Let’s you and I take a moment to square a few dented circles before we get so far down the rabbit hole that we start seeing invisible cats smiling at us in the dark. The corporate “news” media loves to create false narratives if doing so allows them to avoid working for a living, and the current “This is just like Watergate!” milieu we are enduring after the firing of FBI Director James Comey is a perfect example of the phenomenon. This is nothing like Watergate; it is its own pan-dimensional thing and must be dealt with on its own very specific terms, lest we veer off into a gibberish festival where potato is Fred because a vest has no sleeves.
Nail this to your wall and festoon it with bunting: James Comey is no Archibald Cox. Archie Cox was a civil servant the likes of whom comes along perhaps once in a generation, a man of integrity who was never sick at sea, a true professional, patriot and role model for the ages. Richard Nixon’s presidency ended the moment he had Cox fired. Biographer Ken Gormley, in Conscience of a Nation, his indispensable examination of Watergate from the perspective of the special prosecutor, wrote, “The explosion of public sentiment after the Saturday night firing of Archibald Cox was as fierce and instantaneous as the day Pearl Harbor had been attacked, or the day John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.”
No such public upheaval greeted the abrupt removal of Mr. Comey from his high station, and for good cause. If Comey wants to dine with friends these days, he has to go to the shelter and adopt a clutch of dogs, and even that may prove to be a lonely estate if the kibble doesn’t make the grade. Within the last year, he infuriated Republicans by refusing to criminally charge Hillary Clinton over her bottomless email scandal, and then infuriated Democrats by abruptly regurgitating that email scandal on the doorstep of the 2016 presidential election, a preposterous act that will corkscrew through history until the sun burns out. This is no Dreyfus, victim of vicious circumstance, promethian in his martyrdom. Obama should have fired Comey in October.
Pity the director of the FBI? Better to pity a pit viper for having only two fangs with which to strike.
Furthermore, Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon. For all his myriad faults and catastrophic actions, Nixon was a carbon-based lifeform born on Planet Earth, a denizen of the American political ecosystem that raised him up before laying him low. He was different, to be sure, but a leopard born without spots is still a leopard and, like a man, is ultimately predictable and entirely mortal. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is some kind of extraterrestrial bivalve with gills on his nipples whose home ecosystem is unrefined chaos. I’m not sure what it is he’s breathing, but it ain’t air. Trump, by his own hand and according to every known metric, has annihilated his own political career a thousand times over already, and yet he surges on, doomed and implacable, like Coleridge’s painted ship upon a painted ocean.
And therein lies the rub: His doom is our own. Not only is the FBI director gone (paging Darth Vader, your table is ready), but all the US attorneys are gone. The attorney general is Jeff Sessions, who will gleefully rubber stamp every contra-constitutional edict that slithers from Trump’s mouth. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is a Trump Man. House Speaker Paul Ryan is a Trump Man. Congressional Democrats and the press can rail on about independent counsels and special prosecutors until their toes turn blue. Until someone in a position of actual authority decides it must be so, it will not be so … and folks, it will not be so in the near or distant future.
The federal government has been pruned of its independent prosecutorial powers by a president who duped everyone into thinking he is merely some rampaging buffoon with a Twitter fetish. The few remaining options are controlled by Trump hatchetmen who have little use for concepts like justice and the rule of law. Trump the fool? Don’t believe it for a second. The man makes Richard Nixon look like some silly ham-fisted alderman by comparison. His road is eight lanes wide to a far horizon, and when he finally gets bored of seeing himself on television and decides to stomp the clutch, the only things in his way will be the bug corpses accumulating on his windshield.
I’ve been carrying around that Gormley book on Archie Cox for twenty years now. Wherever I was, there it sat on the shelf between David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln and the collected poems of Langston Hughes. Somehow, I simply knew a day would come when I would be required to pull it down in a cloud of dust to provide context for a new darkness of days. Today was that day, and the context is clear: What we behold before us puts Watergate in deep shade, there is no Archie Cox coming to the rescue, and we are relegated to the role of mere witnesses for the next 18 months at least.
There is no light, there is no tunnel. This is happening in the big wide open under the brazen eyes of the sun. The sun doesn’t blink. I strongly recommend you follow suit.