The Company You Keep

For it is better to be alone than in bad company
-George Washington

A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the
kind of friends he chooses.
-Colin Powell

A credit to the community… conscientious, forthright and diligent
-Donald J. Trump
(on convicted drug trafficker and former business associate Joseph Weischelbaum)

 

James Comey, the former director of the FBI branded by many as the either the man who cheated Hillary Clinton out of her rightful place as the 45th President of the United States or as the man who awarded the presidency to Donald Trump, the patron saint of charlatanism, has been making the television talk circuit in promotion of his book A Higher Loyalty and attempting to answer the question on the lips of most sane individuals “How the hell did you let this happen?”

I myself have forgiven the former director and I have taken it on the chin on more than one occasion for doing so. As misguided as Comey’s actions were, and boy were they ever, I do not feel that the former FBI chief is a fundamentally corrupt individual, nor can it be said that he has had a history of associating with such ilk except when he was busy prosecuting them.

Despite his cringe worthy mistakes leading up to the 2016 presidential election James Comey led an otherwise dignified professional life, a life characterized by a commitment to duty. In March of 2004 he was summoned to the bedside of his boss Attorney General John Ashcroft who was recovering from gall bladder surgery. White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez and Chief of Staff Andrew Card tried to use the opportunity to take advantage of the weakened Attorney General and get him to sign papers reauthorizing a domestic surveillance program, a program that just a week prior Mr. Ashcroft agreed not to reauthorize. At the urging of Mr. Ashcroft’s wife Mr. Comey rushed to the hospital along with Robert Mueller, then the head of the FBI and a few other Justice Dept. employees to halt this assault on a sick man for political purposes. While they were successful in stopping Card and Gonzalez on this occasion a few days later the White House simply ignored the advice of their own Justice Department and reauthorized the surveillance program anyway. After the group of them began the process of tendering their resignations President George W. Bush agreed to restructure the program in a more legally acceptable manner.

As I think of the association of James Comey and Robert Mueller and the other Justice Department officials at Mr. Ashcroft’s bedside I am reminded of other duty minded individuals in our history who have banded together honorably for the betterment of society and not for their own profit or ego. The associations of our first president George Washington with people like Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin, Adams and sure there was the occasional exception like Aaron Burr, resulted in the creation of a new nation, as well as a constitution which became a model for two centuries for people all around the world seeking a future devoid of tyranny.

Our 45th president associates with a who’s who of individuals seemingly intent upon bastardizing the more perfect union alluded to in that constitution. Washington had Adams, Jefferson et al. FDR had a partner in Winston Churchill when the world was on fire.

This president was mentored by Roy Cohen, Joe McCarthy’s pit bull during the senate’s Army-McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s. He counts as his friends’ people like Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted pedophile and George Nader another convicted pedophile with shadowy connections to middle east officials. Let us not forget Felix Sater, another convicted felon who became a government informant after his conviction for bilking unsuspecting consumers in a stock manipulation scheme. He went on to gain the title of Senior Advisor to Donald Trump in 2010.His former campaign manager Paul Manafort is in jail and facing the possibility of a life behind bars. The campaign manager’s chief deputy one Rick Gates has also pleaded guilty already to one count of making false statements and one count of conspiracy against the United States. His former attorney, Michael Cohen is facing a possible indictment for some  shadowy doings in the service of the minority appointed president which include the arrangement of a hush payment  to a porn actress for an affair shortly after the birth of his fifth child in 2006. Mr. Cohen has frequently been referred to as the President’s fixer, but things that are not broken do not need to be fixed. And if things need to be fixed so often that someone with the title of fixer needs to be on the payroll perhaps that is all we need to know about the incompetence attached to the employer of such a person with such a title.

His former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. His Environmental Protection Agency chief has recently resigned after apparently spending a good deal of his term getting as much governmental swag as he could stuff his pockets with while simultaneously doing as much damage to the environment as his climate denying heart would allow. The hypocrisy continues with Brenda Fitzgerald, the former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was forced from her position after her investments in tobacco and health companies were revealed. Aside from the obvious conflicts of interest, should a person charged with leading the call of disease prevention in this country really be making money off a product which causes so much disease and death? The best way to “prevent” lung cancer is to promote the idea that people should not smoke. More hypocrisy, in the shape and form of one Mr. Carl Higbee, the former chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Services who was pushed aside after disparaging remarks he has made about blacks, Muslims, gays and veterans suffering from PTSD. It makes one wonder exactly which communities Mr. Higbee was intent on serving. Let us not forget Tom Price, who as the former Secretary of Health and Human Services treated the agency as a first- class travel agency serving his own best interests.

Hard-core drug dealers have also been part and parcel of his inner circle. Meet Raoul Goldberg, or as he came to be known in the Federal prison system, Inmate 46245-054. Prior to his involvement with the Trump family he had been busted for smuggling ecstasy and illegal possession of a firearm. After his involvement with the Trump family on the failed Trump Tower Philadelphia he was convicted of selling opioids. And then there is the above referenced Joseph Weischelbaum who pled guilty to participating in a Colombia-Middle America-Miami cocaine ring while he was being paid $2 million per year by the future president for hoisting high rollers to his casinos in Atlantic City in the mid 1980’s.

It is hard to reconcile these warm feelings for drug dealers with the president’s admiration for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who executes drug dealers and users with wild abandon and complete disregard for human rights and due process, at least according to a report from Mr. Trump’s own State Department.

But of course, trivial things like this have no meaning to charter members of the Villains, Thieves and Scoundrels’ Union. Boris Badnoff would be proud of his ideological descendants including Mr. Duterte, Reycep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey a master of press suppression and dissident jailing, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un the very personification of what a dictator can be if he really puts his mind to it and develops a nuclear arsenal.

Seventy-five years ago the world was on fire and FDR had Churchill, the hoses stand ready again and our leader has Vladimir Putin and the Villains, Thieves and Scoundrels Union. Where are Rocky and Bullwinkle when you need them?

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