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Petulance and the Presidency

The recent firing by Donald Trump of FBI Director James Comey evokes the Saturday Night Massacre of Watergate; and Trump's admission that, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won’” has prompted speculation that the agency's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow was finding fire amid the smoke.

Democratic senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said: “I think the Comey operation was breathing down the neck of the Trump campaign and their operatives, and this was an effort to slow down the investigation.”

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, added: “If there was no ‘there there’, James Comey would still have a job.”

I'm not so sure. It is indeed possible, but I have long harbored a nervous suspicion that the Russia probe is a little bit of a distraction, that it will at worst implicate the likes of Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn and Carter Page, and perhaps highlight the web of financial interactions between the Trump Organization and Russian interests. But I rather doubt there will be much of a smoking gun; the possibility of this all ending in something of a damp squib has the potential of boosting Trump's standing and diminishing that of the media, and meanwhile - and to my mind, more importantly - the administration will have gone about its wretched business of eviscerating environmental protections, removing all impediment to industry, fomenting racism, and exploiting the vulnerable.

So why then did trump do what he did? My opinion is essentially the same as that offered by Daniel Roberts in Vox: that we over-analyze Trump, and that he is what he is. And what he is is a temperamental, emotionally-stunted, overly-indulged, petulant 12-year-old boy. I think this sentence from the Guardian's account of the firing is key: "He was, according to multiple US media reports, angered by the FBI’s director’s dogged pursuit of the Russia investigation, ease in the media limelight (FBI directors are supposed to keep a low profile), insouciance when it came to White House leaks and failure to back the president’s allegation of wiretapping against Barack Obama." He was, in other words, angry that Comey wouldn't defend him unconditionally, including on charges about Barack Obama that are completely and utterly without foundation.

Trump is a bully and a brat, unconstrained by knowledge, unencumbered by the desire to acquire such knowledge, and devoid of a hint of self-awareness - except in the subconscious of his reptilian brain, where he is forever tormented by a fear of inadequacy. He expects fealty, and that is his organizing principle. He cannot abide criticism or failure to speak up in his defense. That is how he has approached his business life, and how he is treating the presidency.

And that's what makes the firing of Comey so terrifying: not because he did it because he was afraid of some deeper truth being uncovered, but that he did it even though he wasn't.
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