Here’s the Fundamental Flaw in President Trump’s Justification for the Comey Firing
Last night, I wrote about my initial reactions to President Trump’s shocking firing of FBI Director James Comey. One of the primary takeaways was that everyone, especially the “conservative” media, would react in an extremely hypocritical fashion to the news. While it was hardly a tough call, that prediction has certainly been very accurate.
This issue of what I call “The Death of Hypocrisy,” which has marked the entire political phenomenon of “Trumpsanity,” is both very important and vastly underrated. For if hypocrisy is no longer a political “crime,” then there is a very slippery slope down which our politics will slide precipitously into total chaos and utter meaninglessness (I know, we may already be there).
But despite being keenly aware of this problem, even I was slightly taken aback when Trump tried, in his very first line of defense of Comey’s firing, to play the hypocrisy card himself on Democrats. In a series of tweets, which began last night, Trump claimed, much to the pleasure of his adoring cult, that Democrats were wrong to criticize Comey’s firing because they themselves had been very critical of the way the former FBI Director had handled the investigation into Hillary’s Clinton’s emails.
Now, the first obvious problem with the “logic” behind this argument is that Trump himself praised Comey on numerous occasions well AFTER the events of last summer which allegedly provoked his firing almost a year later. At times, Trump even complimented Comey for things he said in the very press conference which supposedly got him fired.
In a world where logic still mattered, you wouldn’t get to charge the other guy with hypocrisy when you are being at least as big a hypocrite on the very same topic. But in the era of Trump, as long as his cult roars their approval, such antiquated concepts are no longer applicable.
However, even as obvious as it is that this line of Trump attack should be instantly discredited, it is NOT even the most egregious flaw in Trump’s rationale for Comey’s firing.
I am shocked that so many seemingly intelligent people — for instance, GOP Senator Rand Paul, who made Trump’s “Democrats are hypocrites on Comey” argument on Twitter today — are completely missing the biggest and most obvious fallacy in Trump’s counter-attack.
Donald Trump is the President of the United States and Comey was investigating HIS campaign for possibly treasonous acts with a foreign/adversarial power. How can anyone, especially the president himself, not understand that this fact alone makes prior Democratic criticism of Comey completely irrelevant to whether Trump was justified in firing him?
This is kind of like a guy who just got caught cheating on his wife claiming criticism of him is invalid because those being critical of him didn’t always like his wife. Uh, they weren’t the one married to her and they didn’t do the cheating!
It is incredibly frustrating to me that we as a people are SO extraordinarily bad at making, or even understanding, analogies (analogies were removed from the SAT test in 2005, but that obviously can’t be used as an excuse for Trump and the vast majority of his cult). I would guess that about half of the most popular political tweets are ones in which a fundamentally flawed comparison is used to “burn” the other side, and Trump’s tweets since the Comey firing certainly qualify.
For instance, when Chuck Schumer (whom I loathe), said that he lacked confidence in Comey, it did not invalidate, at least not logically, the credibility of his criticisms of Trump firing the FBI Director. This is because Schumer is NOT the president and his presidential campaign was NOT being investigated by Comey. Trump, whether he realizes it or not, must be held to a completely different standard here because of those rather obvious and significant circumstances.
Now, had Hillary won, and Schumer decided that he was suddenly AGAINST Comey’s firing because he learned that he was investigating the Republican presidential campaign for collusion with Russia, now THAT might be legitimate hypocrisy. However, there is nothing inconsistent with being critical of Comey but also being vehemently against the man whose campaign he’s investigating for possibly serious crimes from firing him for obviously nonsensical reasons, poor execution, and with very suspicious timing.
This really is the bottom line of all of this mess, as well as the thing which is probably getting most underplayed by the news media. Firing Comey may have been perfectly well justified under different timing and circumstances, but for all intents and purposes, once he began a serious investigation that directly involved the president (one which began well before he was elected and at a time when his victory was seen as a real long-shot) there was no way for Trump to get rid of him, especially after day one of his administration, without creating a massive and very real problem.
For “conservatives” to not recognize this reality, all in the name of defending the King, when they would have been screaming bloody murder had then President Obama fired Comey last year for the very same reasons Trump gives now, is completely embarrassing and very wrong.
THAT, for the record, is a proper analogy.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud, or email him at email@example.com
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.