The Return of Stuff Happens, week 17: Comey is one letter away from comedy; B.C. on the brink

When the presidency of Donald J. Trump comes to its inevitable premature conclusion — either through resignation, impeachment, or a massive, fatal overdose of KFC — the events of May, 2017 will be seen as the beginning of the end.

On Tuesday, Trump stunned the country with his entirely unexpected firing of FBI director James Comey. No politicians, pundits or TV gasbags were calling for his head. If anyone had grounds to demand his firing, it was Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. As you may recall, Comey injected himself into the dying days of the election campaign, making a public pronouncement that he was re-starting the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server because of some recently discovered e-mails. (Remember those innocent times, when the worst a presidential candidate could be accused of was using a private email server? How quaint.) Although there is no way of actually quantifying the impact, it seems almost certain that the re-emergence of the so-called “scandal” hurt Clinton. Comey later said the investigation found nothing new, but the damage was done. Candidate Trump was gleeful, heaping praise on Comey for doing the right thing, being courageous, etc.

But this week, when Trump dropped the hammer on Comey (which he did via a letter delivered to FBI headquarters by his personal bodyguard, which Comey didn’t get because he wasn’t there, resulting in Comey hearing about his firing via TV news), he said a negative report from the Justice Department about Comey’s handling of the e-mail investigation forced the firing. Nobody believed that. Not even Trump.

On Thursday, he told NBC News that he decided to fire Comey on his own even before seeing the allegedly damning report. He called Comedy a “grandstander” and a “showboat” (pot, meet kettle), and that the FBI was in chaos. He told NBC that he was going to fire Comey regardless of what the Justice Department said, which directly contradicted the White House line the day before.

“I was going to fire regardless of recommendation … and in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,’ ” he said.

And there truth comes out. While he blamed Comey’s handling of the Clinton email scandal, the real reason was the FBI’s continuing probe into Russian influence on the Trump campaign, and the U.S. election. Yeah, that “made-up story”. His claims that the FBI was in chaos were directly contradicted by the deputy director, who said the bureau had, and still had, confidence in Comey.

Firing the head of the FBI is almost unprecedented. Bill Clinton fired the FBI head in 1993, but that was because of the director’s unethical use of government money. Trump’s actions — firing a man in charge of the investigation of the Russia-Trump campaign connection — smacks of the actions of a despot. It won’t stop the FBI investigation. But it might stop the Trump presidency.

Stil with The Donald (I’m sorry, there is no getting away from this guy), the president-for-now unleashed a broadside at TV people in an interview with Time magazine.  He said CNN’s Chris Cuomo looks like a “chained lunatic,” and CNN’s Don Lemon is “perhaps the dumbest person in broadcasting.” He saved the best for Stephen Colbert, whose nightly obsession with Trump has made the Late Show the late-night talk show leader.

“There’s nothing funny about what he says,” Trump told Time about the “no-talent” Colbert. “And what he says is filthy. And you have kids watching. And it only builds up my base. It only helps me, people like him. The guy was dying. By the way, they were going to take him off television, then he started attacking me and he started doing better. But his show was dying. I’ve done his show … but when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high – highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.” (Not true, by the way.)

Colbert was gleeful, of course; this is exactly what he wanted. Personally, I’ve grown a bit weary of Colbert. As much as I like him as a performer, Trump is ALL he ever talks about, and the quality of the writing on his show is sub-standard. (Seth Meyers is the best comic/commentator of the late night crowd.) But Trump, who is more obsessed with ratings and numbers than any network president, can’t restrain himself.

In another interview with The Economist, Trump said his renegotiation of NAFTA will be “massive”. He said “everything in NAFTA is bad. That’s bad, everything’s bad.” After using the phrase “prime the pump” (which has been in use since the 1930s), Trump said: “Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good.” He claimed the U.S. is the “highest taxed nation in the world” (not true: the U.S. is actually among the lowest taxed countries in the world ). He said he might release his tax forms “after I’m finished because I’m very proud of them actually. I did a good job.”

There’s more, of course. There’s always more with Trump. But I’m exhausted.

Meanwhile, in La La Land North…

In Ottawa this week (remember Ottawa?) Prime Minister Trudeau tried out his new Question Period idea. Trudeau has decided to answer all of the questions for the opposition for one day a week, just the way they do it in London, called Prime Minister’s Question Time. The Opposition doesn’t like this, so they asked him a variation of the same question EIGHTEEN TIMES, and he gave the same non-answer EIGHTEEN TIMES. The Opposition asked Trudeau how many times he has met with the ethics commissioner about his Christmas-vacation junket to a private island owned by the Aga Khan, complete with private helicopter transportation. Trudeau, inexplicably, didn’t answer how many times he had met with the ethics commissioner, giving a formula answer that wasn’t an answer. All he had to do was say “once” or “twice” or whatever it is, but he dodged the question every time. I don’t know which is stupider — asking the same easy-to-answer question 18 times, or refusing to answer the same easy-to-answer question 18 times.

Meanwhile, in La La Land Pacific

British Columbians went to the polls this week, the the result does not auger well for Alberta, pipelines, or the Alberta New Democrats.

The majority Liberal government of Christie Clark was reduced to a razor-thin minority, which could still result in the NDP taking over. The Liberals won 43 seats, the NDP 41, and the Greens won three. However, one riding, Courtenay-Comox, was won by the NDP by just nine votes. If the recount flips the result, which could happen, the Liberals will have 44 seats, a bare majority. But wait — there are two recounts underway, so the final result of the election won’t be known for some time.

As it stands right now, the Liberals will have to court the three-member Green Party caucus to remain in power. If they can’t, the government could fall immediately, resulting in either the NDP taking over with the support of the Greens, or a new election. Either way, the tail is now wagging the dog in B.C.

Why is this bad for pipelines, Alberta and the Alberta NDP? The B.C. Dippers are solidly anti-pipeline, putting them at odds with Rachael Notley’s government. The Liberals are sorta-pro pipeline (as long as there was some money in it for them), but in order to stay in power they might have to take an anti-pipeline stance. So either way, it’s going to be much more challenging to get that Kinder-Morgan pipeline built. And if the NDP takes over and becomes virulently anti-pipeline, that will reflect badly on Notley’s NDP, and will certainly become an election issue here in a couple of years.

RIP

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The original Joes.

Stan Weston, 84, whose concept for a military action figure became the heroic G.I. Joe, one of the most popular toys ever produced, as well as a catchy commercial jingle (“G.I. Joe, G.I. Joe, fighting man from head to toe …”). I got a G.I. Joe for Christmas one year, and my brothers mocked me mercilessly by changing the lyrics to “fighting doll from head to toe”. Joe first appeared on toy store shelves in 1964, and has never left.