Bartlett: A Shameful Conflict

Trump’s response to Comey is unbecoming of the White House.

by Nicholas Bartlett | 4/17/18 2:05am

The saga of President Donald Trump vs. former FBI Director James Comey never fails to entertain. In what may be the most outspoken and belligerent case of a high-profile “he said, she said” in years, the two political elites continue to trade blow after blow with one another. For Trump, this obviously takes the form of Twitter-born diatribes. For Comey, his sentiment takes the form of subtle jabs and incendiary claims within his memoir, “A Higher Loyalty.”

Now, I’ll admit — and perhaps this is just my twisted sense of humor — that watching our president, who is arguably the most powerful man on the planet, describe one of his fellow Americans and similarly powerful leaders as “slippery” prompted a slightly morbid chuckle. However, one chuckle does not an opinion make, and I find this whole situation to be in reality both extremely shameful and woefully unbecoming. Not so far as Comey is concerned, really; at this point, his actions are those of a private citizen and reflect more upon himself than his nation. No, what rings distasteful is Trump’s insistence to personally refute each claim in an attempt to play damage control.

I understand the impulse of wanting to correct falsehoods — assuming they are false in the first place — and uphold one’s reputation. I understand that the current situation is viewed by the White House as both an assault on Trump’s character and a critique of his capabilities as president. I understand that highly-sensitive criticism from a formerly powerful director necessitates an official response. What I don’t understand, however, is why the President continues to take matters into his own, allegedly tiny, hands and tweet in a manner which in no way matches the respect and esteem of the office he holds.

For a great example of what I mean, look no further than Trump’s Apr. 15 Twitter tirade. The commander-in-chief began the day on a light note, tweeting for all the world to see that “Unbelievably, James Comey states that Polls, where Crooked Hillary was leading, were a factor in the handling (stupidly) of the Clinton Email probe. In other words, he was making decisions based on the fact that he thought she was going to win, and he wanted a job. Slimeball!” Poetic. He then followed up his act with, among many others, the statement that “Slippery James Comey, a man who always ends up badly and out of whack (he is not smart!), will go down as the WORST FBI Director in history, by far!”

The word choice here is fascinating, with “slippery” and “slimeball” being among my personal least-favorites. I mean, they’re not exactly what comes to mind when one thinks of “presidential diction,” right?

Mind you, it’s not my place to say that all of Trump’s sentiments are misguided. That’s an issue for another time. However, as an American citizen, it is most certainly my place to feel incensed that my president — the man who represents me to the rest of the world — publicly and vociferously spews playground insults at his peers. The president is supposed to embody the best of American citizenship: calm in the face of panic, compassion in the face of hatred. Yet the leader of the free world is tapping away at his Twitter page as he lambasts everything from his own Department of Justice to a former FBI director. This isn’t leadership, nor is it presidential.

It would have been more respectable if Trump had held a press conference in which he discussed the matter, or if the White House had offered an official statement, or even if the denizens of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had remained silent. Why? Because any recourse taken by the president is automatically of great import solely for the fact that it comes from him. When Trump tweets, he puts his every word on a pedestal to be shown around the world. Logically, one would assume that such power would facilitate a sense of formality, tact and awareness. But as we’ve seen, that is not the case.

When I look at how Trump’s every Comey-related message drips with vitriol tantamount to a YouTube comments section, I am ashamed that the president of my country fights the fires of criticism with the infernos of controversy; ashamed that American leaders “go at it” online like they’re the political equivalents of Mayweather and Pacquiao; ashamed that the world looks at the United States like a country of inarticulate belligerents.

But I guess respectable representation is too much to ask for.