Michael Graham of CBSNews.com watched ABC-TV so you didn’t have to:
It’s the morning after the “Comey Interview” and, believe it or not, Donald Trump is still president.
If you watched the buildup to the release of the former FBI director’s new book and his prime-time ABC interview, this fact might come as a bit of a shock. Based on the press hype—and partisan hopes—surrounding the publication of James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership, you’d expect this insider’s expose of Trump’s shocking scandals to be, if not the end of his presidency, the beginning of the end.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Trump’s political death continue to be exaggerated. Comey’s book is unlikely to have any impact on Trump’s presidency—other than perhaps to strengthen Trump’s standing among his supporters.
Trump haters counting on the former head of the FBI to have career-ending dirt on Donald Trump will be gravely disappointed by Comey’s book. The only “big reveal” in A Higher Loyalty is how loyal Jim Comey is to … Jim Comey. For Washington insiders who’ve been dealing with him since the George W. Bush administration, this isn’t breaking news.
Lacking evidence of actual wrongdoing—in last night’s interview, Comey yet again refused to accuse President Trump of obstruction—Comey turned instead to the petty and political. He talked about Mr. Trump’s appearance (“His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles”), the size of his hands (“As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”) and he called the president “morally unfit.” It was the sort of snarky partisan punditry found on cable news 24/7.
Then again, should we be surprised? if Comey ever did see actual wrongdoing by Mr. Trump, do we really believe we’d just be hearing about it from a notoriously leak-friendly fellow like Comey?
As Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com tweeted, it’s “not particularly honorable, if you have information you believe is of immediate and vital national importance, to wait 11 months to release it until you can have a giant book launch and publicity tour.” Silver—no Trump fan– calls the book “A Higher Royalty.”
Trump supporters were dismissing the fired FBI director and his message before the book even hit, putting Comey’s story in the broader context of what they believe was a partisan, pro-Clinton FBI. Comey confirmed their view when he acknowledged that his decision to speak publicly in the last days of the campaign about Clinton’s email investigation was influenced by his assumption that Hillary was going to be his new boss.
“I was operating in a world where Hillary Clinton was gonna beat Donald Trump,” he told George Stephanopolous. “And so I’m sure that it was a factor [in my decision to announce the Clinton email case was being re-opened].” He also revealed that his wife and kids wanted Clinton to win, too, though Comey said that he didn’t vote in 2016.
To many on the Right, the ABC interview sounded an awful lot like a former Clinton staffer talking to a partisan Trump hater. And for obvious reasons.
One GOP campaign operative told me Comey’s book “is a home run for us. This guy hates Trump, and he ran the FBI. If they had anything on Trump, he’d know it, and he’d tell it.”
It’s hard to call a book that talks about allegations of Moscow prostitutes and bodily functions a “home run,” but the point is that this is yet another bullet that zipped by President Trump. The Left keeps announcing Donald Trump’s doom, and yet, he keeps showing up for work.
This weekend, for example, the New Yorker ran a piece entitled “Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency,” arguing that the recent raid on the law offices of the president’s personal attorney Michael Cohen mark the final phase of his time in office. This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump presidency, Adam Davidson wrote.
Another anti-Trump website, LawAndCrime.com, made the case that the recent attack on Syria over its use of chemical weapons could result in the impeachment of both Trump and members of his cabinet.
Impeachment would be a worthy course corrective and is entirely proper under the circumstances,” wrote Colin Kalmbacher.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a Congress controlled by Republicans is not going to impeach a Republican president over bombing a dictator who used sarin gas on children. But for Trump opponents who still cannot accept that he won the election, every prediction of his imminent demise is seized upon and believed.
These are the people liberal activist Tom Steyer was targeting last night when he ran a NeedToImpeach.com ad during the Stephanopolous interview. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who want Congress to start impeachment proceedings is declining while Trump’s approve rating is rising (slightly).
Consider this: In the month or so between the Stormy Daniels interview on “60 Minutes” and the Comey interview last night, President Trump has been hit with a nonstop stream of negative press. And yet according to the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, Trump’s approval is at 44 percent among registered voters.
Donald Trump is not going to be shamed out of office by Jim Comey, or pushed out by an angry press corps, or laughed out by late-night comics. Yes, it’s still possible he might be led out of the Oval Office in handcuffs by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but at this point that looks like a long shot.
Which means Democrats will be forced to drive Donald Trump out of the White House the old-fashioned way: The ballot box.
What’s worse, from the perspective of Trump-hating Democrats (pardon the redundancy) is that not only is Trump polling better, but according to the Washington Post the generic-Democrat advantage in Congressional races has dropped from 12 points to four points. It is ridiculous to predict the results of elections nearly seven months in advance (seven hours might be more accurate in our turbulent times), but predictions of that blue wave might be exaggerated too.
The Nov. 6 elections might be a test of the claim of the good-government types that partisan gerrymandering (more correctly termed “incumbent gerrymandering”) guarantees that certain parties win certain seats. Given the large number of Republicans not running in November, including U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Janesville), if most of them are replaced with Democrats the gerrymandering arguments will lose considerable weight.