For a while now Democrats have had about as much confidence in FBI chief James Comey as they have in Donald Trump, which is next to none — and I’m being generous. They’ve wanted Comey removed from office because they believed he was a big reason Hillary Clinton lost the presidency. Now, thanks to Donald Trump’s decision to fire him, they got just what they said they wanted. Except now they don’t want it.
If Hillary Clinton had won and fired Comey, Democrats would have said he got what he deserved. But Donald Trump could sign an executive order supporting sunshine and lollipops and Democrats would run to the TV cameras and with a straight face and proclaim that this is proof that the president is a climate change denier who thinks kids should eat more sugar and get diabetes.
Let’s take a look at some of the things Democrats have said about James Comey before they changed their minds and wished they’d never said any of it. Last September, when Harry Reid, then the Democratic leader in the Senate, was asked whether he believes Comey should resign, Reid replied, “Of course, yes.”
Then there’s Chuck Schumer, who last November said about Comey, “I do not have confidence in him any longer.”
How about Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters, who thinks Donald Trump should be impeached. “The FBI director has no credibility,” she said.
And Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, last November called on Comey “to resign his position after his recent communication with members of Congress regarding the bureau’s review of emails potentially related to Hillary Clinton’s personal email server.”
That was then, when James Comey was Judas and before he became Joan of Arc, as Kellyanne Conway nicely put it. Now, Democrats are comparing President Trump to President Nixon. They’re resurrecting the ghost of Watergate. They’re weeping about the death of the Constitution and American democracy. These are people who give hypocrisy a bad name.
But in spite of their knee-jerk partisanship, Democrats make a couple of points worth considering. First, were we really supposed to believe President Trump fired James Comey because he didn’t treat Hillary Clinton fairly? This is the same Donald Trump, you’ll recall, who detested Clinton. When his supporters chanted, “Lock her up,” he encouraged them.
But “he was mean to Clinton” was a reason the White House gave for the firing — before the president told NBC News that Comey was a “showboat” and a “grandstander” and had to go.
But why didn’t he fire Comey right after he took office in January? Why now? Could it be, as Democrats claim, because he was leading an investigation that might soon have connected dots from the Trump campaign to Vladimir Putin’s effort to throw the election to Donald Trump?
We don’t know at this point. Still, the Watergate comparison, while expected from Democrats, is overkill. There was no Tuesday Night Massacre, as some on the left were suggesting. As for the FBI investigation, the bureau’s acting director told Congress that it would continue, that nothing would change.
Memo to liberal journalists: The story is big enough and legitimate enough without the Watergate hype.
So what was the dismissal really about? Is it meant to “forestall whatever storm is coming,” as one conservative detractor of the president believes? Or is it something more basic to President Trump’s personality?
Let’s remember that Trump didn’t appoint Comey, who was getting almost as much face time on TV as the president himself. This is no small point given the president’s narcissism.
And here’s what I think it’s all about — the “final straw” as the president’s spokeswoman put it: Trump was watching Comey on TV tell a Senate committee that the idea that he might have influenced the election — an election Donald Trump won — made him “mildly nauseous.”
Bingo! Comey was history from that moment on. Given his notorious thin skin, that’s the kind of remark Trump would take personally.
So, what comes next? If Donald Trump quickly nominates a well-respected, nonpartisan replacement for James Comey at the FBI and not a loyal political friend, that, you’d have a right to think, just might calm things down. But it probably won’t.
Politics in Washington has become a wound that just won’t heal.
Bernard Goldberg, a nationally syndicated columnist, is a commentator for Fox News and a correspondent for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.