In our last article, we said we’d have to wait for the polls to see how the public is reacting to Donald Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey. Well, the first poll has hit, and it doesn’t look good for Mr. Trump. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to defend Trump by saying the action was not illegal, while Democrats are saying it was inappropriate, at best. And the poll probably tells us more about ourselves than Trump or Comey.
The first poll to arrive was the NBC/SurveyMonkey poll.
A majority of Americans — 54 percent — think that President Donald Trump’s abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey was not appropriate, while 46 percent think that Comey was fired due to the Russia investigation, according to results from a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll.
But let’s look at the charts. The opinions of Republicans and Democrats are almost perfect mirror images: 78-17 vs. 13-86. The big problem for Trump is independents think the action was “inappropriate”—by a rate of more than 2-to-1.
Of course, the Republican defense has been that the firing was not “illegal,” while the Democratic argument was that it was “inappropriate.” If the poll had asked if it was “illegal,” the numbers would have been almost unanimously in Trump’s favor. But that’s not the issue.
“Inappropriate” is Trump’s middle name. He was elected precisely because he was an iconoclast (or “nut job,” depending on your view). So the fact that any action by Trump is considered “inappropriate” shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The poll was more enlightening on the question of “why.” Even Republicans didn’t buy Trump’s first rationale for the action: that Comey had been mean to poor Hillary. Seriously? But Dems don’t get a majority from their argument that it was about the Russia investigation, either.
However, the public does agree with the Democrats that the Russia/election issue is serious. While Dems and GOP mirror their disagreement 86-13 vs. 17-78, independents are solidy concerned 54-40, which is the same as the total public, since the major party fans cancel each other out.
Some are saying that the Democrats are being hypocritical, since they called for Comey’s head, after his actions apparently threw the election to Trump. So the Daily Caller suggests that the firing was not the problem, but rather, the way it was done.
Whether you think it’s a good idea for Donald Trump to fire James Comey, or whether you switched positions on the issue the instant you heard the news, you have to admit that it was pretty abrupt. Nobody but Trump’s inner circle had any idea it was coming, and Comey had to find out by seeing it on TV while he was visiting the FBI field office in LA. Not that Trump is ever going to listen to anybody else, but how should he have handled it?
How should Trump have fired Comey?
• The traditional way: Call him to the conference table with Gary Busey and Arsenio and the rest, and film it for NBC
• Have Al Neri take him out fishing on Lake Tahoe, and watch from the picture window
•Show some basic human decency and do it by text
Obviously, the Daily Caller was having fun with the issue, but they do have a point. If Trump had made public statements that he was dissatisfied prior to the firing, and gotten others to make similar statements, it would have prepared the public. And the blowback would have been minimal.
If you will indulge me, here is how I see it:
Trump was, no doubt, pleased with Comey before the election. He said so. But in January, Trump called Comey to his office, and asked Comey to pledge “loyalty.” Comey only agreed to provide “honesty.” That wasn’t good enough for Trump, and his displeasure gets stronger as it simmers.
Then there was the ongoing Russian investigation. There is no doubt that Russia is trying to disrupt the West. They wrote a book about it, as we noted before.
Personally, I don’t think Trump was involved. If he had been, he wouldn’t have been so public in his praise of Putin. But since the Russians were so anxious to embarrass Hillary Clinton, it is quite likely that there was contact on a low level of the Trump campaign.
In an interview with NBC, Trump now says he fired Comey because he was a “showboat” and a “grandstander.” That is actually a reasonable defense, since Trump obviously wants to be the only “showboat” and “grandstander” anywhere. And the abruptness is consistent with Trump’s—let’s say—quixotic personality.
The real danger for Trump is that his whole mentality is “us vs. them,” and he could fall into the same trap Richard Nixon did—not being involved in the initial act, but running the coverup that brought him down.
And that’s why the Comey firing looks more like Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” than simply one more petty attempt to wipe out any memory or vestige of the Obama presidency.