It is disappointing to us to have to admit that despite the integrity and believability of James Comey this week before the Senate, in the end (as far as we know: there was a second, classified debriefing before the same committee later the same day) no puzzles were solved, no “smoking gun” found, no straight- forward instance where the behavior of the president was beyond dispute.
Millions of people watched the hearing on television or other devices. It is fair, we think, to imagine that at least half the audience was inclined to will Comey’s recitation into something greater than it was. Conversely, Mr. Trump’s well-known base was pulling in the other direction, hoping against hope that Comey would stumble and reveal himself to be a partisan warrior with a personal agenda.
Expectations did not stop there. From Mr. Comey himself, as well as from several questioning Senate members, what we think of as unrealistic reliance on the wisdom and insights to come from Robert Mueller as he tries to untangle constricting cords in this governmental Gordian knot may be wishfully misplaced. Very few mortals have ever carried such a heavy load of encouragement and disbelief simultaneously.
Regardless of what Mr. Mueller turns up and shares with the American people, a conspiracy or lack thereof, the arguments over the president’s behavior are going to continue for years, just as suspicion and doubt “clouded” the report from the blue ribbon panel investigating the assassination of John Kennedy.
The partisan divisions of the past few years throughout the country do not allow for calm reflection. With a president fostering festering discontent with all things governmental, judicial, Congressional, we do not see a moment to come when citizens are allowed respite from doubt, anger, frustration, and violence.
Worse, the president seems determined to continue in ignorance of common civilities and decencies. Just as he is equally determined to believe that world history began with his inauguration. Not for him a few moments each day reading about the past and the lessons it has to teach us all. And forget about sitting with counsel or his cabinet, or “his” generals, even for fifteen minutes a day to learn about what preceded his reign, and what is likely to follow it. After all, ignorance got him where he is today. He is reliant on ignorance, confident in believing that no one in America knows anything more than what he, the King, dictates.
Which, of course, goes a long way to understanding the wreckage Mr. Trump produces when travelling or tweeting. Not to mention his preference for “rallies” and continued campaign commercials that – as during the campaign – are imprecise, full of unfulfillable promises, personal attacks on opponents or disbelievers. Hints of good times to come, or – as is his wont – good times from the past to which he purportedly yearns to return – are as precise as his limited experience of the world allows. The plain fact of the matter is that he doesn’t give a damn about other people’s pain, troubles, poverty. This allows him free rein to exercise what he envisions as his calling: “Only I can fix it.” Not for him the value of a cabinet with experience and knowledge. In the Executive Branch these days there is only one executive, and the faster we all understand that, the easier it will be for us to accommodate ourselves to his world vision. Whatever that may be.
The press is not helping. The take-home from this week’s hearings seems to be that Comey is the first man in world history to announce to one and all that the president of the United States lies. Yet the press have religiously reported every instance of Trump’s myth-making from his descent on that golden escalator onwards. Having established that we have a leader who reflexively lies as easily as he breathes, what more can it tell us? It can, has done, and will continue to breathlessly tell us how he has lied, what he doesn’t know, what he cannot seem to understand. But little of this is new or even newsworthy.
As for Mr. Trump’s ”party,” it seems content to smile and nod and cluck just bit because all this presidential stuff is so new to Mr. Trump that he hasn’t yet had time to learn the ins and outs of D.C. or even the broader world. Which would seem to indicate that Republicans too think of him as encapsulated in his own ego and image. (Once again we see the Donald as practicing daily before his mirror.)
There is a contrast between Mr. Comey and his former boss. Comey ran the FBI as though the US were still flawless in its depiction of democracy and rule of law. Mr. Trump is barely conversant with the simple idea – although complex in daily exercise – that the US is a nation of laws and that the country is not a business he can bankrupt as he chooses. One man has a claim to protecting the nation from all dangers; the other invites intervention by our enemies.
Although we think these differences are clear and obvious, millions disagree. Which is why continued prospecting by Mr. Mueller, the Senate and the House, may be destined to return bags of pyrites. The glitter is in the eye of the beholder. Without an assayer of Biblical standards, this may come in the end to disappoint millions. Among that number, we cannot count Donald Trump.