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FBI Director Comey’s firing shows we’ve reached a new low in American politics

  • President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey makes the Democrats, Republicans, and Trump all look hypocritical, hysterical, and petty.
  • No reasonable voter can have much confidence in the government's elected leaders now.
  • It's past time for someone to play the role of the responsible and honest adult in the room.

President Donald Trump's overdue decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has removed all doubt about the very low point we're now in when it comes to American politics and civil discourse. In short, this event has brought out the worst in just about everyone. Whatever trust the American people still had in its political parties and elected officials is likely hanging by a thread now.

The worst conduct is coming from the Democrats and their usual allies in the news media. But there's plenty of blame and shame for the Congressional Republicans and the White House to share.

The Democrats who are now outraged about Comey's firing are the same ones who have been viciously attacking and erroneously blaming Comey for Hillary Clinton's loss in the November election. In fact, they didn't even wait for the election loss when they cheered then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's October letter accusing Comey of breaking the law for influencing the election and — this is key — claiming that Comey was derelict in his duty for not doing anything to charge the Trump campaign despite the fact that Reid wrote that the bureau "possesses explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government."

And yet we all saw Reid's successor, Senator Charles Schumer, crying bloody murder over the Comey firing Tuesday evening — specifically because the firing was supposedly hampering Comey's pointed Russia investigation! That's also the same Schumer who famously proclaimed back in November that he had "lost confidence" in Comey because of his conduct in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server. Never mind that, in the interim six months, Schumer had never stated that he had changed his mind. Instead, Schumer spoke on Tuesday about Comey as if he were the one man closest to blowing the doors off the endlessly alleged and still never proven collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. If Schumer truly believed that about Comey and the Russia investigation, then why didn't he say so publicy at any time since November or at least since the Trump team took office? Or why didn't he at least explain why Reid got it wrong back in October when he accused Comey of sitting on the Russia investigation, thus making him precisely not the best person to continue that probe? Political hypocrisy thrives on the short memories of the public and the news media. And it's positively flourishing now.

Adding to Schumer's hypocrisy is a coordinated attempt at incitement by many of his fellow Democrats who seem to be betting on America's collective historical ignorance. Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey took the lead on that front when he rushed out a statement calling the Comey firing "Nixonian," even though there are no parallels in this case to Watergate. For the record, President Nixon fired the special prosecutor and not the FBI Director during the Watergate investigation. And kudos to the Nixon Presidential library for pointing that out in a tweet Tuesday night that at least provided some comic relief.

The charge that this firing is somehow an abuse of power assumes an astounding series of facts not in evidence. What the FBI and the other investigators do or do not have in this Russia investigation is simply unknown to the people making this Nixon analogy. Until they do know something, they have a responsibility as elected leaders to at least be calm. But that's clearly asking too much from an entire political party that has not ceased from throwing a communal temper tantrum since they lost the election.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have demonstrated continued cowardice and fence-straddling. Senator John McCain continued his recent string of criticism of the president — specifically when he does something Democrats and the news media don't like, saying he was "disappointed" by the decision. Senator Ben Sasse said the timing of the firing was "very troubling." Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would only comment by saying he will work to make sure a good FBI director replacement is confirmed. Some other GOP senators were very supportive of the move, including the Senate's most moderate Republican in Susan Collins of Maine who called the firing an "inevitable solution" to the negative fallout from the Clinton investigation. Collins and the supportive GOP senators aside, this is more of the same from the establishment Republicans in Congress who continue to fall short of outwardly standing up to President Trump but also avoiding strongly endorsing his agenda. Some might see that position as a form of courage, but in reality the Capitol Hill GOP is trying to have its Trump cake and eat it too.

And then there is the sloppiness and apparent vindictiveness from the White House to discuss. The Chuck Schumer of last November was right to say he had lost confidence in Comey, because so had most of America. Voters were and remain frankly confused by Comey's conduct and motives in the Clinton email case. Senator Collins is right, too, when she points out that Comey simply could not go on with any credibility in the job. But all of that was true in January when President Trump took office and it would have indeed been more prudent to replace Comey right away. Coming just after Secretary Clinton again blamed Comey for her election loss, President Trump looks like he was responding to her instead of making an informed and timely decision. Whether President Trump was trying to appear overly magnanimous and forgiving to both Comey and Secretary Clinton in the face of his election victory, it was the wrong move to put this off until now. The delay does not excuse the deplorable and ignorant responses from so many members of Congress, but it aided and abetted that very result.

So where does this leave the American people? Anyone who thinks this firing will somehow boost their favorite party's or elected leader's poll numbers hasn't been paying attention lately. And those who know their recent history also know that the appointment of a special prosecutor or independent counsel to probe the possible Trump-Russian ties won't do anything but ramp up the political partisan finger pointing and recrimination.

This is the kind of move that makes everyone in Washington look worse. Democrats look like partisan hypocrites. Republicans look like they're running scared. And the Trump administration looks like it still doesn't have its act completely together or is simply executing personal vendettas first and governing second. And maybe they all look like that because they are.
Comey had, indeed, lost the confidence of the American people, but right now it's hard to make the argument that anyone in Washington has our trust or even respect. This would be a great opportunity for someone in Washington to step up and look like the adult in the room. But don't hold your breath.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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