Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Stop looking for heroes

by digby

I wrote about Washington's unfortunate habit of anointing heroes for Salon this morning:

When James Comey stood before the cameras last July to announce
that the FBI would not be charging Hillary Clinton with a crime — and then went on to describe all the ways in which she’d been “reckless” with her email server management and handling of classified information — most criminal justice experts were appalled. When a person is cleared of wrongdoing, law enforcement generally does not use information gleaned in their investigation to then smear the character of the investigation’s subject. That would give the authorities even greater power than they already have and interferes with the constitutional guarantee of due process.

Comey’s press conference and subsequent testimony before the Benghazi committee hearings on the matter were criticized by both sides of the aisle for different reasons. Republicans were more than fine with the character assassination. Indeed, they used it to excellent effect, particularly Trump, who turned it into a rallying cry by repeatedly promising to put Clinton in jail once he became president.

Others were very upset that Comey failed to charge her with a crime and never saw Comey the same way again.

Democrats, on the other hand, were relieved that she wasn’t charged, but the FBI director’s imperious commentary raised many questions about his judgment. Throughout the campaign, this was a low simmering controversy which erupted into a full boil 10 days before the election when Comey made the shocking announcement that the FBI had found more emails breaking with long standing Department of Justice practice that prohibited members of the department from interfering in elections. We all know how that worked out.

James Comey is a Beltway dreamboat: handsome as a movie star, just dripping with integrity. Sure, he may have showboated a little bit but he did it in such an “aw shucks” Jimmy Stewart-in-Mr. Deeds sort of way. It was just part of the charm. His heroic reputation came out of an event during the Bush administration in which he raced to the hospital in the dead of night to prevent the White House from carrying out nefarious plans. We didn’t know the details until Comey himself told the story to an obviously dazzled congressional committee during his confirmation hearings for FBI director in 2013.

Democrats finally soured on him after Oct. 28, when he threw the election to Trump. The president turned out to be very proud of the gallant Comey praising him to high heavens for making the “tough” decision to interfere in the election. Since then, both parties had their reasons to make peace with the FBI director. Republicans remained suspicious of him for his unwillingness to indict Clinton when he had the chance — but throwing the election to Trump went a long way toward appeasing them. Democrats no longer saw him as a hero but felt that he was still better than anyone Trump would choose to replace him, particularly in light of the unfolding Russian scandal.

And if Comey really was the man of impeccable integrity he was reputed to be, there was a chance that he might recognize his culpability and take responsibility. But he was unrepentant about his behavior during the election, insisting in his testimony before the Senate last week that he had no choice but to break Justice Department rules in order to preserve the integrity of the Department of Justice. It sounded eerily like the Vietnam era trope, “We had to destroy the Village in order to save it.”

You would think that all this would be a lesson to the Democrats, at least, that putting your faith in the allegedly impeccable reputation of any official is a mistake, particularly one with tremendous authority and power. That’s why we have laws and rules and norms. But when it came time to fill the position of Deputy Attorney General under Jeff Sessions, they all fell in line behind another man with a sterling reputation who was touted as someone with tremendous personal rectitude: Rod Rosenstein, who’d been described by Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer as having “developed a reputation for integrity.”

Senators all knew at the time he gave testimony before the Senate that he would be the man overseeing the Russian investigation. They asked him if he would commit to naming a special prosecutor and he told them, basically, that he’d think about it. Two weeks ago they confirmed him 94-6.

On Tuesday he delivered a memo to the president laying out a case for James Comey to be fired and it was done. On Wednesday night, the Washington Post reported that Rosenstein had threatened to quit when he heard the White House lay the firing at his feet, suggesting that it was not his idea to fire Comey (something he didn’t say directly in his memo) and that when he delivered it to the president he didn’t expect it to be used as the documentary basis for Comey’s firing.

Now, previously supportive Democrats like Virginia Senator Mark Warner say they regret their votes for Rosenstein and the calls for a special prosecutor are reaching a crescendo. Two weeks into the job, this new deputy attorney general has been dragged into the quicksand of the Trump administration and he’s very likely to be sucked under right along with James Comey, Sally Yates and the others who’ve touched on this Russian investigation.

Rod Rosenstein was the longest serving U.S. Attorney in the Justice Department before he took this post, and all federal prosecutors are political animals to one extent or another. Those like Comey and Rosenstein build their careers on a reputation for being straight arrows who cannot tell a lie (even if it isn’t true.) But that particular type of renown seems to leave them ill-equipped to deal with today’s politics. They appear to believe that their personal integrity grants them special license to circumvent the normal processes in order to hold others accountable for circumventing the normal processes and it just doesn’t work. Their heroic images actually leave them vulnerable to manipulation by more devious political players. Their overweening self-regard leads them to believe their own hype.

Needless to say, nobody in American politics has ever had to deal with someone like Donald Trump and his reality show administration, so one has to feel some sympathy for people who get caught in its maw. But both Comey and Rosenstein cut their teeth working on Whitewater investigations back in the 1990s. The fact that both of these men came out of those inane witch hunts believing their reputations for incorruptibility were honestly earned says everything we need to know about their political savvy. That the political establishment believed it too doesn’t give one much faith that the lessons will be better learned this time.