People Comey the God had no reason to fear!


People like Tomasky and Drum, along with Kornacki and Maddow:
Last weekend, Kevin Drum wrote a long post about James B. Comey which struck us as oddly illogical.

Did James B. Comey's behavior last year tip the election to Donald J. Trump? That is surely quite possible.

On the other hand, the election tipped to Trump by a narrow margin in three states. In such a situation, many factors can be said to have possibly tipped the election to Trump. Examples:

It may be that Clinton would have won if Comey hadn't behaved as he did. But it's also possible that Clinton would have won, in spite of Comey, had she run a better campaign in some way.

Beyond that, it may be that Clinton would have won in spite of Comey absent the Russian invasion. Especially in a narrow race, any number of different factors may have tipped the campaign.

For some reason, Drum seems determined to fix Comey as the "decisive" cause of November's outcome. Absent further explanation, that doesn't exactly make sense. Neither does Drum's claim that Clinton probably ran an average campaign, not a bad campaign.

In truth, there is no objective way to say who ran a "bad" campaign. Drum chose several subjective measures, then used them to say that Clinton's campaign wasn't all that bad.

In this, his nugget explanation, he correctly says that Clinton outperformed one predictive model. This leads him to suggest that Clinton's campaign just wasn't all that bad:
DRUM : [T]hat got me curious: how do Clinton and her campaign compare to past elections? There's no way to measure this directly, but you can get an idea by comparing actual election outcomes to the predictions of a good fundamental model. So I hauled out Alan Abramowitz's model, which has a good track record, and looked at how winning candidates performed compared to the baseline of what the model predicted for them.


According to this, Hillary Clinton did way better than any winning candidate of the past three decades, outperforming her baseline by 2.4 percent. Without the Comey effect, she would have outperformed her baseline by a truly epic amount.

Now, was this because she ran a good campaign, or because she had an unusually bad opponent? There's no way to tell, of course. Donald Trump was certainly a bad candidate, but then again, no one thinks that Dole or Gore or Kerry or McCain were terrific candidates either.

Bottom line: we don't have any way of knowing for sure, and this is an inherently subjective question. But the evidence of the Abramowitz model certainly doesn't suggest that Hillary Clinton ran an unusually poor campaign or that she was an unusually poor candidate. Maybe she was, but aside from cherry-picked anecdotes and free-floating Hillary animus, there's not really a lot to support this view.
Drum acknowledges that this is a subjective question. Still and all, we're semi-gobsmacked by what he says about Candidate Trump in that passage.

Drum notes that Clinton outperformed the (necessarily crude) Abramowitz predictive model. He acknowledges that this may have happened because Clinton had "an unusually bad opponent" in Candidate Trump.

He goes on to say that Donald J. Trump "was certainly a bad candidate." But he says that Kerry and Gore and McCain were no great shakes themselves.

People! In a wide array of (subjective) ways, Donald J. Trump was the most god-awful candidate in our political history! At several points, he engaged in such bizarre extended behavior that people debated the possibility that he was trying to lose.

Judged by a somewhat objective measure, he currently has the lowest approval ratings of anyone elected president in the past three million years. By a fairly wide margin.

It has widely been said that a President Clinton would have horrible approval ratings now too. But it's a simple matter of fact that President Trump stands much lower than any elected candidate in the history of poling. This suggests the possibility that he was an historically horrible candidate.

Let's get clear on the way this works. If Candidate A runs a truly awful campaign, Candidate B can run a bad campaign and still outperform predictions. Is that what Candidate Clinton did? We don't see any real point in trying to figure that out.

We do see an unpleasant point in thinking about the Comey matter. Yesterday, Michael Tomasky wrote a piece about Comey's lack of fear of Democrats when he began his interventions last July. Drum links to, and agrees with, Tomasky here.

Comey staged the first of his intervention on July 5, 2016. Aside from Democrats, we can think of other people he had no need to fear when he made this fateful decision. They have names like Tomasky and Drum—and like Kornacki and Maddow.

A basic pattern has been acted out here, especially in Tomasky's piece and Drum's reaction to it. More of this misery tomorrow, with links to the silent past of our liberal intellectual leaders.

When Comey started down that road last July, Barney Fife would have known to nip it in the bud! Following Tomasky's line of reasoning, Comey may have understood that our big liberal stars were never going to do that.

At any rate, that's what happened. The same thing had happened again and again in the previous twenty-five years.

Long ago, Candidate Clinton got demonized in this way. The liberal silence, our lack of fight, politely persisted last summer.


  1. With regards to your post today, people claiming Clinton lost because of Comey's investigation strike me as similar to a heavily favored basketball team saying they lost because of a blown call resulting in free throws for the opposition in the final seconds of a game. While those two points could have been the difference in a win or loss, the facts beg the question of why the game was so close to begin with. It is hard for me to also conclude that Clinton lost because of bad press. I can't think of a Democratic candidate in recent history that has had better press as compared to her opposition. You obviously are aware how Gore was covered in the press. Hell Fox News was split on who to support in the 2016 election. Clinton's press coverage obviously was not 100% positive, but if a Democratic candidate requires a more positive coverage in comparison the the Republican candidate than what Clinton received in this past election, how can a Democratic candidate win? Candidate Trump's coverage was VERY negative (I am not saying that was not fair), but when has a Democratic candidate had a more positive coverage in comparison to their Republican counterpart?

    1. Clinton's press coverage obviously was not 100% positive,...


      You win the internet award for biggest understatement of the day.

      600 straight days of breathless buttery emails buttery emails. They crucified her every step of the way.

    2. "Trump's coverage was VERY negative..."

      He was accused of being a racist. How is that negative to the citizens of the USA?

    3. To Anonymous. I specifically said that coverage of Trump's campaign was NOT unfair. I was just commenting that coverage of Clinton's campaign was far more positive than coverage of Trump's campaign. This was historically so, when you compare coverage of Republican vs. Democratic candidates historically. I DO think this was fair when comparing the two candidates. Fair or not Clinton got vastly more positive coverage and fair or not I don't think any Democratic candidate should expect better comparative coverage than what Clinton actually received in the last election and if democrats require better coverage to win, they should not expect to win any more elections in the future.

    4. Matt, your premise is wrong. A number of credible academic studies have shown that media Hillary was far more negative than of Trump, and secondly almost no coverage of policy issues which was her strength. Enough with the bullshit.

  2. I love Bob, and much of this post is on-the-money as usual, but I think he's unfair when discussing that Comey's intervention was one of many issues that could have made a difference in the election. I think a better way to say it is that in such a close election each of those several issues were, in fact, decisive, in the sense that had any one of them not occurred then the result would have been different.

    That doesn't mean that Clinton ran a great campaign or even a good campaign. It just means that regardless of how well she campaigned she would have won if (a) the Russians didn't interfere in the election; (b) Comey didn't interject himself into the election, or (c) the media hadn't spent 25 years turning a large percentage of Americans against Clinton based on distortions and sometimes fabrications.

    1. That last one was the biggest of all in its influence -- virtually half the entire electorate had pre-established negative opinions of Clinton as a result of it: And This Was Entirely Known And Predicted Beforehand.

      When people say she was a terrible candidate, some are referring to actual policy positions they disagree with -- and that's fine.

      But the decision to run in the face of the known animus -- even if you thought it was mostly bullshit -- that decision was a very poor one.

      If half the electorate, crucially including much of your own party, despises you and is ready to believe the worst of you -- to an extent unprecedented in modern politics -- then You Are A Bad Candidate.

    2. I actually agree with you, but that doesn't mean at the same time that Comey's intervention wasn't decisive, as well.

    3. Nona Nym, that so-called known animus didn't exist before she declared herself as a candidate. Hillary Clinton was the most admired woman in American for 20 years in a row, surpassing Michelle Obama and Laura Bush (while they were each first lady). She had extremely high favorable ratings. You are projecting the animus generated during her campaign backward. It wasn't there before she ran. It arose from the right after Benghazi and then the attack on her about her server (which was not a real criticism). Further, if there is going to be animus toward a female candidate, does that mean no woman should ever run? How will such animus ever be overcome?

      You are confusing the animus created during her campaign with her status at the beginning of it. And then, how can you claim there is such animus, so much that she shouldn't have run, when she won the popular vote?

    4. To Anonymous: Clinton got "most admired woman" with 13% of the vote. That is not enough to win an election. On another note Trump was 2nd most admired man with 15% of the vote. He lost to Obama who was not running in the election.

    5. Anonymous was also wrong about pretty much everything else they wrote.

      Clinton-hatred -- very much including Hillary -- was widespread and quite deep-rooted, years and years before Hil announced her 2016 candidacy.

      (The irony of having to make that statement here of all places is a thing of weeping beauty.)

      You can choose your "decisive electoral factors" all you want, people, but this was doubtless a quite bad candidate indeed. AND YOU WERE TOLD THAT IN REAL TIME.

  3. Bob's blog is about the dogs that didn't bark, especially the liberal ones.

  4. This is pathetic. Somerby is not reading the analyses that compare Clinton's turnout to Obama's and show that she exceeded his numbers. He is trying to find some way to make his contention that she was an awful candidate true, ignoring the evidence that this is not a fair evaluation of what happened.

    Why? What is Somerby's motivation for maligning Clinton? Why must he work so hard to prove that Comey wasn't a deciding factor? Why is he ignoring the impact of those third-party voters in the states that lost her the electoral college?

    People like Nona Nym who point to the animus against Clinton neglect the FACT that she had extremely high favorable and did not have that animus in the polls at all UNTIL SHE DECLARED AS A CANDIDATE. This means that people were not predisposed to dislike her, as claimed, but they were predisposed to oppose a female candidate and predisposed to seeing her in office. Those are positions that can be changed. If you believe Nona Nym's numbers, they were changed, since she had enough popular vote to win, had there not been a weird outcome in the electoral college. The numbers justify her decision and do not suggest she shouldn't have run. Her favorables were through the roof until the Benghazi committee and Comey got hold of her reputation, aided and abetted by Sanders, the Russian leaks, and so on.

    Somerby seems incapable of objectivity on this topic. That again makes me suspect he is trying to justify his own vote. We don't know what that was, but you can bet it wasn't for Clinton or he wouldn't be working so hard to blame her for her own defeat. He would be disappointed and sad, like those of us who worked hard to get her elected. Instead, he sounds weird and sounds like someone trying to justify a mistake he made at the polls.

    1. Bob Somerby is full of shit, and he might as well be a writer for Fox News at this point. It's well established that Comey's bombshell really did visibly impact Hillary's numbers before the election. It's not even a question anymore, but Somerby wants to demolish and demonize liberals and Democrats some more. Hey, I wonder what Bob thinks about Fox News! By omission, one can only gather that he loves it, and its culture of sexual abuse and harassment. At least they're not liberal Democrats! The people this site is fully dedicated to denigrating as the worst people on Earth. Hey Bob, fuck you too! I feel free to say that since your comments section is infested with weird spam, reflecting what a dumb low-rent bog this is. You don't even care.

  5. This isn't a matter of opinion. There are mathematical analyses of the contribution of various factors to Clinton's loss. Why not read Nate Silver and see what the facts are?

  6. What did Sanders, our current most popular Democratic candidate, say about Comey while Clinton was being demonized last year? Did he raise his voice in highly vocal protest? Did he fight back on her behalf. Did he speak out at all?

    Sanders said it wasn't Comey's fault that Clinton lost but it wouldn't be a bad idea for him to step down. What a guy! This is our best Democratic leader these days, but he doesn't think it was Comey's fault. This is the guy we're supposed to pin our Democratic hopes on, but he doesn't think Comey caused Clinton's defeat. What a guy. What a total mensch!

    1. Hey, do you suppose it is a coincidence that Somerby and Sanders have the same attitude toward Clinton and Comey?

      Somerby usually likes what Drum says, but now he has to choose between Sanders the God and Drum the God. What to do when evidence says one thing and your guru says something different? Follow the leader, of course! Wait, wait Mr. Sanders, I'm coming...

    2. One of the reasons I reject the cult of St. Bernie is that he knew damn well what the FBI was doing to Clinton stank to high heaven and he would not comment on "an ongoing investigation." It's no great reason to hate him either. It ain't beanbag.

    3. Greg's Tireless MotherApril 27, 2017 at 6:19 PM

      If you detest Bernie based on his supposed failure to act on his supposed knowledge, you must reserve a special loathing for the evil Obama who no doubt knew much more about Comey and definitely had far greater power to act.

      So you hate Bernie and, as you must be a slave to reason, you loathe and despise Obama.

      Why should anyone listen to you?

      Also, come up from the basement: your dinner is getting cold dear.



  8. Drum addressed the objections Somerby raises. Bob ignores the key point. The key question. If the result was because Clinton was an awful candidate who ran an awful campaign why was she winning handily until the Comey letter?

    The election turned out to be very close because of the Comey letter. Until then, Clinton was heading toward an easy win.

  9. Just as pushback by white males who feel their privilege threatened resulted in support for Donald Trump, it also affected liberals in the form of support for Bernie Sanders.

    Sanders deliberately avoided strong support for women's issues and civil rights in order to encourage that disaffected white male support. He made it possible for a certain segment of male voters to feel at home on the left while still expressing their resentment at social change. Bernie made it OK to hate Hillary (symbol of all incursions by women into men's space) and he ignored diversity as an issue, making it OK for white men to stop listening to the racial issues inherent in the highly vocal BLM and immigration protests occurring on the left. He even gave a home to the "lock her up" contingent, since he tolerated bullying of the most hostile Bros, doing little to rein them in.

    Today, Bernie is continuing to argue for a coalition that includes disaffected white men of the left (and actively recruited from the right) without any of that nasty women's choice, civil rights and diversity nonsense. A pure progressive platform that white men can get behind, just like Trump offered to men on the right.

    This is what backlash looks like, ladies and gentlemen. It may be harder to recognize on the left than on the right, but it represents the same impulses and is just as nasty and worthy of rejection. This is the time to stand up for the progress of the past decades by sending Bernie back to Vermont. He does not represent the best impulses and instincts of the left, no matter how "progressive" he claims to be. If you want a champion against income inequality, pick Elizabeth Warren instead.

    1. You are allergic to facts.

      It's good thing no one listens to you.

      Such a good thing.

      But while we're here, ignoring you, let's talk.

      We the people like Bernie!!

      Some facts about that popularity:

      -Women like him better than men do.

      -People of color like him better than white people do.

  10. So one factor cannot be singled out as the one and only reason a campaign is lost? Except in the case of Al Gore and the Press circa 200, I guess. It's fair to say Comey's actions against Clinton were outrageous. Someday, I hope he is questioned on them in a legal case.