EPILOGUE—Punditry straight from Manchuria: Last night was a very bad night on cable. During the 11 PM hour, we thought Jeremy Bash captured the evening's essence.
It's unwise to comment on people's names, but Bash's is straight out of Dickens. He has the kind of climber resume from which sensible people run in fear.
He comes on the air with a look on his face. If he'd ever been a prosecutor, the analysts would point to him and says, "That's the reason our prisons and jails are full of innocent people."
Bash was speaking with Brian Williams, who managed to lose his last sinecure because he'd invented so many wild tales in service to a narrative about his own vast greatness. This followed the era in which, while in service to Chairman Jack Welch, Williams distinguished himself by his endless complaints about Candidate Gore's polo shirts and the cheesy appeal to female voters they so plainly represented.
Bash was speaking with Brian, who's been released from rehab. In service to insider novelization, the intense youngish climber offered this, the first thing out of his mouth:
BASH (6/8/17): James Comey, a man of impeccable credentials and impeccable rectitude, stating that he believed the president of the United States ordered, directed him, after clearing the room, in the Oval Office, to shut down a criminal investigation into misconduct of his own associates, I thought that was particularly damning.If we might borrow from Warren Zevon, his hair, and his meter, were perfect. So was his portrait of the impeccable Comey, better know as Comey the God.
Is James B. Comey "a man of impeccable rectitude?" While noting that few public figures are, we're going to go with a very strong "no." We're even willing to base this judgment on Comey's dramatic testimony over the past two days.
Again and again, Comey's published testimony offered puzzling scenes whose logic failed to parse—puzzling scenes in which the gentleman's rectitude seemed perhaps a bit cloudy.
Yesterday, in his live testimony, Comey spent the day sideswiping everyone with whom he'd ever come in contact. "I'll have to tell you in private session" turns out to be a potent tool of passive aggression in the hand of so stiff-necked and upright a man.
Let's be fair! For once, Comey offered no irregular speeches about Candidate Clinton's vile conduct. He substituted with a speech about Loretta Lynch.
(Late in the session it was John McCain who provided the day's incoherent sliming of Clinton. For many years, McCain himself was the press corps' choice as The World's Most Upright Person. In the past decade, that title was passed to Comey the God. Also to Paul Ryan!)
Is Comey the world's most upright person? In truth, his testimony, written and spoken, was full of puzzling presentations.
On some of these matters, he was actually challenged by senators from both parties. Two quick examples:
When Trump would make inappropriate suggestions, why didn't Comey affirmatively tell him what the FBI's proper role must be? Under questioning by two senators, Comey said he wasn't courageous enough.
If Comey didn't want to be left alone in a room with Trump, why did he keep speaking to him on the phone? The impeccable fellow said what's shown below. Avert the children's eyes::
BLUNT (6/8/17): You know, you said to the attorney general, "I don't want to be in the room with him alone again," but you continued to talk to him on the phone. What is the difference in being in the room alone with him and talking to him on the phone alone?We're going to call that sad.
COMEY: Yeah, I think that what I stressed to the attorney general was a little broader than just the room. I said "You -- I report to you. It's very important you be between me and the White House, between..."
BLUNT: After that discussion with the attorney general, did you take phone calls from the president?
COMEY: Yes, sir.
BLUNT: So why did you just say you need to talk to— Why didn't you say, "I'm not taking that call. You need to talk to the attorney general?"
COMEY: Well, I—I did, on the April 11th call, and I reported the calls—the March 30th call and the April 11th call—to my superior, who was the acting deputy attorney general.
(For the record, he had taken the April 11 call. According to his own account, he only recommended that Trump's staffers should talk to the acting deputy AG after Trump himself suggested that approach.)
Comey's testimony, written and spoken, was full of presentations which didn't quite seem to make sense. How impeccable is the logic in this puzzling chunk from his written presentation?
COMEY (6/7/17): Near the end of our [January 27] dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, "I need loyalty." I replied, "You will always get honesty from me." He paused and then said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said, "You will get that from me." As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase "honest loyalty" differently, but I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term—honest loyalty—had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.Trump may have misunderstood what Comey said. But so what? Comey's explanations had made matters clear!
In this way, the impeccable god explained away an episode in which he offered a very weird pledge to Trump. That's according to Comey's written testimony, not to a bit of poorly considered extemporaneous speech.
Comey's accounts are often quite odd. In what world does this excerpt from his live testimony actually seem to make sense?
COMEY (6/8/17): The president tweeted on Friday, after I got fired, that I better hope there's not tapes. I woke up in the middle of the night on Monday night, because it didn't dawn on me originally that there might be corroboration for our conversation. There might be a tape.Say what? Trump made his ridiculous tweet about the tapes on a Friday, but it didn't dawn on Comey until the middle of Monday night that there might be a tape? In what world does that presentation even seem to make sense?
And my judgment was, I needed to get that out into the public square. And so I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn't do it myself, for a variety of reasons. But I asked him to, because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel. And so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.
Meanwhile, in what way would release of the memo's contents prompt the appointment of a special counsel? The point went unexplained. And why didn't Comey, the world's most forthright person, simply release the contents of the memo himself?
He didn't want to be bothered by reporters, the most forthright man later explained.
In our view, James B. Comey doesn't come close to matching his mandated reputation. But once the press corps adopts a group novel, its simple-minded characterizations are rarely challenged or changed.
In line with that simple-minded culture, Bash and others are still hailing Comey the God as the world's most impeccable man. After all, it fuels the chase they're currently on, in which they're pursuing Donald J. Trump, who actually is the craziest person in our political history.
The mental age of the upper-end press corps seems to be roughly six. They love dramatic morality plays in which The World's Most Honest Person is cast in opposition to some indecent creature.
People are dead all over the world because of some of these previous plays, including the one in which Brian Williams kept savaging Candidate Gore's troubling polo shirts. (Also, his three-button suits!) That said, nothing stops insiders like Bash from playing this game again.
This brings us to last night's cable coverage. For us, that especially meant the ludicrous work by Rachel, Lawrence and Brian in MSNBC's last three live hours.
Two of these figures played active roles in the disastrous War Against Gore. Their work sent George W. Bush to the White House, where he started the war which changed world history and created the present disastrous moment.
Rachel came along later. She has spent the past several years avoiding every dangerous political fight (including Comey's attack on Clinton), while mugging and clowning and making us think that she's wonderfully On Our Side.
For three consecutive hours, Rachel, Lawrence and Brian were just plain bad last night. If MSNBC posts its scripts by this afternoon, we'll visit one segment by Rachel.
For now, we'll quit with that silly remark by Bash.
To us, Comey's testimony, written and live, represents a sinkhole of peculiar, unexplained behavior on the part of this press corps god. But you aren't encouraged to think about that. People like Bash are still eager to give you perfectly formed fairy tales.
Thirty years of press corps novels have brought a disordered man to the White House. But even now, after all they've done, these silly people—people like Bash—won't abandon their childish tales.
His comment to Brian came straight from Manchuria. James B. Comey is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being he's ever known in his life!