Donald Trump and AG Sessions thought they had crafted the perfect rationale for firing FBI Director James Comey—one that would appeal to both Republicans and Democrats. In his July 5th statement, Comey had angered Republicans by shutting down the investigation into Clinton’s emails, while Democrats complained about his blistering critique of her actions. In other words, their calculation was that the man in charge of the Russia/Trump probe had a lot of enemies and virtually no defenders.
That is why Trump began the day with a tweet like this:
The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 10, 2017
That sentiment was repeated all over right wing media. Here’s Brietbart:
Following the firing of FBI Director James Comey by President Donald Trump, many Democrats have criticized the President’s decision — despite having called for Comey’s resignation only a few months ago.
Same thing from the Daily Caller:
President Trump did exactly what Democratic party leaders wanted when he fired former FBI Director James Comey Tuesday.
I was disappointed to hear the same thing from a reporter like David Ignatius, who doesn’t necessarily inhabit the epistemically closed bubble on the right.
It’s strange that the Democrats who were so angry at him are now furious at his firing.
While it’s true that some of the disconnect about this is a result of the kind of “spin” either side puts out there to make their strongest case, it also provides some insight into the way different people approach the world of human beings.
An authoritarian mindset requires that everyone be categorized as either an ally or a villain. White hats signify the good guys and the bad guys wear black hats. That makes things simple. Responses to individuals are pre-programmed and there is no need to waste time in an attempt to actually listen or dig any deeper.
Also, in that kind of mindset, people’s actions aren’t complicated by things like strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities. They never simply make mistakes or fail to communicate thoroughly. Empathy isn’t necessary and context is irrelevant because people are either good or bad.
Obviously a lot of people thought that because Democrats criticized Comey, they saw him as a bad guy and would welcome the fact that Trump fired him. There were multiple reports today that the White House was caught off guard by the reaction they actually got.
But the fallout seemed to take the White House by surprise. Trump made a round of calls around 5 p.m., asking for support from senators. White House officials believed it would be a “win-win” because Republicans and Democrats alike had had problems with the FBI director, one person briefed on the administration’s deliberations said.
Instead, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told him he was making a big mistake — and Trump seemed “taken aback,” according to a person familiar with the call.
As Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer is often quoted as someone who was unhappy with Comey’s performance. It is therefore interesting to take a look at what he’s said in the past.
“I do not have confidence in him any longer,” said the New York Democrat, who has criticized as “appalling” Comey’s decision to send a letter to lawmakers 11 days before the election disclosing the bureau’s new review of e-mails potentially pertinent to the investigation of Clinton’s private server.
“To restore my faith, I am going to have to sit down and talk to him and get an explanation for why he did this,” Schumer said in an interview.
Do you see what he did there? Just as many right wing sites are reporting, Schumer said he’d lost confidence in Comey. But he went on to suggest that he was going to “sit down and talk to him and get an explanation for why he did this.” That is not something an authoritarian would ever think to do.
There are an awful lot of ways to describe the various divides we experience in the world of politics. But this one seems very important. It really comes down to whether we treat each other as objects that are easily placed in neat little boxes that are marked “good” and “bad,” or if we are prepared to listen, dig a little deeper, empathize and take context into account. When we do the latter, there will be times we critique the actions of others. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are suddenly written off as “evil.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once told us why that is important to keep in mind.
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?