He writes like an aspiring young adult novelist. His Instagram is full of jumping pics and inspirational quotes. He drinks a mediocre in-flight merlot to soothe his worries about the future of the Republic. He keeps a very juicy diary, thinks Donald Trump is a serial liar morally unfit to be president, and believes he is the conscience of the United States of America in these troubled times.
For many Women’s Marchers and other passionate Trump critics, there’s a lot to relate to in the public emoting of former FBI Director James Comey. Celebrities, they’re just like us! He’ll no doubt sell a lot of books to them even if they’re still secretly stewing that he lost Hillary Clinton the election with his late-game announcement about her investigation.
But given his affinity for melodrama, there’s a revealing moment in his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos when he doesn’t go all in on anti-Trump hysteria. It’s the question of impeachment.
Now, I’m not sure how this will work for his fan base. After delivering a tome that negs the prez for his under-eye circles and skin tone and references his, ahem, hand size, the most passionate Trump critics will want Comey to take them all the way. What are they there for, after all, if not self-righteous truth-telling that ends in a tidy little scenario that rids the country of its duly elected president? They didn’t pay $26 for a hard cover for this flaccid conclusion, amirite?
But Comey’s measured response to Stephanopoulos’ question about impeachment is one his devoted readers should adopt.
First, he doesn’t indulge in fantasies about Trump’s mental unfitness, saying he doesn’t “buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia,” and instead calls him a “person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on.” The outlandish 25th Amendment option is not on the table for James Comey (or, at least, maybe not until the next book?).
I hope not because I think impeaching and removing Donald Trump from office would let the American people off the hook and have something happen indirectly that I believe they’re duty bound to do directly. People in this country need to stand up and go to the voting booth and vote their values.
But you cannot have, as president of the United States, someone who does not reflect the values that I believe Republicans treasure and Democrats treasure and Independents treasure…That is the core of this country. That’s our foundation. And so impeachment, in a way, would short-circuit that.
Comey clearly doesn’t want Trump to be president. He has some of the same concerns about his moral character as I have and, indeed, as many of Trump’s own voters had when they pulled the lever for him. But he also suggests a case needs to actually be made for impeachment, that it isn’t a tidy solution to one’s concerns about Trump, and that in fact there’s a healthier, more democratic remedy to such issues in the form of an election every four years.
Passionate critics of the president often go after him because he violates norms and goes to extraordinary measures to take on his adversaries. Fair, but in the next breath, they’ll advocate violating norms and going to extraordinary measures to take out Trump. The President has a knack for turning his critics so cartoonish and hysterical that they surrender their credibility in the fight against him. Comey himself is an example of this on many occasions, resorting to clickbait insults and self-righteous self-indulgence to sell books.
But on this issue he doesn’t jump from “I don’t like Trump” to “the case for impeachment is made!” as too many do.
There’s a new ABC poll out Monday showing Trump’s vulnerabilities with voters, a majority of which view him unfavorably as a person even as his job approval rating hits a high and the economy continues to perform well. A whopping 68 percent of women voters view him unfavorably as a person. Many of them will buy Comey’s book and hang on every word of his book tour. They should also listen to him when he says disliking the president and disagreeing with his voters does not a case for impeachment make.