The Tragedy of James Comey

James Comey is about to be ubiquitous. His book will be published next week, and parts may leak this week. Starting Sunday, he will begin an epic publicity tour, including interviews with Stephen Colbert, David Remnick, Rachel Maddow, Mike Allen, George Stephanopoulos and “The View.”

.. Yet anybody who’s read Greek tragedy knows that strengths can turn into weaknesses when a person becomes too confident in those strengths. And that’s the key to understanding the very complex story of James Comey.

.. Long before he was a household name, Comey was a revered figure within legal circles.
.. But he was more charismatic than most bureaucrats — six feet eight inches tall, with an easy wit and refreshing informality. People loved working for him.
.. If you read his 2005 goodbye speech to the Justice Department, when he was stepping down as George W. Bush’s deputy attorney general, you can understand why. It’s funny, displaying the gifts of a storyteller. It includes an extended tribute to the department’s rank and file, like “secretaries, document clerks, custodians and support people who never get thanked enough.” He insists on “the exact same amount of human dignity and respect” for “every human being in this organization,”
.. Above all, though, the speech is a celebration of the department’s mission.
.. Many Justice Department officials, from both parties, have long believed that they should be more independent and less political than other cabinet departments. Comey was known as an evangelist of this view.
.. Comey sometimes chided young prosecutors who had never lost a case, accusing them of caring more about their win-loss record than justice. He told them they were members of the Chicken Excrement Club
.. Most famously, in 2004, he stood up to Bush and Dick Cheney over a dubious surveillance program.

But as real as Comey’s independence and integrity were, they also became part of a persona that he cultivated and relished.

.. Comey has greater strengths than most people. But for all of us, there is a fine line between strength and hubris.

John Yoo: President Can Wage War Without Congressional Declaration

There have only been five congressional declarations of war in the history of the United States, with the War of 1812 being the only one that was initiated by Congress. The other four—the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II—were declared after it was requested by the president in response to an attack. Every war since World War II has been conducted without a formal declaration, though with alternate congressional consent—like the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in Vietnam, or the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq.

.. Critics of Fein’s strict constitutional view, like Yoo, believe that Article II, Section 2 invests the president with the power to wage war as commander-in-chief of the military. Yoo believes that the framers, far from equivocal during ratification, deliberately created the tension between the executive and legislative branches on the issue of war and did not restrict the president’s ability to initiate hostilities without a formal declaration. That declaration merely provides the legal framework for the war, Yoo said, dictating and establishing terms with the enemy, among other conditions. And Congress has the authority to test the president by withholding the funding for it.

.. “The main check is the executive and legislative branch conflict,” Yoo said, and “the power of the purse.” “I don’t know if the president has the power or resources to run a long-term war without Congress,” he added.

.. blamed Congress for “cowardice” in hiding behind the president on issues of war.

.. “I’m not accusing the executive branch of usurpation; the legislative branch just throws [their power] away,” he said.

.. Even Yoo admits that Congress has been funding an “offensive” not “defensive” military that allows the executive to wage hostilities all over the globe without formal declaration or even its own direct authorization. “Congress gives money, builds assets, with no restrictions,” he told TAC after the debate. “If you do it this way you are not politically responsible.”

“I Love You, Daddy,” Louis C.K.’s Cancelled Movie, Reeks of Impunity

The film, which centers on the sexual machinations of powerful men, reeks of impunity. Like so many of Louis’s standup jokes that purport to skewer the grossness of men, it could only have been made by a person confident that he would never have to answer for the repulsive things he’s long been rumored to have done, let alone be caught

.. Before China can take his advice, she is noticed by Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), a famous director in his late sixties whose taste for very young women is as legendary as his movies.

.. The only generous way to read “I Love You, Daddy” is as a portrait of male cowardice. What kind of man would be so shamefully pathetic as to avoid confronting the famous geezer who may or may not be screwing his underage daughter because that geezer has offered to read his latest script?

.. Louis .. likes to play losers who are at the mercy of others. Often, those others are women. It’s hard not to wonder, in the wake of Thursday’s revelations, to what extent Louis has used this persona to shield his reputation.

.. “Doesn’t society have to protect her?” .. . “Society?” she responds. “You mean you?”

.. Leslie is a stand-in of sorts for Woody Allen, and the movie, which was shot (shoddily, it must be said) on black-and-white 35-mm. film, is a pastiche of Allen’s “Manhattan” style

.. Must we believe the terrible things we hear about artists we admire? Louis is asking. And, if we do believe them, must we do something about it?

.. young women are more likely than not to be careless and foolish, and to bring trouble and disgrace on themselves—China has to be an empty vessel, an absolute airhead with no sense of self and no mind of her own. Her attraction to Leslie wouldn’t be remotely plausible otherwise; she would see him for what he is—ridiculous—and laugh him out of the room. In the end, it is China who makes herself absurd. She is the one who throws herself at Leslie, not the other way around, and so it is she who ends up rejected and humiliated. Leslie glides away in his Moroccan slippers with his integrity intact.

.. the film’s final point where women are concerned: stop flirting and mooching and get to work, because, if you don’t have to depend on men for money, they can’t control you, or harm you, or fuck you over.

.. The women in Louis’s film come in three flavors: the

  1. Shrew (Helen Hunt, her mouth pursed into a furious line, as Glen’s bitter ex-wife); the
  2. Seductress (Grace, with China in training); and, saddest of all, the
  3. Supporter (Edie Falco, as Glen’s long-suffering producer, and Pamela Adlon, as Glen’s tough-talking ex, a supporter in denial).

.. He wants them to work for a living, just like he has. Like so many Fathers of Daughters, I guess, he’s counting on them not running into dudes like him on the job.

.. the antidote to “I Love You, Daddy” is Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” a movie about teen-age girls that is actually interested in them as people.

The Great and Immortal French ‘Bof’

The purest expression of this shrug lies in the word “bof.” It conveys the contemptuous French dismissal of, say, a politician’s affair, and is the best retort I know to the hyperventilating, nasty outrage that has become the lingua franca of the social media age.

.. Kim also noted, “A frightened dog barks louder.” This was interesting. The question always arises with Trump whether he is more coward than bully. You don’t have to be called Sigmund to sense that Trump’s bullying and pouting braggadocio reflect some deep cowardice. Is the combination more likely to produce action or inaction?

.. Trump, of course, is not a normal president. He called Kim a “madman”; he should know. So I am happy that the European leader with whom Trump seems to have the strongest rapport is Macron, who can bring his country’s wisdom on “the human basics” to bear on Trump’s wild leanings.