James Comey’s “never mind! nothing to see here!” reversal may have been a relief to some of us, but how many more jerkarounds in this demolition derby of a campaign can America stand?
Just as we were getting used to the idea that our FBI director is a saboteur, he turns out to be a ninny. Not exactly the stalwart, upstanding, unflappable Gary Cooper figure we’d like to have running our secret police, is he? He seems as much as a panic artist as the elderly lady who accosted me the other day in the changing room of the gym. She fixed her steamy bifocals upon me and moaned, “The gap’s closing! What are we going to doooo?”
The Comey reprieve is yet another whiplash moment sent to discombobulate us in this year’s political nightmare. I find the small things now aggravate me as much as the large. And they keep coming. There was an incident on Friday that sent me further over the top than even the Donald Trump pussy grab uproar. I mean, for something to truly shock, it has to be a character surprise. So to learn that Trump talks as boorishly in semi-private as he does in public was hardly a mask-off moment.
No, what did it for me was a less reported incident on Friday, when John Sununu got a great big laugh at a Trump rally in Atkinson, New Hampshire. “Do you think Bill was referring to Hillary,” the former New Hampshire governor asked the crowd, “when he said, ‘I did not have sex with that woman’?”
What a disgusting thing to say. What a churlish, cruel, disrespectful, heartless, rotten, sickening thing to say about a woman, any woman, who’s approaching 70 and, in this case, has been a public servant most of her life. And this didn’t come from what Trump would doubtless call some total loser weighing 400 pounds. No, it was from a former three-term governor and White House chief of staff under the first President Bush.
This kind of public parlance out of the mouth of Sununu is what Trump has done for us, folks. Empowered the lout in everyone. Given validation to all the creepy misogynistic trolls who offer to “cut the tits off” women who so much as stick their heads over the parapet. When the Trump crowds chant “Lock her up,” we are regressing to the terrifying era when women who were barren and “strange,” i.e., outside the norm, were branded as witches, tied to chairs, and dunked in rivers or worse. How will we get the evil genie back in the bottle?
Like everyone who supports Hillary Clinton, I despair of the mess that’s followed her around. But it is truly remarkable that in a Washington Post/ABC poll last week, Trump led Clinton by 8 percentage points in which of them was more honest and trustworthy.
Clinton has been assailed by the drip drip drip of minor messes that supposedly confirm a now-hardened narrative of overwhelming fakeness. Trump has mastered the remarkable feat of retooling Goebbels’s Big Lie technique into an American version: the Huge Lie. The Huuuge Lie. Millions trust him because his lies are so vast, so consistent, and so numerous that they have created an alternate reality, one that’s amplified by the posts they share and the talk radio/Fox News media they consume. The people at his rallies would be ejected from the gilded lobbies and manicured golf courses of his shiny properties, yet they have been persuaded to believe he is on the side of their discontents. When will they realize they are living in their very own North Korea? I don’t know what will be scarier, their fury if he loses or, if he wins, their realization, which won’t be long in coming, that they have been betrayed.
It will be scary too, as well as agonizing, for Clinton if she doesn’t make it. She is now fighting not just for the presidency but for the life and meaning of the republic itself.
She must know that if Trump wins, the blame—the disillusion with all things Clinton—will be unfathomable, in the nation at large and in her own home. Thanks to her run, her husband will have seen his own legacy sullied by the trashing of the foundation. And she herself will have plenty to brood over in his old infidelities, which blunted her ability to deliver the kind of powerful, heartfelt hurt to her supporters about Trump as a sexual predator that Michelle Obama has so feelingly expressed.
Already there are donors who vent about how a different, less-tarnished Democratic candidate could have flicked Trump aside and won the Senate, too. Her supporters have experienced a constant ebb and flow of despair and reassurance. Each time she aced it in a debate she reminded the country what a smart, cool, seasoned operator she is, how supremely qualified she is to be commander in chief in a crisis—only to have more foundation and email toxins infect the airwaves and reverse her momentum.
The reappearance of Anthony Weiner’s errant genitals and Comey’s egregious bombshell did something else. It made us sad. It came after a wonderful week believing not just that Trump would be routed but even the Senate could be won. Something could actually get done! Bills could be passed! Justices could be confirmed! The machinery of government could at last start to move again!
Then came Comey Part I and the fear that she could actually lose. And, finally, Comey Part II. Thanks, Jim, for letting us know after 11 days of hell that there’s nothing amiss in those “new” emails, which mostly weren’t new anyway.
Comey or no Comey, we now know systematic obstruction will probably be the new normal for the next four years. But at least there’s a calm, cool woman who doesn’t bend under pressure heading for the White House.