Thursday, September 7, 2017

Looking forward

No more looking back
No more living in the past
Yesterday's gone and that's a fact
Now there's no more looking back
Got to be hard
Yeah, look straight ahead
That’s the only way it's going to be
Yesterday's gone and that's a fact
Now there's no more looking back

~~ “No More Looking Back” by The Kinks

Before I start, I’m thinking about everyone in the path of Hurricane Irma. I have lots of relatives and friends in Florida, and New Smyrna Beach is our home away from home. I hope everyone will be safe. Hunker down, pals.

This entry is prompted by a couple of recent stories about Hillary Clinton’s upcoming book. Excerpts are being released here and there as the book is hyped. First was the part about how the Yam was creeping on her at the one debate. There was also a bit about how Sanders’ attacks contributed to her loss. To be fair, she also claims full responsibility for the loss, because she was the candidate, after all. But then she continues to blame others.

When the excerpt about how she wishes she’d “gone nuclear” on James Comey came out, that was just a bridge too far for me. Don’t mess with James! Not on my watch!
Okay, okay, I know I’m biased here. I’m in total fangirl mode. And honestly, everyone knows that I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Hillary, and I was happy to cast my vote for her. But something about this just strikes me as I posted on Facebook that I really don’t feel like reading her book and it led to a very good discussion, which made me want to write more about it here.

I think that plenty of us were traumatized to such an extent by the outcome of the election (as well as the ongoing actions of the current administration) that we are just ready to move on and start working on the future rather than relitigating the past. She has every right to voice her thoughts and I hope she will continue to be a force in the Democratic party. She is a smart and formidable woman who has plenty of ideas and I completely disagree with anyone who says she should “sit down and shut up.”

But can she maybe be a force behind the scenes?

Friends commented that she has valid points when it comes to people to blame. I don’t disagree that many of the players were a part of her loss, including Sanders and Comey (Jaaaaaames). But it is absurd to blame it on any one person or any of several people. It was a total shitstorm of circumstances, and yes, plenty of the blame goes to her.

I can’t begin to tell you how conflicted I am about this because I truly did support her. It wasn’t a matter of “I don’t like her but I’ll hold my nose and vote for her.” I thought, and still think, that she was the most qualified to be President, and I think she would have been a good one. I feel almost guilty about my feelings about this, like it’s kind of a betrayal. I still love ya, Hills, but I really think it’s time to move on.

And that goes for much of the “older guard” of the Democratic party. I respect and admire many of these folks, and I adore Joe Biden. But NO. Don’t run for President again. I feel the same way about Sanders and Warren. Continue to make your mark in the Senate. You can do good things there and have a big influence. Can we have some younger blood, asked the 55-year-old?

Non-gratuitous picture of Comey
Many of my friends are still angry about Comey, but I still get his reasoning and understand his rationale. I’m not going to belabor the point, though. I’m not going to change their minds and they aren’t going to change mine. I’ve read enough and watched enough about his thinking to believe that he was doing it from a standpoint of how best to protect the FBI and the DOJ from any sort of partisan label. I’m really not sure how anyone can think that he was for one side or the other...he was directing investigations of both sides.

While I’m on the subject of Comey, the latest brouhaha is that he was drafting a memo that was circulated within a small group of FBI higher-ups. Some are up in arms, claiming that he’d decided the outcome of the Clinton email investigation well before the FBI closed the case and even before they’d interviewed Clinton herself. My initial thought was, “A draft memo doesn’t mean that.” He didn’t close the investigation until everyone was interviewed, but it doesn’t surprise me that he saw which way the investigation was going and that it probably wouldn’t result in any charges. He was a prosecutor, remember, so he knew what was prosecutable and what wasn’t. If things had changed, the outcome of the investigation would have changed. A draft memo circulated amongst a small group doesn’t mean that he’d made up his mind. I’ve read that it is not uncommon for court decisions to be written up as a draft before the final verdict is made. So this is a silly criticism.

Anyway...jeez, I’m tired. Sometimes I just get so tired of all the chatter, you know? I’m ready to move forward.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Beth’s Books - Enemies: A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner

I’ve made no bones about my fascination with former FBI Director James Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller III (also a former FBI Director) and his investigation into “Russiagate,” and the FBI in general. As I’ve said before, if I had my career to do over again, I’d definitely consider a lab job with the FBI. Wouldn’t that be fascinating and rewarding? I sure think so.

Anyway, I came across this book and thought it would be interesting to read up on the birth and history of the Bureau. I wasn’t disappointed! Here are a few of my takeaways.

  1. I would be fascinated to pick an FBI agent’s brain (or a former Director’ me, Dir. Comey!) about their thoughts on J. Edgar Hoover. Good grief, what a conundrum! On one hand, he made the FBI into the powerhouse that it is, consolidating power and making it a force to be feared (and too often, hated). But wow, he did some really bad things. He circumvented the rule of law and sometimes just ignored the law entirely. I have read that Director Comey kept a copy of the letter signed by Hoover authorizing the illegal wiretap of Martin Luther King, Jr. on his desk to remind him of the abuses possible in the office, and it was practice to require new recruits to visit the Holocaust Museum in DC to remind them of the same thing. Comey added a requirement for recruits to visit the MLK Memorial as an added reminder.
  2. The FBI wasn’t computerized at all until the 1990s and they didn’t have an extensive network until much later than that. Can you imagine doing the kind of work they do without computers?
  3. There was some discussion of moles within the Bureau. There are many reasons that people “turn,” but I had to wonder, “How could anyone betray their country that way?” I cannot imagine that kind of treason, no matter how much money was thrown at me or what kind of blackmail or perks. Beyond the dishonesty and betrayal of it, you’d have to know that you’d eventually get found out, right? How stupid.
  4. The saga of Director Mueller and then-Deputy AG Comey defending AG John Ashcroft while he was in the hospital, fending off the nefarious efforts of the Bush administration (in the form of Andrew Card and Alberto Gonzales) to continue the unconstitutional Stellar Wind program that collected personal information on pretty much everyone, read like a spy thriller!
  5. I was surprised to read how close the FBI came to being dismantled entirely in the mid-aughts, due to the practices and directives of the Bush administration.
  6. That was staved off partly due to the efforts of Robert Mueller who is obviously an impressive person. He reshaped the Bureau into something that was more honorable and above-board than it had been for many years, and I believe that James Comey continued that culture of accountability until you-know-who fired him and I will never like you-know-who because he did that, so there.

I’ll include a couple of passages that I found particularly interesting.

“Nixon believed that if a president did it, it was not illegal.”

Remind you of anyone?

“The Watergate hearings convened by the Senate wrung damning testimony out of Nixon’s foot soldiers. Pivotal stories in the press laid out the facts. But the information, almost all of it, had its source in the work of the FBI. And the information had a gathering strength, each rivulet flowing together into a mighty river, the force that lets water cut through solid rock. Backed by federal grand juries and the prosecutors who led them, the FBI’s investigators preserved the rule of law against the obstruction of justice. And under law, the agents were accomplishing an act of creative destruction that the radicals of the Left could only dream of achieving. They were bringing down the president of the United States.”

Again...remind you of anything? Robert Mueller, save us! More on Mueller.

“Mueller had a sharp mind, a first-rate temperament, and a high regard for well-crafted cases. The future director of the FBI was a born leader. And he was a marine.”

I especially like that “well-crafted case” part. If I were you-know-who, I would be very worried.

And finally, because Comey is still my homey, this on his efforts to protest the unconstitutionality of the Stellar Wind program.

“Comey was a persuasive advocate. One of the FBI’s favorite prosecutors, the grandson of an Irish police commissioner, he had worked with skill and intensity on terrorism cases as the United States attorney in Manhattan for two years after the al-Qaeda attacks. The trust vested in him that day showed that the awe-inspiring force of American national security rested on personal relationships as well as statutory powers.”

I just bet he’s persuasive! [grin]

This took me a while to read, partly because it was a little dry in spots, but mostly because I eased up on my book-reading while I enjoyed the summer. I still read plenty on my news feed, because there was plenty to read, wasn’t there? Great googly-moogly. This book really started to buzz for me when I got into the more recent history because this is stuff that I remember, and I enjoyed reading about the background of those things. I was still kind of young when Watergate happened, so I probably need to read a book about that, too.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep living and experiencing the Russiagate investigation in real-time, and know that Mueller’s efforts will be thorough and meticulous AND that Comey will be vindicated.