Americans watched the firing of James Comey this week through two different lenses.
One side saw a long-overdue dismissal of an Obama administration holdover who had done nothing but undermine the new president — hopefully the first of many such firings.
The other saw a brazen cover-up of an investigation of a national security breach, and a violation of the independence of law enforcement that would surely mark the first step on the path to impeachment.
That last word — “impeachment” — defines the hysteria that has gripped the Democratic Party and the mainstream media ever since the shock of the November 8 election. As soon as the pointless recounts were over in the Midwest, Democrats wasted no time in calling for Donald Trump to be impeached — long before he took office.
In December, Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and possible 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) both signed onto a bill that attempted to lay the (dubious) legal foundations for impeaching Trump. In the House, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has used her repeated shrill calls for Trump’s impeachment to rise to national stardom.
There is no factual, legal, or constitutional basis for Trump’s impeachment. Not only has he committed no crimes, but he is not even under investigation for anything — as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) conceded earlier this week.
That has not deterred the Democrats — or the media. The assumption behind most mainstream media coverage of the president since his election is that he is going to disappear somehow. Some suggested he would never actually take office. CNN speculated about Trump being assassinated before his inauguration. Since then, journalists have jumped on each new controversy as if it were destined to be the first domino in a chain that would topple Trump.
Hence all the wild bloviation this week about Watergate, and Archibald Cox, and the “Saturday Night Massacre” — all of which Trump mocked, rather brilliantly, by springing Henry Kissinger on the surprised White House press corps on Wednesday.
To the rest of the country — those who accept that Trump was actually elected, and is going to serve at least four years, like it or not — the media freakout is rather bewildering, frustrating, and even amusing.
Comey’s firing might not have been necessary, but it was certainly justifiable. Both parties had complaints about him. A charitable view of his recent record would be that Comey did his best after being thrust into an impossible situation by the Obama administration and the Clintons.
Perhaps he thought he was saving the country when he declined to indict Hillary Clinton. And perhaps he thought he was saving the FBI when he announced he was re-opening the case. And for the last few months, perhaps, he thought he was saving the Washington from a president the capital regards with dread. But all of those thoughts, however noble, are political — and not his job.
If Comey is, indeed, leaking to the media to counter President Trump’s claims about their conversations — whether or not “tapes” exist of their conversation — that confirms Trump’s decision to let him go. He is a political actor.
Regardless, it is true that Republicans would be complaining loudly if Obama had done what Trump just did. They would be saying most of the things Democrats are saying about a cover-up, and the rule of law.
But one thing that most Republicans never dared utter under Obama was “impeachment.” Those who did utter the “I-word” were often ridiculed. (Democrats, presuming they would benefit from an impeachment, almost wished Republicans would try.)
Impeachment, as we learned in the late 1990s, can be corrosive to democracy. And so, too is talk of impeachment. It may excite the Democratic base, and the pundits, and some donors. But it may also alienate the voters Democrats need to reach most.
And it is guaranteed to keep Americans bitterly split — two nations, two narratives, divisible.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.