A Note to Washington: The Bush Administration Was Worse

Fifteen years ago, Washington was cheerleading illegal surveillance, torture, and war. Today, we just have a clown show. The inflation of Trump into Satan and the rehabilitation of Dubya suggest that manners are more important than actions, and that even the darkest deeds get a pass if they’re packaged well.


f Donald Trump had just gritted his teeth and lived with James Comey as F.B.I. director, everyone would have been spared a lot of grief. Paul Manafort might still be cutting shady deals; Stormy Daniels wouldn’t be a household name; and none of us would have had to endure Comey’s book-selling-ethical-leadership tour. Now Comey is once more back in the headlines, because Rudy Giuliani—fast overtaking BP’s Tony Hayward as the world’s worst spokesman—put forth a new reason for Comey’s firing, namely that Comey wouldn’t publicly declare that Trump “wasn’t a target of the investigation.” (The White House should have stuck with allegations that Comey is a “showboat” and a “grandstander,” since, on that front, we’re seeing that Trump had a point.) So we can expect Comey to make the rounds once more.

If the conversation surrounding James Comey—much of it dominated by Comey himself—reveals anything, it’s mostly the strangeness of Washington’s moral framework. For all his foibles, Comey seems to be fundamentally a decent person who comes across convincingly as someone who means well. At the same time, much of Comey’s mindset is emblematic of respectable opinion in the age of Trump. That is to say, it’s evidence of Trump’s tendency to make formerly stable people lose their minds. Comey isn’t that far over the edge, but there’s still a loss of perspective that some of us find mystifying.

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