A Plague on Both Your Houses

“A plague on both your houses,” Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet. While the Trump-Comey drama is not one of star-crossed lovers—indeed, there is little love to go around—the phrase is apt. Neither Trump nor Comey comes out of the Senate committee hearing yesterday with full credibility intact.

There is no hero here, but there was enough detail offered to make the plague comment applicable.

First, James Comey.

What to think of him? People who know him well say he is a man of integrity. If that’s so, why did he go before the public last July, lay out all the reasons why Hillary Clinton ought to be prosecuted, and then decline to do so?

He says now it was due to the problem he perceived with Loretta Lynch, reigning attorney general at the time, who told him to tone down the Hillary investigation and who met with Bill Clinton on that infamous airport tarmac while the investigation was going on.

Somehow, in Comey’s mind, to maintain the FBI’s independence, he had to drop the Hillary “matter” (the word Lynch wanted him to use publicly rather than investigation).

Democrats loved him in July.

Then in October, the dreaded October Surprise surfaced when he announced the investigation was opened again due to new information. Democrats squealed, Hillary lost, and they and she have used that incident to prop up the accusation that Comey lost the election for her.

Republicans loved him in October.

Once Trump took office, the Russian influence investigation began to circulate in the liberal media: the newest reason offered as to why Hillary lost. Tensions rose between Trump and Comey over that. Eventually, Trump fired Comey.

Democrats rejoiced over that, hoping it meant the FBI was on to something about Trump and Russia. Comey’s testimony, they enthused, would bring him down for good.

After yesterday’s revelations, their enthusiasm has dampened. The Russia allegations thus far cannot be tied to Trump or his top campaign officials. Gloom descends on Democrat headquarters.

Comey made it clear in his testimony that Russia definitely did try to interfere with the election, but he also made it clear that the investigation couldn’t connect anything to Trump (except for the ongoing Mike Flynn dramedy) and no votes were tampered with. The tally was accurate.

Of course, most Americans probably came to that conclusion long ago.

Now for the Trump side of the plague on both houses.

While firing Comey was his right as president, it was outstandingly foolish, and Trump has become adept at doing outstandingly foolish things, thereby making everything worse for himself.

Rather than abide by the official explanation for why Comey was fired—one that came from the adults in his administration—he opted instead to have an interview with NBC in which he said the firing had to do with the Russia probe.

All that accomplished was the appointment of a special counsel to look into all these matters. Again, the administration adults came out with a statement that declared this a good step in that it would finally put to rest the accusations.

Trump couldn’t let that stand. He tweeted that the appointment of the special counsel was an outrage, calling it “the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history.” Next time, maybe you shouldn’t be so restrained, Mr. President. Use some hyperbole instead.

Not settling for stirring the pot with that one, he then offered this tantalizing tidbit:

James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

Comey commented yesterday in the hearing, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!” He believes they will back up his accusations of what Trump said to him in their meetings.

So, now we have a special counsel, primarily because Trump couldn’t leave things alone and had to vent like a juvenile who wants the last word.

Comey was not reticent with his view on Trump’s honesty. In the hearing, he proclaimed that Trump is a liar, and that he took extensive notes on their conversations in order to document what Trump said.

The first major accusation is that Trump cleared the room of everyone else one day except for him and Comey, and then proceeded to urge Comey to end the Flynn investigation because Flynn is a good man. Comey says he didn’t follow that presidential wish.

While that doesn’t rise to the level of obstruction of justice, it still reeks of an attempt to unduly influence the course of an investigation. This may be the way Trump has operated in his business, but that’s not what’s expected in the Oval Office.

The second accusation is that Trump wanted a pledge of loyalty from Comey. The FBI is supposed to be independent in its investigations, not bowing to whatever a president wants. What kind of loyalty did Trump mean? Do whatever he’s told?

Trump’s lawyer came out later and stated that Trump categorically denies those accusations. They never happened, he says. Comey is making it all up.

Well, Comey was under oath. If it is discovered that indeed he is making it all up, he will be subject to prosecution. Does anyone really think he’s opening himself up to that?

Trump’s denial is not under oath. It’s simply a denial.

Who to believe? Is this merely a “he said, no, he said” quandary that has no resolution?

I can’t say that I have complete confidence in Comey’s integrity, and he certainly hasn’t displayed honor in all his actions. But then there’s Trump.

Does anyone recall how blatantly Trump lied during the campaign season? How he threw out whatever hints of scandal against his opponents that crossed his mind? How he insulted everyone running against him for the nomination?

If you have no problem with Trump’s history of insinuations, hints, and outright falsehoods to get what he wants, I’m not sure what I can say at this point that will make a difference.

The takeaway?

  1. Trump didn’t obstruct justice in the legal sense. There is nothing there for Democrats.
  2. The Russia probe is probably a dead end. Democrats and the liberal media are going to have to find a new narrative.
  3. Comey hasn’t exactly distinguished himself in his actions. He did leak some of his comments about Trump, he allowed Lynch to derail the Hillary investigation, and he never stood up to Trump when asked to do things he thought were wrong.
  4. An investigation of Loretta Lynch is needed; did she obstruct justice?
  5. Trump’s honesty and integrity have every reason to be questioned.

Shakespeare was right: “A plague on both your houses.”

Trump: Lessons Learned?

At first, it appeared that Trump had this president thing all figured out. He was quick out of the block to undo many of President Obama’s unconstitutional actions. He was signing executive orders right and left.

Then came indications that maybe he’s still enmeshed in on-the-job training. While I agree that his executive order regarding immigration was within his authority and had the right intent—ensuring we aren’t importing terrorists—the rollout was bungled. People were caught in it who shouldn’t have been; Trump didn’t get ahead of the narrative so that the opposition, both Democrats and the media, couldn’t use it as a cudgel.

A misstep, to be sure.

Then when a federal judge put a stay on the order and it went to the Ninth Circuit Court, commentators were quick to note that Trump’s advocates in the court weren’t apparently top-notch. The Ninth Circuit upheld the stay.

It’s easy to criticize that particular court because it has a history of tacking to the political Left. No other circuit has had so many of its decisions reversed by the Supreme Court. It would have more credibility if it actually followed law rather than its own political ideology.

Trump, throughout this controversy, did what he always does so well: go to Twitter to denounce and insult. That’s not a tactic designed to win over the opposition.

Now we have the Mike Flynn fiasco. When Flynn was picked to be National Security Adviser, I was not entirely on board. Whenever I saw him offering commentary, I had reservations about his approach and his temperament. Yes, he seemed to understand the Islamist threat, but he also seemed far too cozy with Russia, which mirrored Trump’s attitude.

Flynn resigned late Monday night over reports that he hobnobbed with the Russian government prior to taking office. There is no law against that, but there was concern about what he was promising the Russians. Personally, I think it’s good to start talking with foreign governments when a national security official is about to take on that duty.

However, Flynn attempted not only to hide what he had done; in addition, he lied to VP Pence about it, making Pence an unwitting liar when he defended Flynn publicly.

That is inexcusable. As we always hear, the coverup is often worse than the original offense.

So Flynn is gone, undermining another of Trump’s boasts that he will surround himself with the best people. Flynn was not one of those “best” people.

Some report indicate that Trump is surprised by the resistance he is experiencing and is trying to figure out how to handle it. I know, we never can tell if such reports are genuine or fake in this heated environment, but I don’t have trouble believing this one. Trump is used to having his way, and he probably thought that being president would make it easy to get done what he wants to get done.

Welcome to the real world, President Trump. It’s time to get this under control. Will he learn his lessons?

Those Closest to Trump

Last week, I gave an overview of some of Trump’s picks for his cabinet, both the solid ones and ones I consider questionable. I omitted a few (hard to cover them all), but I should mention in passing the choice of Rick Perry for energy secretary (very good) and Elaine Chao for the Department of Transportation.

There are mixed reviews on Chao: she served as secretary of labor previously, where some said she did very well, but there is criticism that choosing the wife of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not exactly a prime example for the drain-the-swamp battle cry.

Many Trump supporters have high hopes for what he will accomplish, for sure:

That would be nice, but I’ll wait to see what kind of results we get.

Some of the jobs closest to Trump don’t require Senate confirmation. They tell you the most about who Trump trusts.

First on that list would be Stephen Bannon, formerly of the Breitbart website. All kinds of opinions have been offered about Bannon. My view of him is somewhere in between those who view him as the devil incarnate and those who see him as the policy savior.

With the lofty title of chief strategist, Bannon will apparently be responsible for guiding Trump in his decisions on what policies to push for and how to get the job done. Bannon is hard-driving, which can be good for such a position, but he also can alienate people very quickly.

My first acquaintance with Bannon was positive. He was one the writers/producers of a video that I use in my course on Ronald Reagan and modern American conservatism.

That video, In the Face of Evil: Reagan’s War in Word and Deed, details Reagan’s decades-long fight against communism and the strategy he used to take down the Soviet Union. It is a powerful video, one that offers a clear corrective to the liberal interpretation of events that led to the Soviet downfall.

The quality of the video is outstanding, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet seen it.

Bannon’s latest position at Breitbart, though, gives me pause. I don’t accept the cry of “racist” that some would level at him. I am concerned, though, that he allowed that site to be a provocative place where the so-called “alt-right” felt comfortable. I want nothing to do with them, as they are far too close to neo-nazism for me.

Bannon is no racist or Nazi, but when you play footsie with those who are, you tarnish yourself. Just so you know, I used to be a contributor to Breitbart’s Big Government site, so I have no axe to grind here. During the election, though, I stopped reading anything from Breitbart, as I saw it devolve into a Trump propaganda mouthpiece, willing to smear other candidates in its devotion to Trump.

I’m definitely wait-and-see with Bannon.

Another controversial appointment is former general Mike Flynn to serve as Trump’s national security advisor. I’ve watched Flynn being interviewed on news programs, and again, I’m a little torn.

Flynn’s positive is that he understands the Islamist threat. His negatives are that he is potentially too emotional, too open to conspiracy theories (like his boss), and perhaps far too friendly to Russia, which I continue to see as a threat to our national security, not an ally.

As with all of Trump’s questionable choices, I simply hope and pray for the best.

Finally, there is the very first decision on personnel that Trump made: installing Reince Priebus as his chief of staff. That decision was probably wise, as Trump needs someone who can work well with the Republican party overall.

Priebus, as chair of the Republican National Committee over the past years, has shown himself to be someone who can navigate the perils of politics. I’ve not always been a big fan of his, especially when he seemed to jump on Trump’s train much too soon and shut down any opposition to Trump at the national convention.

Yet if Trump is to succeed working with the party he so recently joined, he needs someone like Priebus to act as a guide.

I believe I’ve covered most of the key players in the upcoming Trump presidency. I hope the good ones can have a positive influence on him and his policies; I hope the questionable ones are either denied confirmation or will not detract too much from what this administration needs to be to reverse the political course of the nation.

Let me add this, though: reversing the political course is not enough; it’s the spiritual/moral foundation that is in need of the greatest repair, and that will never come through politics. Christian influence on the culture remains the top priority.