And we thought the FBI knows things that we don’t know. On Sunday night on ABC News, James Comey, who happens to have a book to promote, called Donald Trump ‘morally unfit to be the president’.
‘A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds. And that’s not a policy statement.’
This is not news. We already know that Trump is not fit to fill an office previously dignified by Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Unlike Nixon or Clinton, we knew it before Trump became president. People voted for him anyway. The Washington Post/ABC News poll that came out a few hours before the ABC broadcast finds that 32% have ‘a favourable view’ of Trump ‘as a person’, but 46% ‘approve of his handling of the economy’. That’s a policy statement, and a moral statement, too, about the voters’ priorities.
Trump, who always has himself to promote, has recently called Comey a ‘showboat’, a ‘nut job’, and ‘an untruthful slimeball’. Comey seems to be a bit of a showboat and a bit of a slimeball, but he’s no nut job, and parts of his ABC interview are pathetically truthful.
Until Trump fired Comey and Comey turned on Trump, Democrats detested him for damaging Hillary Clinton’s run in the 2016 election. To be fair, Comey’s handling of the controversy about Clinton’s private email server may well have been crucial to Trump’s victory. The FBI were right to investigate Clinton’s mishandling of classified material, but it wasn’t wise to close the investigation with a news conference. Accusing Clinton of ‘extreme carelessness’ might have looked partisan too. Reopening the enquiry a week before the election looked even more partisan.
Tonight, Comey regretted using words like ‘extreme carelessness’, but he didn’t suggest an alternative. He did, though, stand by his judgement of Hillary Clinton: ‘This wasn’t your ordinary bureaucrat who mishandles some document.’ Touchingly, he insisted that he reopened the enquiry because he was as lost as the rest of the Washington establishment, and he wanted Clinton to win fairly.
‘I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was going to beat Donald Trump,’ he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Although Comey wasn’t ‘consciously’ aware of it at the time, he reckons he must having been thinking ‘that she’s going to be elected president, and if I hide this from the American people, she’ll be illegitimate the moment she’s elected, the moment this comes out’.
It’s good of Comey to clear this up. Comey was not a partisan Machiavelli. He was a bipartisan bungler, making a mess of the national interest. Similarly, he was clear tonight that Donald Trump only resembles a ‘mob boss’, and doesn’t personally go in for ‘breaking legs and—you know—shaking down shopkeepers’. We can sleep easily, knowing that Trump knows how to delegate.
When it came to Russia, Comey summoned every ounce of professional integrity and pushed his book. Asked by Stephanopoulos if the Russians ‘have something on Donald Trump, Comey replied that it was ‘unlikely’ but ‘possible’. Just possible enough for Comey and Stephanpoulos to mull over the most lurid of the unsubstantiated allegations in the unreliable Steele Dossier: the existence of a video tape in which women pee on Trump at the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow.
Trump’s denial has the ring of truth: ‘I’m a germaphobe. There’s no way I’d let people pee on each other around me.’ There speaks your genuine egomaniac. He’d do it if he liked it, but he doesn’t like it, so why would he do it? Unfortunately, Comey didn’t enlighten us as to whether that was a policy statement or a moral one. You have to buy his book to find that out.
It’s called A Higher Loyalty, and by the sound of this televised press launch, it’s not worth peeing on, especially if you have to pay someone else to do it. The people have a right to know this sort of thing. That’s what a free press is for.