White House

The Problem Isn’t Just the GOP, Mr. Comey

James Comey speaks at the Intelligence National Security Alliance Leadership Dinner, March 29, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
Both parties have become excessively focused on party loyalty.

During a CNN town hall on Wednesday night, James Comey alleged that the Republican party allows President Trump to get away with making inappropriate statements without holding him accountable.

“If the Republicans, if they just close their eyes and imagine Barack Obama waking up in the morning saying someone should be in jail, they will understand that it’s not normal,” Comey said.

“The president of the United States is attacking the Justice Department, attacking the FBI, attacking the federal judiciary, and pronouncing that private citizens who have been accused of no crime should be in jail,” he continued.

Earlier this month, Comey also announced that he was no longer a Republican, and that he was “ashamed” of what the party had become. Here’s the thing, though: To me, it’s not so much about what the GOP has become as it is about what both parties have become.

Now, to be clear, I do agree with Comey when he says that Republicans would lose their minds if a Democratic president made the kind of statements that Donald Trump makes. If President Barack Obama were under investigation, and he routinely attacked the integrity of the FBI during that investigation, I highly doubt that the GOP would ever shut up about it. In fact, they’d probably claim that Obama was trying to undermine the investigation with his comments, just as the Democrats are accusing Trump of doing. It’s not that I disagree with this at all — it’s just that I think the Democrats are guilty of the exact same sort of blind party loyalty that the Republicans exhibit. In other words: It’s not a Republican-party problem, it’s a two-party-system problem.

Just take a moment and think about our current political landscape. The people who are now obsessed with the Russia investigation didn’t really care about the Hillary Clinton email investigation, while the people who chanted “Lock her up!” at any mention of Clinton wrote off the Russia investigation as a “nothingburger” before it even began. The people who are upset about Trump’s criticism of CNN didn’t care when President Obama slammed Fox News, while the people who were enraged at Obama’s criticism of Fox News don’t see any problem with Trump’s comments about CNN. It’s not even about the behavior itself so much as it’s about protecting your own side and tarnishing the other side at all costs.

Core beliefs mean very little anymore, if they even exist at all. As Representative Justin Amash (R., Mich.) noted in a tweet, if you look at two letters to the president — one from 2013 and one from 2018 — warning against striking Syria without congressional approval, you’ll see that mostly Republicans signed the 2013 one and mostly Democrats signed the 2018. Very few members of Congress signed both. Clearly, all of these people didn’t just change their minds about the principles of the Constitution. They just weren’t making their decision based on principles at all. They were basing them on partisanship.

All things considered, I do think it’s true that Republicans would go nuts if a Democratic president did what Trump is doing — but I also don’t think that the Democratic party would speak out against it if that were the case. They’d probably defend their man (or woman) in the name of party loyalty, no matter what the cost.

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