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Comey Still Won’t Go Away

Try as you might, there’s nothing to find in the news these days except President Donald Trump’s firing of Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey. A Cable News Network reporter tried to do a story on the Republicans’ proposed health care legislation, which was a big deal not long ago and is apparently still something that might happen, but the first question to a couple of politicians was about how Comey’s firing might affect the bill’s chances in the Senate, so of course the conversation never got around to anything else.
There are other things going on with the federal government, too, but for the moment the first thing to ask about almost any of them is how they’re affected by all this Comey business. The Democrats sense an opportunity to use the issue to thwart almost any Trump proposal, and Trump has been seemingly  intent on gold-plating it for them. All the endless stories mention in passing that Trump is entirely within his legal rights to fire an FBI director for any old reason, and briefly acknowledge that both Democrats and Republicans have had their own reasons for wanting to do so over the past election year, but thus far the White House has struggled to make a convincing case of its own.
The official “you’re fired” letter from Trump himself said it was because of the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a newly-hired deputy attorney, who found Comey’s public comments regarding an investigation into the e-mail practices of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton late in the campaign had undermined the public’s faith in his ability, and the was the line that all the obviously unprepared spokespeople parroted the next two days. Those poor spokespeople had to respond to video montages of candidate Trump praising Comey’s “guts” for those same statements, though, and explain why Trump was suddenly so offended on Clinton’s behalf after leading so many rallies in chants of “lock her up,” so the first couple of news cycles went badly. They steadfastly insisted that the president had no choice but to accept the conclusion of that newly-hired deputy attorney general, and of course insisted that it had nothing to with the fact that Comey was heading an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government’s meddling in the election.
Trump doesn’t seem the type to follow a newly-hired subordinate’s lead, though, and the Attorney General had promised to recuse himself from anything having to do with the Russian investigation that Comey was heading, and the idea that Russia had nothing to do with it was always going to be a hard sell. Thus Trump found himself sitting down with the National Broadcasting Corporation’s Lester Holt on Thursday and saying, in between frequent interruptions, that “Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” and that “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Russia and Trump is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won.'” He also described Comey as a “grandstander” and “showboat,” and the late night comedy show jokes about Trump describing anyone by those terms pretty much wrote themselves.
He also stated his ardent desire for a thorough and independent investigation of the Russia thing with Russia and Trump, but people will draw their own conclusions about that based on who he picks as Comey’s replacement. One hopes the Trump team will have a exceptionally strong pick and a better-planned public relations roll-out for that story, which is likely to be all that’s in the news for a while, if we’re lucky.

— Bud Norman

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Observations on a Penultimate Day of an Election Year

Tomorrow is at long last Election Day, yet we still haven’t cast our votes. Being old-fashioned sorts we’ll have none of this newfangled “early voting” nonsense, which seems all the rage with the youngsters these days, and will wait until a proper Tuesday afternoon to arrive at the polls. In such a crazy presidential election year as this such adherence to protocol is especially wise, as it allows one to take even the very last plot twists into account before throwing away one’s vote.
The earliest voting of this crazy election year began before any of the presidential debates were scheduled, and was well underway in several states before that “Access Hollywood” tape of the Republican nominee boasting grabbing women by the whatever became the most widely watched video since O.J. Simpson’s slo-mo car chase, at which point all the polls and pundits agreed that he’d lost the race. Some 30 million votes had already been cast when the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that his agency was again looking into the damning e-mail scandal that had longed plagued the Democratic nominee, this time because of some missives that had turned up on the lap-top of her top aide’s notorious sex fiend husband, and the polls started shifting and the pundits were for admitted that the race was once again on. Over the weekend the reiterated its previous position that it would not recommend any charges, and for the same questionable reasons it had previously announced, the Republican nominee’s nudie model of a third wife gave a widely ridiculed speech blasting the “cyberbullying” and crude political rhetoric that her husband has come to personify, a dramatic assassination attempt against the Republican nominee turned out to be just another case of a protestor being roughed up at one of his rallies, by the time the early voting resumes today an estimated 40 percent of all the votes will have already been cast.
There’s no telling how many of those early votes might have been changed by late-breaking news, but we don’t expect it would be many. At this point in such an acrimonious campaign most of the voters minds are unlikely to be changed by any old thing that might be revealed, as shown in an hilarious but not-safe-for-work sting video by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, who has proved the only satirist outlandish enough to keep up with this crazy election year, and by now even the most reluctant supporters of the candidates are already well of any flaws that might be revealed. Those of us who along ago decided not to vote for either of those two awful candidates have only seen that judgment confirmed by the most recent damning headlines.
Still, there are bound to have been a relative few voters whose minds might have changed, and in such a close election as this seems likely to be that could be just enough to have changed the results. Whether any would of those late-breaking stories would have changed the outcome for the worse or the worse yet will never be known, of course, but we still think best that except in the most extenuating circumstances people should vote on Election Day.

— Bud Norman

As Time Slowly Stretches Into Election Day

The craziest election year of our long recollection got even crazier over the weekend, as Friday’s announcement by the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation that their interest in Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s scandal-plagued e-mail is once again piqued by some newly-discovered evidence spilled over into the ensuing two days of otherwise slow news cycle.
All the polls were already showing that Clinton’s once formidable lead had tightened enough to clearly worry the more partisan Democratic press, so the FBI’s announcement set off something of a panic among the more polite publications. The news was impossible to ignore, or even keep off the very front page, and quite difficult to spin. There was no avoiding the words “e-mail” or “FBI investigation” in the early paragraphs, and of course the words “Anthony Weiner” were also bound to come up at some point in the story, and by now anyone who’s been following the improbable plot twists of this crazy election years knows that all of that amounts to bad news for the Democrats that can only remind voters of all the rest of the past 30 years of bad news. The Democratic nominee and her more stalwart defenders in the press could raise legitimate questions about the vagueness of that FBI director’s announcement, and why it comes at such a crucial point in such a crazy election year, but none of those questions would have ever come up if Clinton had only followed the sensible laws regarding a Secretary of State’s e-mail communications, and there’s no getting around the questions of judgment that raises, nor avoiding the questions of character that might explain her motives, so even those stalwart defenders of the Democratic nominee among the more polite press sounded slightly panicked.
As recently as the day before last Friday in this crazy election year they all seemed pretty cocky, with the previous news cycles being mostly about Republican nominee Donald Trump and all his accumulated scandals and hard-to-spin awfulness, and all the polls showing that aforementioned comfortable lead for Clinton. The words “grab ’em by the p***y” are also hard to keep out out of the news when uttered by a major party nominee, and the more impolite pro-Trump sort of press had their work cut out for them in trying to defend his attacks on the inevitable numerous women who came forward to say that he’d done pretty much what he bragged about, and when you throw in the rest of his attacks on prisoners of war and Gold Star families and his evictions of widows and three marriages and the four casino-and-strip-club bankruptcies and frequent heresies from both Christianity and Republicanism and geo-political and economic common sense along with the hard-to-miss buffoonery and boorishness and ignorance and almost daily weirdness that had made him the most unfavorably-regarded major nominee ever, so it was hard to dispute the left’s cockiness of just the day before last Friday.
But that was a long time ago, as we measure time in such a crazy election year as this, before the latest reminder that Democrat is arguably criminal and undeniably corrupt, and with eight seemingly eternal days left before the last votes are counted we remain as uncertain as ever as to how this will all turn out. Clinton still looks fairly safe on that stubbornly resistant-to-the-latest-nws electoral map, Trump clearly has the come-from-behind national momentum to provoke all that panic in the press, both candidates still have the most unfavorable ratings in the history of American political polling, and with eight excruciatingly long days left in this crazy election year there’s something bound to come out that would make such average voters as ourselves loathe them both even more. Clinton and her defenders might yet spin this into a favorable story, the same FBI director who until last Friday had been regaled by Trump’s defenders as a conspirator in a rigged system might prove it with yet another improbable plot twist, and the possibility of Trump providing yet another unfavorable news cycle does not seem at all remote.
At this point we’ll just wait and see which of these two awful people the rest of the country considers the less awful, and in any case we’ll wonder what the hell about this crazy election year in rueful retrospect.

— Bud Norman

The Damning Non-Indictment

The big news on the Fifth of July was that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had concluded after a prolonged investigation that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee should not be indicted on federal charges for endangering national security and attempting to avoid domestic scrutiny of her awful record as Secretary of State by conducting her official business on an unauthorized and insecure e-mail account. The presumptive Democratic nominee and the serving two-term Democratic president who was campaigning with her on the Fifth of July were well pleased by the results, but we can’t imagine why anyone else would be pleased.
The current head of J. Edgar Hoover’s and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s formerly well-regarded FBI had famously defied on principled terms both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, so there was some hope among thus of us on the right that at least he would force the Democratic president’s appointed Attorney General to let the presumptive Democratic nominee off the hook, but at least he didn’t let them off the hook entirely. The brief and no-questions-taken-from-the-press announcement of her clean bill of health acknowledged that her e-mail practices as Secretary of Sate were indeed unauthorized by law and might well have have led to national-security-endangering breaches by hostile foreign governments, which should be enough to disqualify any old major party’s candidate from consideration for the president of the United States, but it also slightly plausibly cited a lack of proof of criminal intent. That law the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States was being investigated for breaking specifically mentions “gross negligence,” however, and if questions had been allowed and we’d somehow been in on the announcement we would have loved to ask why “criminal intent” is required to prove “gross negligence.” The announcement also refuted many  of the lies that Clinton has been telling about the matter all along, including her insistence that there was only a “security review” and not a criminal investigation, and none of it reflects well on her, but the all important headline is that once again Clinton won’t be facing charges.
Even if they did bring charges we doubt it would have much difference. A recent poll showed that half of the country’s Democrats would have wanted her to fight on in the presidential race despite an indictment, and we’re sure would all of them would reply that the only another choice in a binary election is to elect the presumptive Republican nominee. There’s still a chance that one of those hostile governments that hacked the presumptive Democratic nominee’s e-mails is Russia, whose strongman leader currently has a mutual admiration society going with the presumptive Republican nomination and will happily transmit some of those top-secret e-mais to embarrass her, and there’s still the matter of the FBI investigation regarding her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations it received from foreign countries during her tenure as Secretary of State, but for now it seems likely that the presumptive Democratic nominee will eventually be the actual Democratic nominee. This is bad news for the presumptive Republican nominee, who has such ethical and gross negligence issues of his own that Clinton is probably the only Democrat he has an outside chance of beating, and it’s bad news for the rule of law and the country at large.

— Bud Norman

A Soggy Independence Day

The long holiday weekend has mostly been rained out around here, and even after a mostly dry but constantly cloudy Sunday the two rivers bounding our neighborhood are still swelling over the adjacent bike paths and the Big Ditch that the city fathers carved out on the west side to keep us above water at times like these is also full, but at least the forecasters are forecasting a clear and sunny Independence Day suitable for baseball and charcoaling burgers and drinking beer al fresco and shooting off fireworks without fear of setting off a grassfire in the still soggy fields. Most folks around here and around the rest of the country will happily take the day off from paying any attention to the stormy and soggy political news of this unprecedentedly crazy quadrennial presidential year, which is good news for presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and formerly presumed First Woman President had another one of those disastrous news cycles that have so frequently interrupted the usual ongoing narrative about her historic and inevitable presidency, and she can only hope that most people weren’t paying any attention. First there was a well-documented and very damning report on her conduct as Secretary of State during the undeniably disastrous Benghazi incident, co-authored by our own well-liked Kansas Fourth District’s Rep. Mike Pompeo, and because it was already well-established that her conduct at every point was utterly appalling her more daring apologists were able to dismiss it was “nothing new.” Then came the news that her husband, a former two-term president and scandal-plagued disgrace in his own right, had happened to have a conversation about his grandchildren with the Attorney General who will ultimately decide if his wife is to be indicted on the very serious charges that her underlings at the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating, and that it happened in her private plane at a Phoenix Airport where he had been waiting around for 30 minutes before a supposed golf game that he intended to play in the 110-degree heat. Even the media that much prefer that storyline about Hillary Clinton’s historic and inevitable presidency had to admit that it looked bad and smelled fishy, and the resulting conspiracy ranged from the reliably left-wing Kathleen Parker’s worry that Bill Clinton was sabotaging his wife’s historic and otherwise inevitable presidency due to some subconscious impulse to the reliably right-wing Rush Limbaugh’s worry that Slick Willie is once again outwitting the hapless Republicans, but in any case the presumptive Democratic nominee can only hope that few people were paying attention.
While we were attempting to navigate our way through the least water-logged streets of downtown Wichita towards home on Saturday the presumptive Democratic nominee and formerly presumed First Woman President was enduring a three-and-a-half-hour interrogation by eight agents of the FBI regarding a drearily long and still on-going criminal investigation into her e-mail and “family foundation” fund-raising practices while Secretary of State, and it all looks so hopeful she can only hope that much of the country was too preoccupied to notice. Those who have been paying attention but are somehow not committed to her historic have already concluded that she’s guilty, guilty, guilty, so she’ll either be somehow indicted or suffer yet another awful news cycle of scandal when she isn’t and that private plane meeting will suddenly look all the fishier, and in this crazy quadrennial election year she might wind as the First Woman President in any case.
She’s running against the presumptive Republican nominee, after all, and the scandal-plagued Donald J. Trump managed to create a relatively insignificant “Twitter” imbroglio that allowed the media to offer another shiny distraction from the presumptive Democratic nominee’s ongoing scandals. That will be largely overlooked, too, though, and we urge that everyone take the day off from all of it and watch some baseball and charcoal some burgers and drink a beer al fresco and shoot off fireworks and enjoy what’s left of America’s stormy and soggy independence. At least it will make it all the harder to burn it to the ground, as almost every seems intent on doing.

— Bud Norman

So Crazy, It Might Just Work

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has a penchant for promulgating far-fetched conspiracy theories, from President Barack Obama’s foreign birth to a Republican rival’s father being in on the John F. Kennedy assassination to his likely Democratic rival ordering the assassination of Vince Foster, but he’s lately stumbled on to one that seems at least plausible. Speaking to one of his typical adoring crowds in Anaheim, California, while the typical rioting went on outside, Trump told his audience an intriguing tale about how he might not wind up running against his presumptive Democratic rival and former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after all.
With his usual stream-of-consciousness eloquence, Trump told his so-loyal-he-could-shoot-someone supporters that “It could be we’re going run against ‘Crazy Bernie,'” a reference to the somehow-still-in-the-race self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who we must agree is actually crazy, and “That could be,” which we also glumly acknowledge. “He’s a crazy man, and that’s okay,” Trump went on to say, adding “we like crazy people,” an admission that is also actually true. He went further on to say that “I hear they want to put (Vice President Joe) Biden in. I hear they’re going to slip Joe Biden in, and he’s going in Bernie’s place,” adding that “the system is rigged against Bernie — 100 percent.” We have also heard “they” want to put Biden in, and from more reliable sources than the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and at this point even the late night comedians can’t deny that the Democratic party’s system has indeed been rigged 100 percent against Sanders, even if something in our old-fashioned Republicans has to give some begrudging respect to a Democratic Party establishment that at least still resists Sanders’ outright socialism, so it all seems quite plausible even if still seems somewhat improbable.
Trump had already pounced on all the news that even the most polite news media could not ignore regarding the latest developments in Clinton’s ongoing e-mail scandal, which the presumptive Republican nominee quite succinctly described as “very bad.” An Inspector General’s report on her obviously insecure and seemingly insecure e-mail practices as Secretary of State was scathing, a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry into that matter and the likely related questions about her family’s phony-baloney “family foundation” and the donations that look to have resulted in favors to foreign governments during her government service is still ongoing, a thoroughly and disgustingly politicized Justice Department seems likely determine if an indictment will be made solely on political grounds, and even the most polite media were acknowledging that it was indeed very bad, and suddenly it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to speculate that some other fix might yet be in.
We’re not so bold as to venture a guess whether the hypothetical late entry will be Biden or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or some other won’t-come-right-out-and-admit-they’re-a-socialist savior the party comes up with, or even if any of these alternatives will come to pass, and in this crazy election year we won’t venture any guesses how any of these possibilities might pan out. Any non-Clinton candidate the Democrats might come up with would be unburned by the longstanding and still recent scandals so sordid they make even the presumptive Republican nominee’s checkered career as a real-estate-and-gambling-and-strip-joint-and-scam-university-and-reality-show mogul seem pristine, and he or she would start out the race with such scant name recognition that it would take any of them, even the Vice President of the past seven-and-a-half years, months to reach the negative approval ratings of the presumptive Republican nominee, and it would be a plot twist that even the acknowledged master of the post-reality show such as Trump would be hard-pressed to deal with.
We’ll stay tuned, but with no hopes this will turn out well. As much as we’d like to believe that Obama isn’t at legally an American that birth announcement in the Honolulu Observer has always settled the matter, and the Americanism of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is even less in doubt, and as much as an honest critic might say about how Clinton and her husband handled the provable suicide of their former law partner and administration official only the most crazy sort of conspiracy theorist still believes they ordered his assassination, but at this point there are few other certitudes in this crazy election year.

— Bud Norman

E-Mails, “Emails,” and Alternate Realities

According to no less an authoritative source than The New York Times, “Obama’s Comments About Clinton’s Emails Rankle Some in the F.B.I.” We don’t hear that from any more authoritative source, however, so we can’t shake a nagging suspicion that’s there’s a lot more to it than what the once-venerable paper would now consider “All the news that’s fit to print.”
There’s no doubt that President Barack Obama did indeed go on television’s “60 Minutes” program and say that former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s use of a private and unsecured e-mail server didn’t pose a threat to national security, even as he acknowledged that it was a mistake, and we won’t quibble with the article’s characterization that he “played down the matter.” Nor do we doubt that The New York Times’ multiple reporters accurately quoted or paraphrased the unnamed current Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and one named former law enforcement agent who claim to be infuriated by the president’s prejudgment of a matter they are still diligently investigating. We don’t doubt that all the names and titles and other facts that are explicitly stated have been assiduously checked by what’s left of the Gray Lady’s copy desk, even if they are now so trendy they’re no longer hyphenating “e-mails,” but what’s not stated yet clearly implied still smells fishy.
The article includes some unexpectedly interesting background material, including past administration crackdowns on federal officials’ handling of sensitive material, and past instances of the administration resisting prosecutions of other more politically necessary officials, to the extent that a typical New York Times reader might find it shockingly critical of the administration. Even under the cloak of anonymity those unnamed FBI and other law enforcement officials will likely seem convincingly outraged to the average Times reader, and the average New York Times reader might even conclude that the president is protecting a fellow Democrat from due treatment under the law. The average New York Times reader would be delighted to hear that, though, so we can’t credit the paper with any institutional courage, and we find it interesting that they’re still running articles with Clinton and “emails” in the same headline.
We don’t have even any unnamed sources in the FBI, but we do have a theory based on the reports of The New York Times and the rest of the old-fashioned that this is all bunk. Based on pretty much everything we’ve seen, heard, and read during the past seven years we have concluded that Obama is convinced he really is the messiah he proclaimed himself to be during the ’08 election, that he wants his transformative reign continued through the ’16 and ’20 elections, and that Hillary Clinton is not his chosen successor. A similar empiricism has convinced us that the F.B.I. is no longer the doggedly independent institution of Jimmy Stewart and Efram Zimbalist Jr., and that it now contains more than a few agents willing to anonymously feign outrage at administration criticism of an investigation that has long been given administration blessing. Even The New York times concedes that the administration “walked back” its criticism in short order, and that the downplaying included an admission Clinton had made a mistake, and future Times stories will no doubt include further unnamed high administration officials leaking further disclosures about those “emails,” but that the administration can point to an unexpectedly critical New York Times story that seems to have its hands of any blame.
Given the lack of attention paid by the F.B.I. to other administration scandals, its sudden doggedness about Clinton’s “emails,” and all the resulting drip, drip, drip of stories quoting an ongoing investigations and plenty of highly placed yet unnamed administration officials, we can see why Obama might want to portray him as downplaying the matter. Given our experience of The New York Times, we can believe it would happily cooperate. We recently ran into a friend of ours who is a political Democrat tonight and he thought our theory that ridiculous, but he was also convinced that Clinton is the inevitable nominee and that only the inevitable Jeb Bush nomination could stop her.

— Bud Norman