Belmont Club

Less and less nuance

Who's side are you on?

USA Today characterizes the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey as inevitable. “The surprise is it took so long,” it wrote.  He tried to occupy a No Man’s Land  in a Washington increasingly divided along party lines and caught in a crossfire. “Comey had been a dead man walking for some time. He was a director without a constituency. He had tried to strike a balance in a sharply divided political environment and wound up alienating both sides. He had to go.”

Comey, if you are to believe Hillary, is the man who stole the election from her.  In November of 2016 “Mrs. Clinton told donors on a 30-minute conference call that Mr. Comey’s decision to send a letter to Congress about the inquiry 11 days before Election Day had thrust the controversy back into the news and had prevented her from ending the campaign with an optimistic closing argument.”  Now he’s the man Donald Trump doesn’t trust to investigate  him.  In his letter to Comey Trump said that “while I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”

The recommendation appears to be based in part on recommendations by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to Sessions arguing Comey usurped Loretta Lynch’s authority and improperly let Hillary off the hook — a matter likely to be as explosive as the Director’s firing itself.

The dismissal has already sparked a huge uproar. Keith Ellison tweeted “we are witnessing a Consitutional crisis unfold before our very eyes.” The administration’s calculation in firing him must have concluded uproars didn’t matter any more, that it was time to begin open and undisguised conflict. Readers will recall the first time I argued that it had become a fight to the finish.  Trump wasn’t aiming to hold off his opponents.  He was aiming to destroy them.

There really isn’t much choice when one side is called the Resistance and the other side is presumably incumbent. Electoral democracy was supposed to prevent zero sum games, to guarantee multiple-variable optimization. The polarization of Washington puts all that at risk.  But perhaps it was inevitable. The tolerance and apathy of former years, someone observed, were the deceptive last virtues of a dying society.  Silence and guarded speech not a peace but whispering in the face of danger.

Truces can end with a shocking suddenness.  Whatever Comey’s role in recent events was he could not remain out in the wire.

Ironically, the last administration has made is possible to confirm Trump’s new FBI director with only 51 Senate votes. Harry Reid’s nuclear option is a gift that keeps on giving to any party in power. It may have occurred to Reid by now that “any government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take all you have.” But it is doubtful he will repent. In a rational world there would be a bipartisan movement to de-build government like we de-built nuclear arsenals so that they can threaten no one.  But in the real world everyone wants power and damn the torpedoes so long as they get it.

The result is confinement. It took a while for the concept of No Man’s Land to emerge. “The Anglo-German Christmas truce of 1914 brought the term into common use, and thereafter it appeared frequently in official communiqués, newspaper reports, and personnel correspondences of the members of the British Expeditionary Force.”  In a geographical sense No Man’s Land represented the death of movement, a reduction in freedom.  And yet it was the creation of those who it shackled most.  Both sides are digging their prisons, yet perhaps they would have done no other.

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Books:

The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate, Author Robert D. Kaplan builds on the insights, discoveries, and theories of great geographers and geopolitical thinkers to look back at critical pivots in history and then to look forward at the evolving global scene. The result is an interpretation of the next cycle of conflict throughout Eurasia and a future that can be understood in the context of temperature, land allotment, and other physical certainties. To those who suggest that globalism will trump geography, this book shows how timeless truths and natural facts can help prevent this century’s looming cataclysms.

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, by Timothy Egan. The book tells the story of the dust storms that terrorized America’s High Plains in the darkest years of the Great Depression and the people that held on: their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones.

The No-Fuss Bread Machine Cookbook: Hands-Off Recipes for Perfect Homemade Bread, by Michelle Anderson. Finally, a bread machine cookbook that shows you how to use your bread machine for its intended purpose ― convenience! This is the first and only collection of truly easy, hassle-free recipes that give you delicious homemade loaves of bread every time, with more than 150 recipes using easy-to-find ingredients and minimal work.

Modern Prometheus: Editing the Human Genome with Crispr-Cas9, by Jim Kozubek. Would you change your genes if you could? As we confront the ‘industrial revolution of the genome’, the recent discoveries of Crispr-Cas9 technologies are offering, for the first time, cheap and effective methods for editing the human genome. Tracing events across a fifty-year period, from the first gene splicing techniques to the present day, Kozubek weaves together the fascinating stories of many of the scientists involved in the development of gene editing technology, demystifies how the technology really works and provides thought-provoking reflections on the ‘commodification’ of life.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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