or Donald Trump: James Comey::Jerry Sandusky:Joe Paterno
or Donald Trump is to James Comey as Jerry Sandusky is to Joe Paterno.
I’m seeing a phenomenon play itself out in the media that is very disturbing because it echoes the occurrence we saw with the destruction of Joe Paterno and many others who were touched by the living, behavioral catastrophe who was Jerry Sandusky, the convicted child molester who wreaked havoc over Pennsylvania State University.
It’s common to read articles that begin with the phrase, “I’m not an apologist for [so-and-so], but…” (the ominous ‘but’). Well, let me get it right out there, this article is most definitely an apology for James Comey and I am an apologist for him. I don’t know James Comey. I didn’t read every single word about his screw-up with the Hilary Clinton email mess, nor did I study his track record before it, of supposedly setting himself up as a “show-boater,” or self-promoter. But I did watch perhaps thousands of hours of non-Fox news coverage. So I know the plot line and a lot of the details.
I do believe that Comey had an impossible decision with the Clinton emails. I do believe that he felt the less-likely-to-be-damaging path was to reveal the inquiry because Clinton seemed like a slam dunk to win, so his revelation would do no harm. I imagined this rationale long before his recent (April 2018) explanations to that effect. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, his main mistake seems to have been failing to emphatically and openly share both the decision-making on this matter, and the publicizing of it with a group of senior FBI people. It never for a moment should have had his sole name on it. Perhaps, for all we know, he was totally alone in the decision. If so, his mistake was worse.
But this is all totally meaningless for several reasons, and only the bizarro-world of Donald Trump has made it a discussion matter. First, Hilary Clinton seems to have lost because of a perfect storm that starts with her own vulnerabilities and mistakes. The list of additional factors is tiresome so I’ll forego it. Secondly, Trump won, so Comey’s damaging Clinton cannot be something of blame by Trump.
So in what twisted world can it possibly matter? In a world where a monster destroys every life around him. James Comey — like you and me and Joe Paterno — made mistakes. Like Joe, he climbed to the top of the mountain in his domain. He seems like a normal guy, Comey, some said ‘choirboy’ face I seem to recall. He seems like a guy who had supporters and detractors. (Try to find someone aggressive enough to climb to the top in any field, who has only supporters.) And maybe he absolutely was a showboater (the next step beyond self-promoter). But only when the Trumps or Sanduskys arrive do the choirboys start getting blamed like they’re the rapists. When the Penn State scandal was in full flower, I tried to explain that the various on-lookers — from Joe Pa’ to Mike McQueary, or the provost, or security chief, or the then Attorney General-turned governor—all somehow looked like flagrant criminals in the 20/20 vision of hindsight. The weakness of our ex post-facto history — our self-righteous review — is that no one along the entire chain has the entire chain at their purview; each has only a quick glance, except perhaps the wife, of something horrific. To the extent that some had repeated views, I agree they share greater guilt, and they would seem to be among some who were found culpable. We each said to ourselves, “If it were me, I would have been the paragon of virtue. I would have stood up. I would have slayed the monster.” Right. Then explain the recent incarnation of the story, the Olympic doctor-child-molester, where somehow over 125 girls’ immediate communities saw nothing. The monster does not hand out cards saying, “Yes, they’re telling you the truth and yes, it’s me.” The monster is charismatic, shrewd, disarming, elusive, tactical.
And now, the monster has help destroying another choirboy. (There was never a college football coach who had achieved a perception, even if you want to argue it was a lie even before Jerry Sandusky, than Joe Paterno. He graduated students. He demurred the big bucks or limelight.) So Comey screwed up a big decision that ended up becoming wrapped in scandal, ensconced in America’s biggest political firestorm ever. In any other world, a world without Trump as president, Mr. Comey would still be FBI director, one who makes mistakes, like you and me. But now he is Joe Paterno, hideous villain. A six-foot-eight man who (with his publisher’s idiotic guidance), is being questioned for getting into a hand-measuring fight with a short-fingered vulgarian. And guess who is winning?
Because the press — even the liberal press — is allowing the discussion to include Comey’s book’s childish matters to get airtime, the game is all but handed to Little Donald. Another monstrous and unimaginable victory. Brilliant. A smart, seeming choirboy of a man who rises to the top of his field is now a pariah. That is the power of the monster.
Pray that he doesn’t come for you. He won’t hand you a card.