Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Without a Score Card, You Don't Know the Players



It Is Getting Tough to Know When to Cheer
The old saying, yelled out by concessioners under stadiums from Boston to Saint Louis, was that you needed a scorecard to tell who the players were. Or, on Broadway, you need a playbill, else you won't know that in tonight's production, the role of Max Bialystock will not be played by Nathan Lane.

Yesterday, President Trump officially fired the director of the FBI, James Comey. 

The media are in full froth over the issue, but it's tough to tell who is yelling "Boo" and who is yelling "Booo-urns."



In his monologue, Democratic party mouthpiece Steven Colbert (that's Col-bear, with a pseudo-French accent, and not COL-bert) announced the firing to his audience, who immediately applauded.

Colbert was plainly non-plussed, and corrected his audience on the appropriate response, reminding them that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had urged the decision, as if to say, "No you ignorant glove-puppets. This is BAD."

The problem that this presents is that, for months, Comey, and the way he prosecuted the case around Hillary Clinton and her e-mail server, has been a leading causus belli for the Clintonistas, as they desperately look for dry land in the sea of "How was our pre-selected queen denied the coronation we were told was inevitable?"

Just last week, yet further data from Nate Silver and his Five Thirty Eight blog pointed towards Comey and his letter "re-opening" the investigation into what Clinton aid Huma Abedin had sent to her husband - disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, a bombshell (dud, really) that was released just weeks before the election.

So, just what are we supposed to think about this latest event? 

Here is how I see it.
  1. The optics of the firing look horrible, Whatever the reason given by Trump (including the claim that Comey's mishandling of the Affaire Clinton was the last straw), sacking the head of the FBI, three months into his administration, after apparently providing various actual and implicit votes of confidence, looks bad, if nothing else.

    This surely triggers questions - rhetorical, in the case of the anti-Trump camps at the Washington Post and New York Times, - about whether the firing is meant to derail the investiations into alleged collusion between the President and the Russians.

    The legitimacy of government rests on the appearance of providence and honesty. A whiff of suspicion can be fatally poisonous.

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes - who will guard the guadians, in the words of Juvenal. At the very least, the timing of the firing undermines faith in the idea that those in power have checks on malfeasance. This leads to....

  2. The most direct question right now was asked last night by Chuck Schumer:

    The first question the administration has to answer is why now. If the administration had objections to the way Director Comey handled the Clinton investigation, they had those objections the minute the president got into office. But they didn't fire him then. Why did it happen today?

    Trump, as he is wont to do, responded with a sophomoric tweet, calling the New York Senator "Cryin Chuck Schumer." Now, there is an old saw that the most dangerous place in the world to be is standing between Senator Schumer and a camera, but in this case, Schumer is correct.

    Trump needs to respond as to why they canned Comey now, as opposed to last week, or two months ago. Or even, the day after Trump took the oath of office. Schumer is absolutely right that investigations into the allegations against senior government officials need to be taken seriously, and conducted independently.

  3. The Attorney General (or, as AG Sessions has recused himself, Deputy AG Rosenstein) needs to appoint, once and for all, an independent special prosecutor. A democratic country cannot function properly if there is even a reasonable suspicion of improrpiety.

    I know that there have been calls for previous administrations to do so on several occasions, and that they failed. Most of the time, this is political grandstanding. But there are serious allegations here, and a sizeable number of Americans believe them.

    This needs to be settled, once and for all.

  4. I still believe that the whole "Russia hacked our elections" is a red herring, meant to undermine the legitimacy of the current president.

    The results of the past November were shocking. Everyone - myself included - expected that Hillary Clinton would be elected. I expected it to be a fairly comfortable margin. The polls all leaned that way. Most of the national media treated the Trump campaign as quixotic at best, and comedic in a less flattering light.

    It did not turn out that way, and so enormous quantities of cognitive dissonance had to be overcome.

    Perhaps James Comey (who, thus until yesterday, was Public Enemy Number 2 - just behind Trump himself - among partisan Democrats) and his "Sorry, not sorry" letter about the Clinton email server at the 11th hour made the difference. Perhaps it was the overconfidence and, frankly, incompetent strategy of the Clinton campaign, who apparently ignored panicked calls from their own camps in Wisconsin and Michigan that something was not right. Maybe it was her own-goal stupidity of making a remark to a room full of coastal elites about how much of middle America were "deplorable" racist boobs.

    But the Russia "hacks" almost surely had no real impact. The information in them were released in a somewhat steady stream over the whole summer. No one revelation had any measurable impact in the polls. None.

    They made Podesta look idiotic, and Clinton like a calculating, elitist snob (both, apparently, are true, as no attempt has been made to argue that the leaks were false, only ill-gotten).

    The bottom line is this: Hillary Clinton lost because black voters, who put Obama over the top by huge margins, simply did not show up. Hillary did not lose because too many angry white men voted for Trump; she lost because too few disgruntled black men failed to vote for her.

    Silver's 538 Blog is an excellent source of data and analyses, even if it is reliably left-leaning. This analysis should put to bed the arguments over just what happened.

    The Democrats need to face the facts here: Had Hillary Clinton gotten the same number of votes as President Obama had in 2012 (which does not even account for population growth), she would be in the White House.

    The Democrats lost because they selected a terrible, unlikable candidate.

    Russia did not make Hillary Clinton. God and Wellesley College did.

  5. People in social media who refuse to say "President Trump," and refer to the president as "45" look like adolescent asses. You think you're clever. Guess what? If you don't know who the loud, drunk idiot at a party is, it's you.

    Trump is the president, so put your shirt and your shoes back on, go home, and sleep it off.

  6. Russia did not "hack" the elections; they did apparently engage in high-level espionage. That is not a good thing, obviously. But we need to put our big boy and big girl pants on and face the fact that this is something that every government - our own included - engages in. Up until two years ago, I had been living in France. I was in Paris when the US had to admit that we were eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of the leaders of France, Germany, and likely, other alleged "allies" of ours. The French and Germans, of course, put on a show of faux outrage. For a couple of days.

    But they did not make it a national obsession.

  7. It's true that Russia is not an ally of the US. Their attempts to steal information from American citizens and political organisations is to be condemned. But let's stop the infantile pretending that this is some unique breach of protocol.

    And whilst we are at it, it is hypocritical to me - in the extreme - that many of those who condemned Ronald Reagan for calling The Soviet Union - a nation whose leaders, explicitly, stated that they would be "at our funeral" - an "evil empire", and who insisted that Alger Hiss was just a humble civil servant now act as if the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is the Worst Man Ever.

    It's partisan bullshit guys. You're embarassing yourselves, so give it a rest.
We need to stop jumping up and down like kids on a trampoline. The president should stop dicking around and put someone who is both actually and apparently independent in charge of a real investigation. Let's get to the bottom of this, and if Flynn or others colluded with Russia, put them in prison. Let's stop pretending that the president was elected because Russia "stole" the election. 


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