The Tribune's position on James Comey is—whatever! | Bleader

The Tribune's position on James Comey is—whatever!


  • Brian Jackson/Sun-Times Media
  • FBI director James Comey

There's a remarkably blasé editorial in Tuesday's Tribune on the latest Hillary Clinton e-mail furor. Faced with some 650,000 e-mails from Anthony Weiner's laptop, some of them supposedly relevant to the investigation into Clinton's e-mail that he'd called off months ago, FBI director James Comey was "caught in a vise," says the Tribune.

Damned if he did and damned if he didn't, in other words—an insight obvious to everybody trying to puzzle out Comey's reasons for letting congressmen know a week and a half before the presidential election that the FBI needed to check the e-mails out.

"Had he delayed or hushed up news of this evidence until, say, Nov 9, he'd be accused of protecting Clinton," said the Tribune. "But in making this public, he stands accused of doing the opposite of protecting Clinton: He's gifted Trump with FBI-attributed insinuations that there could be more than carelessness on Clinton's conduct."

The point the Tribune doesn't make is that this isn't about Comey. True enough, whatever he did he'd catch it, but so what? The choice before him that mattered was what he'd catch it for—putting out, at an hour far too late to be evaluated, vague, tendentious information likely to affect the election, or keeping it to himself?

 The Trib editorial notes that "some observers" say there's an "unwritten pact" requiring the feds to keep their mouths shut about investigations involving office seekers 60 days before their elections. Seems like a reasonable rule to me, but not to the Tribune. "We can't get exercised over apparently unwritten mandates," says its editorial. "A cynic would say nonexistent rules are made to be broken."

Like I said, blasé. An unwritten rule is a far cry from a nonexistent rule, and the cynic, in this case, is the Tribune, weasel-wording its way past a sticky point.

Comey spoke up in July when he said Clinton's mishandling of e-mail wasn't criminal yet was "extremely careless," and he was saying so because of the "intense public interest" in the case. "Well, if the public was willing to hear him out on details of an investigation that didn't lead to criminal charges," says the Tuesday Tribune, "then voters also have a right to know the FBI is back at it."

I don't remember the public deciding whether it wanted to hear Comey out on that investigation. I don't remember any choice at all. But what he said then—because he wanted to say it—was that the FBI had investigated the evidence and reached a conclusion. What he's said this time around is that new evidence has come along, it hasn't been investigated, and no conclusion is in sight. It's a fairly different situation.

But let the investigation proceed, says the Tribune, "at whatever pace  is required to be completed properly, not according to either candidate's preferred timeline."

Its readers vote and they are also "on the clock," as the Tribune puts it. But they don't factor in as their minds presumably are made up. "By now each of us surely has enough information to decide whether we want Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump or someone else in the White House,"  the editorial concludes. The Trib already gave its Republican readers permission to leave the reservation by endorsing Gary Johnson, the Libertarian. Maybe that explains the editorial's detachment. Yet it's strange to see such an important paper blow off its own choice for president as "someone else."