Thursday, June 08, 2017

Comey Hearing Reminds Me Of Watergate

The Comey hearing began at 6am Alaska time and I listened in bed, not completely awake the whole time.  But here are my sleepy thoughts

I'd read the statement yesterday and was struck by how carefully neutral the writing was.  It attempted to state things as factually as possible, careful to anticipate possible misinterpretations and to clarify them.  Very different from most of the writing we read nowadays.

His testimony at the hearings was the same.  Very carefully considered - trying not to say anything that he didn't mean, to avoid anyone reading into what he said.

There's been plenty of commentary about what he said, so I'll focus on how things were said.

Given all the talk about political polarization, this reminded me a lot of the Watergate hearings tone.  Senators from both sides were respectful and asked reasonable questions.  Republicans did ask questions that sought an interpretation more favorable to Trump, but not unreasonably.  For instance one Senator (Cornyn of Texas I believe, but I'm not certain) pursued the possibility that Trump was justified in understanding that he wasn't the target of an investigation.  Comey had told him that, but would not publicly state that on the grounds that the situation could change and that would require a "duty to correct."

[Added at 10:15pm:  I forgot to mention the questions from Idaho Sen. Jim Risch from Idaho about whether Comey had been ordered to call off the Flynn investigation or not.  Comey quoted Trump saying, "I hope that you . . ." and took that is at least a request if not an order.  Risch suggested it was less than an order.  I think by itself, if that were the only action on Trump's part here, Risch might be able to raise some doubts.  But given that he also wanted Comey to pledge his loyalty and when the investigation wasn't called off, he fired Comey, and Tweeted that it was because of the Russia investigation . . . Well, good try Risch.  You got it on the record, but it's not very persuasive.  And besides commands and requests can be said many ways.  With the lift of an eyebrow in some cases.  And I finally figured out that when my wife asked if I wanted to go out to dinner, she was telling me that I did.]

The only Senator that I heard who seemed to be off topic was John McCain who wanted to know why the Clinton email investigation was closed if the Trump Russia connection was kept open.  He wasn't clear to me what his point was.  That because the Russians were involved in the Clinton email leak, it should be kept open?

Many things about this hearing reminded me of what it was like listening to Watergate hearings.  The somberness, the respectful tones, the possibility of tapes, the number of venues that carried the hearings live.  (Well, there are a lot more ways to listen nowadays.)  There was none of the grandstanding and outrageous behavior we've been seeing from Congress lately.

But if you think about it, the gravity of a bungled break-in at the Democratic headquarters is of a lot less consequences than getting election help from one of the United States' biggest competitor nations.

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