Comey, Flynn, Trump, Brutish, and Short

That pretty much describes the first 125 days of the Trump administration.

James B. Comey, Michael T. Flynn, and of course President Donald Trump himself have been the marquee names during the first four months or so of this drama-filled administration.

Comey, the former FBI director, recommended on July 4, 2016, that no criminal charges be brought against Hillary Clinton for her handling of classified information while she was secretary of state, and since then he has been on center stage in the Trump saga. In his second act, on October 28, 2016, Comey said the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s conduct was back on. Then, three days before Election Day, Comey cleared Mrs. Clinton again. Then on May 9, Trump fired him.

Flynn, a three-star Army general with 33 years of military service, was said to have been considered by Donald Trump as a candidate for vice president before Mr. Trump decided on Mike Pence who was the governor of Indiana. After Trump’s inauguration, he named Flynn national security advisor. Shortly thereafter―remarkably shortly thereafter―Trump dismissed Flynn because he had misled Vice President Pence about communications he had had with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States.

President Trump himself is also, obviously, a star of the show, both because of his modus operandi, including his tweeting, but also because of the unhinged desire of the progressive liberal Left to make sure that he gets nothing done. There is very little, if anything, on Trump’s wish list that corresponds to what’s on theirs. The carping and sniping have been incessant, and will continue.

This presidency has been brutish: Comey dismissed. Flynn dismissed. And now Trump mentioned in the same sentence as “impeachment” because of asking Comey to end the investigation of Flynn, and also, perhaps, because of firing him, and maybe even because of revealing classified information to the Russians (despite the fact that it was his right to do so as commander-in-chief) .

David Gergen said last week, “I think we’re in impeachment territory.” Democratic Rep. Al Green of Texas has called for impeachment, and other Democrats, Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA), John Yarmuth (D-KY), and Mark Pocan (D-WI), have also mentioned the “i” word. Most likely, it’s just talk for the purpose of neutralizing President Trump. If they really believe it, they dream, for three reasons.

First: Do Democrats really want to impeach President Trump? He is probably the best fundraising tool they have. They are already raising money on his name in order to win elections for seats vacated by people who have joined the Trump administration. Donald Trump―President Trump―is for the Democrats what Obamacare and the threat of losing gun rights have been for Republicans. Democrats need President Trump.

Second: If Donald Trump were impeached, Vice President Pence would become president. How is that an improvement for the Democrats? Pence is well-liked, well-spoken, and well versed in the ways of Washington. He would be at least as capable of getting legislation through Congress as Trump is.  

Third: How would impeachment work? Only a simple majority of the House of Representatives is needed to impeach the president, but a vote of two-thirds of the Senate is required to convict. Although the Republicans hold a majority of House seats and could therefore vote to impeach without any Democrats, the Republicans (assuming all of them voted for impeachment) would need fifteen Democrats to join them in order to convict in the Senate.

So: Republicans in the House, crumbling under unbearable pressure from their good friends in the liberal progressive media whom they admire so much (joke alert), vote to impeach. Then the Senate votes and―whaddya know?―the Democrats don’t go along!

Now what?

Now Trump and the Republicans are at war with each other. And maybe the Democrats have made a deal with the president: they won’t vote for impeachment if he promises to, say, nominate their candidates for Supreme Court vacancies. That would make today’s Washington seem tranquil, and give new meaning to the term “brutish.”

Thomas Hobbes in his Leviathan, or the matter, forme, and power of a commonwealth, ecclesiasticall and civill (1651) described the state of nature (i.e., before government) as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”―which an American wag once changed to “solitary, poor, nasty, British, and short.”

Life before government, according to Hobbes, was “warre of every man against every man.” That would be Trump’s Washington, and ours, after a failed impeachment attempt, and it is not certain that any success the Trump administration might subsequently have―even brokering peace in the Middle East―would end that “warre.” Republicans can be expected to figure that out and not, under any circumstances, go to war against President Trump.

Which is why one thing in this world is absolutely certain: Donald Trump will not be impeached.

That is the short of it.

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at

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7 responses to “Comey, Flynn, Trump, Brutish, and Short”

  1. Comey had the facts on Crooked Hillary but changed his decision after Bill Clinton met with AG Loretta Lynch on her private plane and her investigation was treated like the O.J. Trial—-just like Benghazi.

    Did Bill make Loretta an offer she couldn’t refuse?

    Did Loretta make Comey an offer he couldn’t refuse?

    Bill Clinton, Comey, lynch and Crooked Hillary should be subpoenaed and questioned thoroughly!

    Thank God for President Trump!

    MAGA! America First!

  2. President Trump has, according to Politico, told aids that firing Flynn was a mistake. I agree and called it the first major mistake of the Trump administration.

    You never fire anybody without a court ruling convicting then of a crime. Before a court convicts them of a crime they are innocent until proven guilty and if you bow to the media, the mob or public pressure because you think it will make the media and the mob congratulate you and say wonderful things about you – you are in for a surprise.

    The only criteria for firing people unless it is conviction in court should be loss of confidence – that can happen, but might reflect poorly on you: why did you hire them for this important position…?

    The President should defend his staff, fire leakers and attack his enemies, not his friends.

  3. Good heavens – an author writing under his own name! I was beginning to think noms de plume were required.

    No, Trump will not be impeached. Obviously not. This administration has had the most inept start of any in my lifetime. It seems to be doing its best to appear to be covering something up, even though there doesn’t appear to be anything actually to cover, which is either high stupidity or some bizarre form of Vulcan meta-strategy, but Occam’s razor, eh? Its nominal head is a clownish and ignorant duffer given to bizarre demonstrations of superiority I last saw in primary school. But it isn’t going anywhere – it will finish it’s term and have a second if the duffer’s up for it.

    • The inept Admin. among other things killed TPP, approved two pipelines, rolled back slews of Obama regs, got conservative justice, shook up NATO , read riot act to Saudis and made them in charge of their own defense (insteasd of us) – and made them buy Amertican weapons for that. And delivered a very cool message to Chinese, Iranians, and North Korea while Trump was at dinner. That’s inept?

      • What’s the phrase again – oh, I have it: “fake news”.

        “Rolling back slews of regulations”: apart from what Congress – not the administration – could achieve by using the Congressional Review Act against recently-implemented regulations, very few regulations have been “rolled back”, because there is a lengthy process for doing so. What you’ve seen is Trump signing executive orders calling for agencies to review regulations – not the same thing as abrogating them with the stroke of a pen.

        “Conservative justice”: We’ll see how conservative Mr. Gorsuch proves to be, but I’m in the camp which says Trump just gave us Anthony Kennedy’s successor. Which is fine, because I think Gorsuch is a sound jurist and I’m not a great believer in firebrand ideologues on the bench in any case. But as an achievement to boast about, a president filling a supreme court vacancy when the Senate is held by his party is a bit like commissioning an epic poem to celebrate having breakfast: a mundane, routine and unremarkable event. In such felicitous circumstances, what is remarkable is failing to do what should be easy to do, like repealing Obamacare.

        “Shook up NATO”: He may have shook up poor Mr. Markovich. He certainly made himself look ridiculous playing stupid alpha-male handshake games. Otherwise, as far as I’m aware, his boorish speech in Brussels changed nothing in regard to NATO except to feed doubts about this country’s commitment to the alliance. The single concrete result from the recent Brussels meeting came after a stern warning about the misuse of intelligence from Mrs. May to one Donald J. Trump, who rushed to placate the understandably furious British security establishment with promises of an immediate investigation.

      • Those doubts were clearly intended – perhaps what he wanted in a bid to get members to pay up and get NATO involved in terrorism. Did you have no revulsion at that beautiful new headquarters? ( A mile or so, btw, from terrorist-plotting centetr of Europe). $1.3 bil for a headquarters for an organization of little use and whose members contribute little. We and the Brits do all the heavy lifting. I think a “boorish” reaction was very well deserved. Let’s see if it gets some results.

        Do you know about 5 Eyes? Something Germany desperately wants entry to. If you don’t, google it. NATO is not the only game in town. There is a 3-dimensional chess game afoot, with many moving parts. Ttump may be doing it right, maybe not. But I don’t think you can take anything alone or at face value. Trump went out of his way to humiliate NATO member (other than the 4 who pay) and sow doubts. In very clear contrast to his courtesy to Muslim nations, where he had equally strong message, especially for Saudis, but couched it diplomatically. NATO messaging/behavior was not a mere blunder, but a very deliberate strategy, the whole of which is not publicly visible. You are jumping to conclusion it was from stupidity. Obama and Bush both kissed up to Europeans. Europe and NATO have only declined (NATO while managing to build lavish new hq, as has EU.) Why are you unwilling to entertain possibility that this approach might yield better results? (And incidentally, Trump is clearly paying attention to McMaster, Mattis and Tillerson. This may or may not have been their preferred approach, but do you think it wasn’t thoroughly coordinated with them?)