The headlines and editorials in the aftermath of James Comey’s decision to not recommend a continued case against Hillary Clinton regarding her email server were full of praise for the director and defended him against Republican attacks. The Washington Post profiled “The plain-speaking FBI director: James Comey delivers ‘hard truths’” – “It was, say those who know him, classic Jim Comey: stern, unflinching and standing on principle — politics and position be damned.” http://vlt.tc/2m7i  The New York Times praised his “candor and transparency”. http://vlt.tc/2m7h  At The Huffington Post, they wrote “Comey, a 6-foot-8 Irish-American with impeccable bipartisan (but mostly Republican) credentials, has effectively avoided turning the nightmarish circus of the 2016 campaign into a full-blown apocalypse.”  http://vlt.tc/2m7j  And Dana Milbank, always subdued, wrote that “Republican attacks on Comey undermine the rule of law.” http://vlt.tc/2m7g

Well, apparently attacks on Comey no longer undermine the rule of law, because now he’s being targeted in an official complaint alleging he has, by notifying Congress of significant new evidence discovered in the case, violated the Hatch Act. http://vlt.tc/2m7k  What a difference a letter makes. Oh – and he was right, they’re new. http://vlt.tc/2m7l  “The FBI has found emails related to Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state on the laptop belonging to the estranged husband of Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner, according to a U.S. official. These emails, CBS News’ Andres Triay reports, are not duplicates of emails found on Secretary Clinton’s private server.” So much for that talking point.

This email storyline will sort itself out one way or another. But what we have here is a perfect example of how fickle bipartisan attitudes can undermine faith in institutions. When the FBI and its investigations are viewed through a lens not of what was done, whether it was legal or not, whether it violated classification rules or not, but simply based on what the end goal is – at this juncture, the maintaining of the Democratic tribe in power – it becomes an institution whose every move is viewed through that lens.

So in short order we’ve gone from the claim that an election can be “rigged” being totally outside the norms, irresponsible and abhorrent, to claiming the FBI is attempting to do just that. http://vlt.tc/2m6v  “Perhaps in part because Trump performed better than Clinton, the media made major hay over [his refusal to back off from the “rigged” talk], with the headlines and non-stop cable shows touting this as a major problem. But after FBI Director James Comey told Congress that he’d reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information via a secret server, Clinton operatives began claiming, well, that the system was rigged.

“Harry Reid said that Comey had violated the Hatch Act by doing his job. Clinton surrogates said that it was an attempt to “hijack” the election. Some are calling it a “coup.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said that “America is perilously close to a failed state.”…

“In just the last week alone, in response to the very bad news about Hillary Clinton being investigated by the FBI, her campaign placed conspiracy theory stories at friendly outlets and with friendly reporters and then promoted the heck out of them on the trail. One was that Trump had a double-secret server set up to communicate with a Russian bank. He doesn’t. Even The New York Times debunked it.

“Clintonistas and media allies pushed stories about orgies and rape. Some pushed the false story that the FBI was leaking documents about Vince Foster as an attack on Clinton. In fact, they’d been released long ago. Even Laurence Tribe was getting into the act, pushing a conspiracy theory that Trump had somehow corrupted the FBI itself. Some said that investigating Clinton’s mishandling of classified information was “the worst thing the FBI has ever done.”

This is how faith in institutions degrades – just as we’ve seen faith degrade in the Supreme Court, the IRS, and a host of bureaucratic institutions. If they are viewed as mere proxies for what the media and political elite want them to do, to the point that failing to do so results in Hatch Act accusations, media blackballing, and desperate conspiratorializing, the degradation of trust is baked into what comes next. And for the workers at these institutions, you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t – you’ll just be damned by different people. And if the people who damn you are currently in power, it’ll be a lot worse for you.

Today’s Transom is brought to you by Evangelicals for Life, a gathering of pro-life Evangelical leaders in Washington D.C. January 26-28, 2017. Sign up today at http://www.evangelicals.life/

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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