Did anybody really believe that Trump had tapes of his conversations with Comey? What does surprise me is that all the commentators I’ve seen have expressed puzzlement at Trump’s motives for the ruse, speculating that he was trying to intimidate Comey. But the intimidation explanation only makes sense if you believe that Trump’s account of their conversations was more truthful than Comey’s. The far more likely if not obvious explanation is the one I offered back when: Trump’s phony implied threat was just an attempt to bolster the credibility of his account. (“Trump must have something on Comey!”) It didn’t occur to Trump that he would eventually have to back down and look silly. That kind of foresight would be normal for a mature adult, but can’t be expected of the man-child in the White House.
You don’t have to love Hillary Clinton to acknowledge that she has been the continual target of a mindless, hateful campaign of vilification by the American right practically since the moment she entered the national political stage. Only one woman can complete with Clinton on that score, and she is highly competitive: Nancy Pelosi. I remember when Pelosi first ascended to the House Democratic leadership; one of my Fox-watching colleagues remarked sardonically how the Dems had chosen a “San Francisco liberal.” That was just the beginning. Ever since, the Republicans have delighted in pointing to Pelosi as the personification of out-of-control ultra-liberalism, a demonic threat to America’s health and decency. They did it again in winning the special election for Georgia’s 6th congressional district.
That defeat, along with losses in three other recent special elections, has led some Democrats to believe that Pelosi has become too much of a liability, that she needs to be ditched. One of the anti-Pelosians, Rep. Kathleen Rice, was frank: “Is it fair? No. Are the attacks accurate? No. But guess what? They work. They’re winning and we’re losing.” This is bad thinking in more ways than one. First, the losing Democrats in these four red districts all greatly outperformed past Democratic results. Expectations of an anti-Trump tsunami didn’t quite pan out, but these defeats don’t constitute failures; if anything, their narrowness portends well. Second, scapegoating Pelosi would be both cowardly and ineffective. Cowardly because it would mean folding to sexist-infused right-wing propaganda. Ineffective because the Republicans would point triumphantly to Pelosi’s removal as validation and as proof that their opponents are in disarray. Pelosi is very possibly the most talented legislator in Congress. (“Obamacare” could just as well have been called “Pelosicare.”) Democrats need to man up and proudly stand behind their woman.