following procedures or abiding by simple decency.
When anyone spends as much time polishing his integrity sign as Comey, it seriously makes me wonder if they every had an ounce to begin with.
Matthew Miller on Comey’s willingness to ignore the rules.
FBI Director James B. Comey’s stunning announcement that he has directed investigators to begin reviewing new evidence in the Clinton email investigation was yet another troubling violation of long-standing Justice Department rules or precedent, conduct that raises serious questions about his judgment and ability to serve as the nation’s chief investigative official.
Comey’s original sin came in July, when he held a high-profile news conference to announce his recommendation that the Justice Department bring no charges against Hillary Clinton. In doing so, Comey violated Justice rules about discussing ongoing cases and, as I argued at the time, made assertions that exceeded FBI authority, recklessly speculated about matters for which there was no evidence, and upended the consultative process that should exist between investigators and prosecutors.
For all Trump’’s talk about “one set of rules for the rest of us, another for Hillary,” it’s not Clinton who’s getting by with her own version of the rules. It’s Comey. He’s a rogue player who thinks his own judgement trumps the rules.
With each step, Comey moved further away from department guidelines and precedents, culminating in Friday’s letter to Congress. This letter not only violated Justice rules on commenting on ongoing investigations but also flew in the face of years of precedent about how to handle sensitive cases as Election Day nears.
Ross Douthat clearly turned in his column before Friday.
Since this is the final week for Hillary skeptics to agonize over whether to cast a vote for Donald Trump, it seems appropriate to outline why the risks of Trump are so distinctive as to throw the perils of a Clinton presidency into relative eclipse.
This is a challenging thing to explain because Trump is, among recent American politicians, sui generis. The mistakes and blunders that an establishment liberal like Clinton is likely to make can be envisioned by looking at peers like Angela Merkel, at recent occupants of the White House, at Hillary’s own record. But there are no obvious analogues for a President Trump; all the comparables, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Silvio Berlusconi, only reflect part of what we would get with the Republican nominee as a superpower’s president.
I’m cheating a little here, but your Douthat word-of-the-week is ‘sui generis.’ Sui generis: the word for unique when unique isn’t unique enough.
Douthat’s argument here is a familiar one from many columns — even if you don’t like Hillary, she’s a known quantity and likely to operate within the bounds of business as usual. Trump might damn well do anything. I’ll credit Douthat for one of his possible Trump scenarios.
Some of Trump’s supporters imagine that his election would be a blow to left-wing activists, that his administration would swiftly reverse the post-Ferguson crime increase. This is a bit like imagining that a President George Wallace would have been good for late-1960s civil peace. In reality, Trump’s election would be a gift to bad cops and riot-ready radicals in equal measure, and his every intervention would pour gasoline on campuses and cities — not least because as soon as any protest movement had a face or leader, Trump would be on cable bellowing ad hominems at them.
The ‘Post-Ferguson crime increase’ exists only if you squint at the statistics in just the right Right way, but the threat of Trump supporters causing violence, that seems all too real.
David Leonhardt on Cleveland’s grotesque parody of a mascot.
For many of Cleveland’s passionate, patient baseball fans, their team’s logo is a joyful connection to the past. It’s a reminder of the players from their childhood and from generations earlier. The logo — which was the centerpiece of a 28-foot-high sign that welcomed fans to Cleveland’s old ballpark for many seasons — is one of the few constants across the decades.
But the logo is also an ugly racist caricature.
I’m old enough to remember what the Aunt Jemima mascot used to look like and to eat some really quite good pancakes at Sambo’s, the restaurant chain where the walls were decorated with the “the adventures of Little Black Sambo.” There were over 1,200 Sambo’s in the US forty years ago. I’d like to say they failed because people got tired of the racist mascot, but it was actually fiscal mismanagement that brought the chain crashing down so … maybe my analogy isn’t that good. But anyway, my point is, nostalgia isn’t an excuse for racism.
The ugliness of the logo is no accident. When Cleveland chose the name in 1915, it had the worst stereotypes in mind: “Indians, on the warpath all the time, and eager for scalps to dangle at their belts,” according to a 1915 newspaper article that a longtime Cleveland fan, Peter Pattakos, mentions in a reflective essay on the subject.
If Cleveland wants an aggressive mascot “on the war path,” why not make it the Cleveland Cops? They can even keep calling the mascot ‘chief’ and give him armored riot gear just like the stuff the militarized police are wearing as they attack actual Native Americans trying to protect their traditional lands.
Gary Kasparov tries again to tell Americans that the election isn’t rigged.
For the last few weeks, the Republican nominee for president, Donald J. Trump, has been talking a lot about how the Nov. 8 election is rigged against him. In fact, he sounds convinced that the entire campaign season is rigged in favor of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. These are serious charges, or they would be if Mr. Trump had any idea what he was talking about.
It’s okay now, Gary. Since Comey dropped his … let’s just say “stinker” in the punchbowl, Trump has decided “maybe the election isn’t as rigged as I thought.” Of course, he will reverse himself on November 9.
Susan Faludi looks at how long and how hard the right as been working to hate Hillary Clinton.
It was my third day at the Republican National Convention in 1996, and my notebook overflowed with a one-note theme: “You do know that Hillary Clinton is funding the whole radical feminist agenda?” “She had Vince Foster killed.” “She’s behind many more murders than that.” “It’s well-established that Hillary Clinton belonged to a satanic cult, still does.” The consensus among Pat Buchanan’s supporters seemed ardent and universal, though the object of this obloquy wasn’t even on the opposing ticket.
One of the mysteries of 2016 is the degree to which Hillary Clinton is reviled. Not just rationally opposed but viscerally and instinctively hated. None of the stated reasons for the animus seem to satisfy. Yes, she’s careful and cagey, and her use of a private email server, which the F.B.I. flung back into the news on Friday, was a big mistake. But no, she’s not more dishonest than other politicians, and compared with her opponent, she’s George Washington. Her policies, even where bold, are hardly on the subversive fringe.
This is your “Go read the rest of it” recommendation for this morning. This is one of the best takes on the origins of Hillary-hate that I’ve read, and a go-to source for some serious thinking about how we got to the point where “lock her up” is being chanted about a woman charged with nothing.
Leonard Pitts wants to see the Republicans not just defeated, but repudiated.
So yeah, I don’t want the GOP defeated.
I want it immolated.
I want it razed to the foundation, reduced to a moonscape, left unlivable even for cockroaches, much less newts. I want it treated like boot heels treat ants and furnaces treat ice cubes, treated like a middle school basketball team playing the ’71-’72 Lakers.
Defeat is not enough. Let there be humiliation. Let there be pain.
Those people who keep saying “yes, but we need a loyal opposition,” need to realize that’s not the Republican Party. It’s not going to be the Republican Party. The best way to get a reasonable right-of-center party is to kill the unreasonable one we have now.
This lavish disgust has nothing, absolutely zilch, to do with conservative ideology. It is not in opposition to Republican positions on taxes, regulation, LGBTQ rights, immigration or foreign policy. But it has everything to do with the party’s willing and expedient embrace of crazy.
You should go read the rest of Pitts’ column, as well. But then, that’s true every week.
Anne Applebaum and Trump’s policy of peace through cowardice.
What a difference two years makes: The U.S. government, and the U.S. public, brushed off Russia’s nuclear narrative the first time it was presented. But this time around, the language sounds different. We are in the middle of an ugly presidential election. More important, we have a Republican presidential nominee who regularly repeats propaganda lines lifted directly from Russian state media. Donald Trump has declared that Hillary Clinton and Obama “founded ISIS,” a statement that comes directly from Russia’s Sputnik news agency. He spouted another debunked conspiracy theory — “the Google search engine is suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton” — soon after Sputnik resurrected it.
Now Trump is repeating Kiselyov’s threat, too. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton,” he said this week. Just like Kiselyov, he has also noted that Russia has nukes and — perhaps if Clinton is elected — will use them: “Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk.”
Russia “makes nukes work” in that it uses them to make Trump’s knees go weak. But they didn’t need that, he already agrees with them on every point. You want the Middle East, Mr. Putin? Here! Take it! Donald is feeling generous.
Russia can feel completely safe about Donald Trump and nuclear weapons. Until someone questions the size of his hands or bank account. Then it’s all bets off.
Ioannis Stergiopoulos, André Drenth and Gert Kema on the impending doom of the banana.
The familiar bright yellow Cavendish banana is ubiquitous in supermarkets and fruit bowls, but it is in imminent danger. The vast worldwide monoculture of genetically identical plants leaves the Cavendish intensely vulnerable to disease outbreaks. Fungal diseases severely devastated the banana industry once in history and it could soon happen again if we do not resolve the cause of these problems. Plant scientists, including us, are working out the genetics of wild banana varieties and banana pathogens as we try to prevent a Cavendish crash.
I’ve written about this before (in fact, it gets pretty much it’s own chapter in The Evolution of Everything). The Gros Michel ‘Big Mike’ bananas dominated production until the early 1960s, when a fungal disease forced growers to make a frantic switch to Cavendish. If you’re old enough to have eaten a pre-1960 banana and remember it being larger, yellower, and sweeter — it was.
Now there are an array of diseases that will almost certainly take down the Cavendish in the next decade. Get ready for banana #3.