Editorial: Comey, Trump and the believers

  • Former FBI director James Comey pauses during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday. AP

Friday, June 09, 2017

There are millions of Americans who believe in Donald Trump. They believe he has been treated unfairly by the press and establishment politicians of both parties. They believe he loves his country so much that he was willing to give up his glamorous lifestyle to be a lowly public servant. They believe that if his enemies would only stop hounding him, he would “make America great again.”

It’s unlikely that many of Trump’s core supporters lost faith in the president as a result of former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. They stood by him when he admitted to lying about Barack Obama’s birthplace. They stood by him when he bragged about sexual assault. They stood by him when he refused to release his tax returns. They stood by him when he used the office of the president to help his family’s private empire. They will stand by him now, even as the stench of obstruction of justice grows stronger.

Moving forward, rock-solid support of the president won’t be easy, but the comfortable counter-narrative prepared by Breitbart and Fox News will help. Those news threads, knitted together to form a security blanket for Trump die-hards, were fortified on Thursday by Comey’s testimony about former attorney general Loretta Lynch. Comey said Lynch asked him to refer to the Hillary Clinton email probe as a “matter” rather than an “investigation,” which Comey said gave him “a queasy feeling” – and rightfully so.

That part of Comey’s testimony was important for the Trump people, most of whom seem to hate Clinton more than they like their president. And those people are easy to spot. Mention Russian hacking and they bring up Benghazi. Suggest that Trump is corrupt and they turn the conversation to Clinton’s email server. Talk about Michael Flynn and they say, “What about Loretta Lynch?”

Clinton lost the election and has begun the slow fade into political history, but it’s the Trump supporters who don’t want her to go away. She is the reason they voted for Trump, and without her their vote doesn’t make nearly as much sense. Trump didn’t simply validate their hatred, he embodied it. Now, like Comey, they don’t want to be alone with him.

Regardless of where you are politically, Trump isn’t a likeable guy. He just isn’t. George W. Bush, whatever you thought of his policies, always came off as somebody you would enjoy having dinner with. The same is true of Obama, a well-read, funny, sports fan with eclectic musical taste. Trump, on the other hand, is the bad guy from central casting. He’s a bully – just ask the people who work for him. The way he has treated women throughout his life is repugnant. He lies frequently, and then vilifies journalists who call him on it. As a developer, he gained a reputation for stiffing small contractors just because he knew he was wealthy enough to get away with it. As president, he demanded loyalty from the director of the FBI and then fired him when he didn’t get it. Trump isn’t John Wayne; he’s Liberty Valance.

There was no bombshell in the Comey testimony. Like most Americans, he thinks Trump is a liar. He believes the president tried to derail the Flynn investigation. And lordy, he hopes there are tapes. But at the end of the day, the people who have defended Trump all along will find enough to hold on to.

There are a lot of good people in this country who are all in on Trump. He told forgotten, marginalized people what they wanted to hear, what they needed to hear. He spoke to them when other candidates couldn’t even see them. He nurtured their anger and helped it grow, then he rode that furious wave into the White House.

They want so much for him to be the hero that hard-working, God-fearing Americans have been waiting for. But sometimes, when you want something too much, it makes you blind.