Part 1—The silence of the Ivankas: A funny thing happened when James B. Comey injected himself into the White House campaign.
Comey, the FBI director, is, within the modern context, a classic insider type. As of July 2016, he'd long been cast by Washington elites as the morally upright Republican straight-talker, a rather familiar type.
On the scandal-purveying side, the role had been played in previous years by "Judge Starr" and by Louis Freeh, among others. On the policy side, the role has long been assigned to Speaker Ryan, a man whose proposals never make sense—but whose rectitude can't be challenged.
Except by Paul Krugman, whose analyses will be ignored.
(At present, the presumption of rectitude is being extended to Governor Romney, who is said to be courting Donald J. Trump due to his patriotism. In line with standard insider scripting, Romney's thinking is being paraphrased thusly: "He's our fake con man now." In line with familiar insider practice, few suggestions of runaway ambition have been offered.)
On July 5, Director Comey injected himself into the White House campaign. In a departure from normal practice and explicitly stated procedure, he assailed Candidate Clinton, saying she'd been "extremely careless" in her email practices. Two days later, he appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where he continued his criticisms of Clinton's "extremely careless" ways.
Comey—he's often referred to as Comey the God—had departed from normal procedure himself in voicing these highly subjective assessments of the presumptive Democratic nominee. That said, a funny thing happened when he did so—two funny things, in fact.
Let's start with the first thing that happened. In that House committee hearing, one Democrat after another stood in line to note the obvious rectitude of the great Republican figure.
Our own congressman, Elijah Cummings, showered the godly figure with praise in his opening statement. We'll offer a few of the highlights:
CUMMINGS (7/7/16): Director Comey, thank you for being here today.Things went downhill from there.
I want to begin by commending you and the public servants at the FBI for the independent investigation you conducted. You had a thankless task. No matter what recommendation you made, you were sure to be criticized.
There's no question that you were extremely thorough. In fact, some may even say you went too far in your investigation. But of course, that was your job. That is your job.
Contrary to the claims of your critics, there is absolutely no evidence that you made your recommendation for political reasons; no evidence that you were bribed or coerced or influenced; no evidence that you came to your conclusion based upon anything but the facts and the law. I firmly believe that your decision was not based on convenience, but on conviction.
Finally, I want to make it clear that I condemn these completely unwarranted political attacks against you. They have attacked you personally. They have attacked your integrity. They have impugned your professionalism. And they have even suggested that you were somehow bought and paid for because you made your recommendation based upon the law and the facts.
I know you're used to working in a world of politics, but these attacks have been beyond the pale. So you do not deserve this. Your family does not deserve it. And the highly skilled and dedicated agents of the FBI do not deserve it. I honor your professionalism and your service to our country.
By the end of the campaign, many people were saying that Comey's conduct, starting in July, had cost Candidate Clinton the White House. In real time, the godlike fellow was showered with praise from Clinton's side of the aisle!
A second funny thing occurred in the week when Comey declaimed. Guest hosting on The Rachel Maddow Show, Steve Kornacki offered several nights of reports about Clinton's bad conduct, reports which might have seemed a bit over the top had they been broadcast on Fox.
Tomorrow, we'll review those remarks. Later this week, we'll review the way Maddow reacted to Comey when she returned, the following week, from a richly-deserved vacation.
Having said that, let us also say this. By the time Maddow returned, important questions had been raised about the god's performance.
At Slate, Fred Kaplan had offered a challenge to Comey's claim that Clinton endangered national security through her "extremely careless" behavior. As this week's reports proceed, we'll review the way Maddow and other MSNBC hosts handled such basic questions.
By September, Comey's high-minded claims about Clinton's carelessness were dominating the conversation wherever press script was sold. During NBC's Commander in Chief Forum, Clinton made a dramatic statement about the emails to Matt Lauer, who seemed able to think about nothing else.
Actually, Clinton was speaking to a Republican who had been chosen to present the first question by an audience member. Needless to say, the question NBC had selected concerned those vexing emails, and contained a harsh accusation:
QUESTION (9/6/16): Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for coming tonight. As a naval flight officer, I held a top secret sensitive compartmentalized information clearance. And that provided me access to materials and information highly sensitive to our warfighting capabilities. Had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.As Lauer tried to interrupt, Clinton rudely continued talking.
Secretary Clinton, how can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?
CLINTON: Well, I appreciate your concern and also your experience. But let me try to make the distinctions that I think are important for me to answer your question.
First, as I said to Matt, you know and I know classified material is designated. It is marked. There is a header so that there is no dispute at all that what is being communicated to or from someone who has that access is marked classified.
And what we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked. There were no headers, there was no statement, top secret, secret, or confidential.
I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled, I went into one of those little tents that I’m sure you’ve seen around the world because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked, and headed as classified.
LAUER: Let us—
CLINTON: So I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously, always have, always will.
"I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate [email] system," the candidate said. "I did exactly what I should have done."
Given the claims by Comey the God, those were striking statements by Clinton. As the week proceeds, we'll review the way Maddow and her colleagues reacted.
Comey intruded on the campaign again on October 28. Eleven days were left in the White House race.
He declaimed for the third time on the weekend before the election. After the election was done, the Clinton campaign said that these last two intrusions flipped the final vote.
All this week, we'll be reviewing the way our liberal stars reacted to Comey's intrusions. We'll start with Kornacki's weird performances, then move forward from there. We'll also review the way these TV stars reacted in the fall of 2012, when the script about Clinton and Benghazi was crafted by another figure of obvious rectitude, the straight-shooting John McCain.
Benghazi and the emails! To state what is blindingly obvious, this potent pair of scripts played a key role in Candidate Clinton's defeat.
For that reason, it's worth reviewing the way our fiery corporate liberals dealt with these potent scripts. With that in mind, might we offer a personal note?
Especially when we think about the role Maddow played in this matter, we think of the great Marcie Blane. Back in 1962, the compelling teen acknowledged that she "wanted to be Bobby's girl."
All those years later, did Maddow want to be Comey's girl? More on Blane's big hit to come. For today, we'll tease you with this:
On the front page of today's New York Times, a nattering headline pokes at Donald J. Trump's grifter children. In our hard-copy edition, the snippy front-page headline says this:
"Tangle Awaits 3 Trump Children Molded for Business Since Birth"
When we read that snippy headline, we thought of our own set of cable news children. Have they perhaps been molded since birth? For service to the corporation? For service to their bosses? To the guild?
In the end, might a person sensibly ask if they resembled a gang of Ivankas in the way they approached the campaign? We'll return to this thoughtful question by the end of the week.
Does the compliance of the Ivankas help explain the way we got ourselves teabagged last month? Might our love for these silly kids help explain our remarkable loss?
Tomorrow: Guest host, over the top