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.
The conservative firebrand has built a massive young audience by bashing liberals and standing up to Trump. Whose side is he really on?.. When Fields complained, Lewandowski said Fields was “delusional” and denied the incident had occurred... Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks suggested Fields was just angling to get attention. Despite a Washington Post writer’s eyewitness account corroborating Fields (and, later, video evidence), the editors at Breitbart opted to accept the Trump team’s brazenly false version of events over the word of their own reporter... “In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully,” he said in a statement at the time, explaining his resignation from Breitbart, “and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda.”.. Fields got little support from other right-wingers. “When the whole ordeal happened, Breitbart immediately threw me under a bus,” she told me. “Close colleagues abandoned me. Fox took me off the air. People didn’t want to alienate Trump. I was in this storm and Ben reached out to me and said he wanted to jump into the storm with me. He knew it would hurt him with his base, with people that liked him.”.. Shapiro was the direct target of at least 7,400 anti-Semitic tweets... alt-righters had gotten around to doxing his sister, who is an opera singer, and were spamming her YouTube clips with anti-Semitic messages... During the campaign, a bunch of talk-radio people were treating the alt-right as just another legitimate member of the Republican coalition,” says Goldberg, who was the sixth–most targeted journalist on that ADL list. “A lot of the GOP establishment and the cable news establishment said, ‘These guys are a social media force. Aren’t they interesting.’ But people like Ben knew that anyone forming an alliance of convenience with those guys wasn’t someone you wanted anything to do with.”.. “My dad came into the room where the kids who’d done this to me were,” Shapiro told me, “and the rabbi started talking, and my dad said, ‘Shut up.’ And then he said to the kids, ‘I have a ball-peen hammer in the back of my car and I will take it to you if you ever touch my son again.’ He did not actually have a ball-peen hammer in his car. That’s a pretty indicative story of who my dad is... Here we find a different formative lesson: Posturing with bared teeth will cow your foes into submission. In Shapiro’s lowest moments as a pundit, he is victim turned aggressor. Quick to mock, devoid of empathy, obnoxiously cocky... Shapiro has also claimed “There is no evidence of systemic discrimination against minorities” by police departments and maintains that President Obama purposefully “divided Americans by race.”.. Should there arise a constitutional crisis in which this president attempts to roll his tanks (metaphorical or otherwise) over the ramparts of American democracy, I will be relying on influential right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro to help America hold the line... Shapiro was weighing in on George H.W. Bush’s nonconsensual butt-cupping habit. (He declared Poppy’s behavior indefensible unless the 93-year-old was “deep in the throes of dementia.”).. The Ben Shapiro Show, which launched in September 2015, now generally gets between 250,000–350,000 downloads per day on SoundCloud.. A video version of the show—just a couple of cameras pointed at Shapiro’s face as he monologues—attracts an additional 250,000–350,000 views per day on YouTube... on Facebook Live, where it will regularly get another half-million views, sometimes even 1 million... Shapiro had more Facebook engagements (likes, shares, and comments) in December than any other conservative site or personality except for Fox News and Breitbart... Shapiro’s Facebook page spurred 2.5 times more engagement than the Daily Caller’s, 6 times more than Sean Hannity’s, and 11.5 times more than Laura Ingraham’s. On Dec. 1, 2016, Shapiro’s page had 444,378 likes. Now it has 3.2 million.
.. Shapiro is the new Rush Limbaugh.
.. think talk radio is largely 60 and over. My podcast is almost entirely 40 and younger.
.. Shapiro’s climb into the right-wing media pantheon is partly thanks to his deftness at poking holes in the left-wing dogma of the day
.. he speaks a different sort of conservative language. He’s handy with Twitter memes and pop culture references. He connects with a younger online audience in a way that a baby boomer host like Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity, can’
.. the character he plays on air—feels new.
.. He often strives to acknowledge and address the strongest arguments of those he disagrees with.
.. He is the anti-Limbaugh in his personal life: physically fit, happily married, a devoted father.
.. He’s also willing to condemn hypocrisies on his own side, which is a quality rare in pundits of any stripe.
.. In a podcast segment about Trump’s feud with NFL players who knelt in protest during the national anthem, Shapiro beseeched his audience to “take off your partisan hats.” He then asked them to imagine a player kneeling to protest Roe v. Wade—and to imagine their horror if President Obama petulantly demanded the player be fired.
.. “Hannity, Rush, and Laura Ingraham, who I’ve listened to a lot, are a closed loop. They don’t consider contrary evidence. Ben does.
I can focus on the fact that I disagree with how Ben weighs the evidence, but I get the sense that he is at least acknowledging the evidence.”
.. He went straight to Harvard Law, thinking he’d make lots of money as a lawyer, and graduated cum laude
.. My entire mode is speed, and the mode of a corporate law firm is to be slow and bill more hours.
.. Ben Shapiro, and not without reason. For example: Shapiro didn’t resign from Breitbart, despite ample evidence of its monstrous racism, until the victim of Breitbart’s thuggishness was a white female colleague in peril. And while Shapiro is no Milo, he has also said some vile things.
.. the Daily Wire posted an animated video mocking the Native Americans who Christopher Columbus encountered when he landed in the West. The video portrayed Native Americans as savage cannibals and then displayed a ledger comparing their putative contributions to the culture of the Western Hemisphere with those of post-Columbus Europeans. The Native American column listed only three contributions: “dreamcatchers,” “tomahawks,” and “cannibalism.” On the Western culture side of the ledger were contributions such as “science,” “underwear,” and “not-scalping.”
.. How much of it was saying Native Americans are inherently inferior, and how much of it was that Native American culture was inferior to Western culture, which is a contention with which I generally agree. I am somebody who says Western civilization is the best civilization by nature.
.. He then offered me an analogy that he felt elucidated the choice gay people have: “For example, I may have a desire to sleep with many women, but I do not.”
.. I almost always disagree with his rants, yet I find them fascinating. He often constructs well-crafted arguments that flow from first principles I deem wackadoo. This helps me understand conservative thinking even if it rarely changes my mind.
.. When it really hits the fan, will he go Trump? In a time of crisis, where will this shepherd of millennial conservatives lead his flock?
.. Shapiro insists that if autocracy encroaches, he’ll be manning the barricades. But he distinguishes Trump’s bluster from his actions. “Trump is a hammer. Sometimes he hits a nail and sometimes he hits a baby,” he told me. “The big problem I see on the right is the unwillingness to say when he hit a baby. We just pretend the baby was a nail. When he said he wanted to start looking at removing the licenses from NBC, I said, ‘This is insane. This is nuts.’ if Trump were to start shutting down press outlets, I would stand outside NBC. But aside from saying that the comment is nuts and that we have to oppose it, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Because he hasn’t actually proposed a policy.”.. With regard to the ongoing Mueller investigation, Shapiro prefers to take a wait-and-see attitude. “If there’s an actual crime there, then I think the Republicans are going to be in serious trouble... David Frum has described this stratagem, popular among Trump-phobic conservatives desperately trying to thread the needle with their pro-Trump comrades, as:
- “Hope for the best.
- Make excuses where you can.
- When you can’t make an excuse, keep as quiet as you can.
- Attack Trump’s critics in the media and Hollywood when all else fails.”
.. Lately, Trump has been doing things Shapiro likes very much. In the last weeks of 2017, as Trump began to get traction on some policy goals Shapiro favors (tax cuts and, especially, moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem), Shapiro’s criticisms of the president seemed to soften.
Trump’s split with Steve Bannon delighted Shapiro
.. one of Shapiro’s recent columns for the National Review argued that Trump is merely the “salt” in conservatism’s “stew.” Too much salt ruins a stew, Shapiro concedes, but “the occasional dash adds necessary flavor.”
.. “I don’t think he’s the world’s most stable guy. I don’t think he has the character of a president that I would prefer. But I will enjoy the policy wins that he’s brought. And I can live with that cognitive dissonance. Everyone else should learn to, too.”