Congressional Republicans are trying to talk about tax reform and healthcare, but the rest of America is talking about the nasty confrontation between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey after they called each other liars on national TV and social media. So who’s winning this increasingly bitter confrontation between two high profile alpha males in Washington?
Nobody won because the American people lose when a former FBI director leaks official documents to the media while the leader of the Free World engages in petty name calling and the politics of personal destruction. This is an opinion column, so here’s my opinion: Comey acted like a prima donna during his public testimony before Congress while President Trump continues to act like an undisciplined teenager suffering from severe egomania.
Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a practicing psychiatrist before becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist, diagnosed Trump’s occasionally inexplicable tweets as “direct conduits from the unfiltered id,” meaning the president often tweets before he thinks. “When the president’s id speaks, the world listens,” Krauthammer wrote.
The columnist cited Trump’s tweets “mocking the mayor of London after the most recent terror attack. This is a time when a president expresses sympathy and solidarity — and stops there. Trump can’t stop, ever.” And that’s how our president might just manage to tweet himself out of office before the end of his first term. As I’ve written before, I’d be trying to disable Trump’s Twitter account if I worked in the White House (perish the thought).
Two liberal journalists, Amy Goodman and Dennis Moynihan, believe many Washington establishment journalists view Comey “as a bit of a white knight riding in to save the republic with his copious memoranda and polished rhetorical skills.” But, they add, “it would be a shame to have Comey testify under oath and leave unasked questions about FBI misconduct.” Their views reveal a political love-hate relationship between the left and Comey.
Progressives hated Comey when he presented a convincing case for indicting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified material, but they loved him when he recommended against indicting Clinton last fall and attacked President Trump as a liar earlier this month.
Trump fired Comey, which led to the appointment of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, another former FBI director, to probe alleged contacts between Trump associates and Russian intelligence operatives during last year’s unsavory presidential election campaign. Hopefully, Mueller will be able to distinguish between truth and fiction and come to a conclusion that punishes the guilty and absolves innocent players in the political version of a Greek tragedy — in this case, an American tragedy because both sides have adopted “all or nothing” strategies. You’re either all-in for Trump or you hate him and want to remove him from office, with no middle ground. In other words, I don’t win unless you lose, a recipe for disaster.
Jonathan Turley, a respected Georgetown law professor, wrote Comey’s congressional testimony was “long on atmospherics and short on ethics ... (meanwhile) Donald Trump continues to show a remarkable ability to bring out the worst in people, supporters and critics alike. In this case he was able to bait Comey with his tweets and cause Comey to diminish his own credibility.”
That’s an accurate and incisive analysis of the Comey vs. Trump confrontation, which will continue to overshadow far more important issues Congress should be addressing before it adjourns for a long summer recess.
In summary, let’s hope President Trump is capable of governing in the best interests of the American people rather than defending and protecting his narrow personal interests.
Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.