If there ever was any doubt about the narcissism of the current occupant of the Oval Office in Washington, Thursday’s testimony by fired F.B.I. Director James Comey put that doubt to rest.
Asked if the president ever asked about how the United States might begin to address the issue of Russian interference in the election in the nine conversations Comey had with the president, Comey answered, “I do not recall any.” Even to begin to act as a president is expected, even required, to behave, is simply beyond this person. His own personal reputation, mask, ego, and inordinate need for affirmation, confirmation, adulation, obeisance, and (his preferred word) loyalty are the bottom line agenda for the administration, and thereby for the country.
Policy be damned, replaced as it must be under this person, by an insufferably insatiable voracious ego! Drop a missile here, throw out a tweet there, toss off another ad hominum there, and keep putting all ten fingers and ten toes in the mounting number of holes in the dyke of normalcy, respectability, responsibility, truth and respect for the nation he has been elected to serve.
Forget the legal threshold for high crimes and misdemeanours for impeachment proceedings. The political threshold is far more realistic and appropriate. “Contempt for the constitution,” as one Harvard Law professor put it, is clear from this president, and that by itself is ground for impeachment. Not incidentally, there are reports of a Democratic Congressman from Texas who has announced he is preparing articles of impeachment, in spite of the death threats he is receiving. While that may sound like another ‘Texas-crazy’ piece of behaviour, it clearly sounds courageous, if not outright dangerous.
Sucking all the air out of the political discourse in the United States, trump is now in receipt of a congressional demand to produce “tapes”or “records” of the Comey conversations by June 23. Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, for his part, has hired the most capable and the smartest criminal lawyer in the country as part of his staff, signalling the potential trail to criminal proceedings toward “obstruction of justice” as a path he is now following. Comey, in answer to a question as to whether he believed the president had ‘obstructed justice’ answered that ‘that is a question Bob Mueller will be pursuing’. Comey’s answer to the question, “Why did you think it necessary to made notes on your conversations with the president?” pointed directly to the belief, “I thought he would lie about the conversations.”
Calling trump’s defamation of both him and “more importantly the F.B.I.” “lies pure and simple” is another layer of the onion peeling off the reputation of the chief executive. “Lordy, I hope there are tapes!” is another corroborating piece of evidence in a rising tide, that supports the credibility and the integrity of the fired F.B.I. director, echoed ever so vacuously by trump, “I would 100% agree to testify under oath to the Special Prosecutor”. Wherever there is a personal challenge, this fake pugilist has to ‘up the ante’ in an attempt to ‘best’ his opponent at every turn.
From bakeshops to village street corners, to the most banal business transactions, the Comey hearing was ‘top of conversation’ for the Canadians I encountered on Thursday. Almost lost on the horizon of the public consciousness was the British election, in which Theresa “Mayhem” (borrowing a tabloid headline from London, on Friday) grossly miscalculated in her pursuit of a “strong majority” to embolden her in negotiations to divorce Great Britain from the European Union. Lost too were the two speeches in the Canadian House of Commons, first by the Minister of Global Affairs and second by the Minister of Defense.
In Christia Freeland’s half-hour address, she outlined a new, almost revolutionary policy and approach to Canada’s attitude to the world, following the turbulence and shrinking from leadership of the American administration. More assertive, less dependent, more independent and less obsequious, in relation to the United States, some pundits are declaring this “Canada’s Declaration of Independence” moment. Counterpoint to the Foreign Affairs Minister’s speech, the Minister of Defense projected a $14 billion increase in spending on the Canadian military, including new war ships and 88 (as compared with the Conservative’s 65) new fighter jets, over a ten year period. Most of this defense spending is not projected to roll out before the next election in 2019, some of it even out as far as 2023 begging the question, “Is this a political ruse to “quiet’ trump’s call for more military spending, in the hope that he will have disappeared from the world stage prior to the actual roll out of the massive expenditures, without having to incur the wrath of Canadian “peace-niks” who could express their disagreement with the Liberals in the ballot box in 2019? (Count this scribe among those “peace-niks” who believe that no country is safer dependent upon the size and number of its hard power military instruments, in a cyberwar-focused world.)
Lost in the din of the trump-Comey furor too is the deep divide between the president and his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on the move to isolate Qatar by five neighbouring states, because Qatar is an active sponsor of terrorism. Tillerson called for those isolating states to soften their approach to Qatar while trump condemned the state in his press conference with the Romanian president at the White House. Such open gaps between a president and the Secretary of State, not only weaken the Secretary but sow seeds of doubt and confusion in world capitals about the real intent, trustworthiness and credibility of the United States.
Almost lost in this personality war between Comey and trump is the big elephant in the room, “Did the Russians have collusionists from the trump campaign in their cyber-war to interfere with the election in November 2016? So far, the tempest between Comey and trump is deflecting public attention away from that monstrous historic invasion. There is little doubt the issue will escape the purview of both the Special Counsel and the appropriate Congressional Committees.
All the while these various ‘riffs’ are playing, the “weakened” presidency grows as evidence across the many departments. We can see the theme in the approach to the environment, to education, to Medicare (proposing to gut $800 million in a new health bill), already in the Justice Department in both the failure to fill significant posts, and appointing people like Sessions who has already had to recuse himself from the Russian investigation. There can be no doubt that the first few months of this new administration have gone a long way to achieving the Bannon edict to “deconstruct the administrative state” as the hallmark of the white-supremacy-committed administration. There is nothing from this administration that would demonstrate a commitment or an intent to empower the vulnerable, to enhance to opportunity of the disadvantaged, to secure the hopes and aspirations of the poor and the powerless. In fact, secretly, behind closed doors, taking advantage of the hullabaloo and the cleig lights focused on the White House melodrama the Republican Senate is currently preparing a health bill that will likely strip some 23-24 million Americans from health insurance leaving them to the mercy of emergency departments and life-defying choices.
Jazz musicians improvise while flowing around a common rhythm and even with a subtly inserted melody. To the ‘newby’s ear’ the sound they make may resemble a kind of cacophony. However, they are so ‘together’ and so engaged in a common musical purpose and their integrity is beyond dispute. The current American political/judicial turbulence, perhaps emerging as a full-blown hurricane in the not-too-distant future, has none of the ‘structure’ nor the license nor the imagination nor the unity and beauty of the polished jazz performance. Tragic!