What do Bernie Sanders’ hair and CNN have in common today? They are both saying, “Comey” every time you look at them.
The news coverage of Comey’s firing has become excellent entertainment. This is the biggest cognitive dissonance cluster bomb we’ve seen since election night. This one has everything.
For starters, the topic is too complicated for the public, and even the pundits. That creates a situation in which we’ll all invent our own version of the movie in our heads. Where there is confusion, complexity, and emotion there is usually lots of cognitive dissonance. We got all of that.
My cursory understanding of the topic is that Trump’s critics say he fired Comey to put a chill on the FBI’s investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. This theory sort-of-almost makes sense, in a hypothetical and indirect way. I could see how taking out the top dog would make the underdogs at the FBI worry about going hard at the President. On the other hand, the people doing the actual investigation are professionals, and there would be too many witnesses if they did a bad job. So that doesn’t pass my sniff test. But I can’t rule it out, either.
President Trump’s official reason for the Comey firing has to do with a loss of confidence over his handling of the Clinton email investigation. The beauty of that official explanation (true or not) is that it is making heads explode with Democrats and the Opposition Media. How dare President Trump fire the person we publicly demanded he fire!
Now we have a bizarre situation in which both sides (Demcrats and Republicans) wanted Comey fired, but they had different reasons for wanting it. Democrats were upset that he might have torpedoed Hillary Clinton’s campaign by talking about the Weiner laptop discovery of additional Clinton emails close to Election Day. And Republicans hated Comey for not pursuing a criminal case against Clinton for her email server misdeeds. That’s the perfect set-up for cognitive dissonance. I’ll explain:
Democrats and the Opposition Media reflexively oppose almost everything President Trump does. This time he gave them something they wanted, badly, but not for the reason they wanted. That’s a trigger. It forces anti-Trumpers to act angry in public that he did the thing they wanted him to do. And they are.
Trump cleverly addressed the FBI’s Russian collusion investigation by putting the following line in the Comey firing letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”
That one odd sentence caused every media outlet to display the quote and talk about it, over and over. And when you focus on something, no matter the reason, it rises in importance in your mind. President Trump, the Master Persuader, made all of us think about the “not under investigation” part over, and over, and over.
The trick here is that members of Trump’s campaign might be the ones under investigation, not Trump himself. But that’s where the complexity of this topic is useful to the Master Persuader. The viewing public won’t make that distinction. All they will hear – over and over – is the “not under investigation” part.
I’ve taught you in this blog that the right amount of “wrong” is what captures our attention and creates a memory. Trump’s odd inclusion of the “not under investigation” line is just wrong enough that we can’t move past it. It is persuasion-perfect.
The best explanation I have heard for the timing of Comey’s firing is that it comes soon after the Assistant Attorney General was confirmed, and he is Comey’s official boss. You need a proper boss for a proper firing. And it came right after Comey embarrassed himself by getting some facts about the Clinton email situation wrong in front of Congress. There is no perfect time to fire a person, but this was close to perfect.
My favorite part of this firing – from a persuasion perspective – is that it is such a strong move. The pure dominance of the play is what will stick in our minds. This was some ballsy Presidenting. That’s the lasting takeaway. You’ll remember the boldness long after you forget the timing and the details.
I’m also fascinated by how quickly the media turned on Comey after he was out of office. Apparently lots of people were afraid of him. No one mentioned that fear BEFORE he was fired, so I assume they really were afraid of him. Now people on both sides can’t stop yammering about how scary he was. Clearly it was a good firing for the country, regardless of the timing and the details.
My opinion of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email issue remains the same. I believe he sacrificed his career and reputation to avoid taking from the American voters their option of having the leader of their choice. If Comey had pushed for Clinton’s indictment, the country would have ended up with a President Trump without a “fair” election. That was the worst-case scenario for the country and the world. Comey prevented that disaster while still making it clear to the American public that Clinton was not guilt-free with her email server. He let the voters decide how much weight to assign all of that. In my opinion, Comey handled the Clinton email situation like a patriot. The media is spinning the situation as “making it all about himself.” That’s true in the same sense that a Medal of Honor winner who jumped on a grenade to save his buddies is “making it all about himself.” I don’t disagree with the characterization that Comey was trying to be the “hero” because that’s how it looks to me too.
I once heard a story about a guy who pulled a woman out of a car that was on fire. He got burns on his arms doing it. He saved her life, but I don’t like him because he was trying to be a hero. That guy made it all about himself.
I’m sure Comey had his flaws. But I don’t think his handling of the Clinton emails was among them. I assume historians will think otherwise.
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