Part of writing opinionated political and market commentary on a daily basis is feigning surprise, anger, joy, vindication, incredulity, etc. etc. at whatever the biggest news story of the day happens to be.
That’s not difficult in the Donald Trump era. Just about everything he does is some semblance of extraordinary (and do note that “extraordinary” need not always have a positive connotation).
So on Saturday, I guess my penchant for consistently decrying Trump’s increasingly autocratic tendencies demands that I feign outrage and tell you about how the move to fire Andrew McCabe is a threat to America’s democracy.
But as I noted on the Heisenberg Report’s rather profane Twitter feed, I’d be lying to you if I said my first reaction late Friday evening when Jeff Sessions rejected an appeal that would have allowed the former FBI deputy director to retire this weekend wasn’t to laugh. And I laughed even harder when Trump tweeted this at eight past midnight:
Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2018
Make no mistake, this is outrageous and anyone who reads these pages on a regular basis knows how I feel about the McCabe situation (McCabe archive is here) and about the President’s effort to commandeer the nation’s law enforcement apparatus more generally.
But watching Trump’s ongoing trials and tribulations as he tries to figure out how to “win” at being President is funny – and I’m not going to try and pretend like it’s not.
And yes, it’s easy for me to laugh at it because barring a situation where he actually tosses the nuclear football, the chances that anything he does will ever affect me personally are basically zero. So if I’m being completely honest, writing as I am from a literal island and having very little in the way of actual human contact on a daily basis, this is just a TV show with a comically absurd plot: Donald Trump wins the American presidency helped by Russians.
When that’s the premise, the possibilities are endless and not only is there a new episode every day, we get a real-time look into what the main character is thinking via his Twitter feed.
As far as the actual reasoning behind the McCabe firing goes, it’s painfully obvious and just like a TV show, everyone watching it knows what’s going on. You can read McCabe’s statement for yourself, but clearly Trump is just trying to undercut the Mueller probe and with McCabe he saw an opportunity to advance that effort while simultaneously stripping a career civil servant of his benefits, a testament to the President’s penchant for puerility and spite.
Jeff Sessions was caught between a rock and a hard place. Either he fired McCabe or risked being fired himself. Again, it’s just like a damn TV show. Sessions is one of those characters who you’re supposed to hate initially, but over the course of the series, he becomes torn, thus eliciting some begrudging sympathy from viewers. He’s then submitted to a series of tests that finds him struggling to decide whether to take a stand. He knows that taking that stand might effectively redeem him for a career spent doing all sorts of seemingly irredeemable things, but at the same time, he also knows that standing up for what he knows is right will lead directly to his own near-term political demise. Like any good TV show, that subplot hasn’t yet resolved itself, so we’ll all have to stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Trump continues to fight a war the audience knows he won’t ultimately win. He’s facing his own impossible choice: take increasingly desperate measures to fend off the inevitable even as each measure taken digs a deeper hole or sit idly by as the walls close in.
The move against McCabe engenders further ill-will in the law enforcement and intelligence communities and virtually ensures that Trump will be figuratively crucified by both. Here’s what John Brennan said (read: warned) on Twitter this morning:
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America…America will triumph over you. https://t.co/uKppoDbduj
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
Like most popular TV shows, everyone has a pretty good idea how the final episode will play out. We all know how this ultimately ends.
But that’s not why we watch.
We watch to see what happens in between. The McCabe firing was enough to fill up Friday and Saturday’s episodes. You can believe Trump is working on Sunday and Monday at this very moment.
Stay tuned – “the ratings will be tremendous.”