May 14, 2017

Sunday School 5/14/2017

It's Mother's Day, so there's only time to visit one classroom today. Let's see what's going on at NBC's Meet the Press, shall we?

Not surprisingly, Chuck Todd and his gang had some discussion on the firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the ever-changing reasons why it happened, and the tweet about "tapes" that Comey better be sure don't exist.

And about their new NBC News / Wall Street Journal poll which shows
  • 29% say they approve of Trump's decision to fire Comey;
  • 38% say they disapprove;
  • about a third say they don't know enough to say;
  • 6% say they now have a more favorable opinion of the president;
  • 30% say the firing gave them a less favorable opinion;
  • 61% say Trump firing Comey had no impact on their opinion of him;
  • 46% say Trump did it to slow down the Russia investigation; and 
  • 38% believe the original excuse, er, explanation.
Interesting what that says about us, isn't it?

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was on the show; one of the key points he made was that the next director should come from within the ranks of the FBI and not be a political person.
I think it's now the time to pick someone who comes from within the ranks or has such a reputation that has no political background at all that can go into the job on day one. You know who does the FBI director work for? To me, it's like appointing a judge.  The president actually appoints the judge, but the judge is loyal to the law. The president appoints the FBI director, but the FBI director has to be loyal to the law... We got a chance to reset here as a nation. The president has a chance to clean up the mess that he mostly created. He really I think did his staff a disservice by changing the explanation. So I would encourage the president to pick somebody we can all rally around, including those who work in the FBI.
I can't agree with him more, on that. Trump, on the other hand? According to Reuters, there are eleven candidates to replace Comey, including these overtly political choices  Rep. Trey Gowdy (because Benghazi!) and Senator John Cornyn (because Texas, I guess) as well as former Rep. Mike Rogers, who was on the transition team. Acting Director Andy McCabe is on the list, likely as a courtesy, since he was a little too honest (and therefore disloyal to Trump) in his testimony before Congress. 

Graham also suggested it was premature to call for an independent examination, and that so far he has not seen any evidence of improper business dealings between Russia and the Trump Organization. 

Also on the show? NY's Chuck Schumer, senior Democrat in the Senate. Schumer prefers a special prosecutor, someone who could only be fired for cause, among other reasons, and he agrees with Graham that the new director should be apolitical. 

Rex Tillerson appeared via pre-recorded interview. He talked about how he and Trump and the world need a better relationship between America and Russia.
I think it's largely viewed that it is not healthy for the world. It's certainly not healthy for us, for the America people, our national security interest and otherwise, for this relationship to remain at this low level. Whether we can improve it or not remains to be seen.  It's going to take some time. It's going to take a lot of hard work. But I think the president's committed, rightly so, and I'm committed with him as well, to see if we cannot do something to put us on a better footing in our relationship with Russia.
He also got into the whole 'values vs. policy' conversation, stemming from his message to State Department employees that placing too much emphasis on our values, while trying to conduct foreign policy "creates obstacles" to moving our national interests forward.

To clarify, here's what he said.
...America's values of freedom, of treatment of people, human dignity, freedom of expression throughout the world, those are our values. Those are enduring values. They are a part of everything we do... But I make a distinction between values and policy. A policy has to be tailored to the individual situation. To the country. To its circumstances. To the broader issues that we are addressing in terms of advancing our national security interest, our national economic interest. 
And so policies have to be adaptable. They have to change. They have to adjust to conditions. But our values can never change. Our values can never put in a position of having to be compromised. And so the values guide our policy, but if we put our values in the front of our policies and say "this is our policy" we have no room to adapt to changing circumstances to achieve our ultimate objective.  And I think if we are successful in achieving out ultimate diplomatic and national security objectives, we will create conditions for the advancement of freedom in countries all over the world.  
Part of me understands what he's saying. I mean, we've long dealt with distasteful allies when it was expedient to do so; sometimes it's been covertly, sometimes overtly.

But another part of me hears what he's saying, and thinks this is the type of thinking that allows people and companies to do the wrong thing to advance their interests. This is why people, and companies, do things to get ahead that they know is wrong.

And this is why, when the president thinks of himself as the deal maker in chief and fills his cabinet with businessmen of the same ilk, we wonder when the values and ethics part will move to the front of the room.

Speaking of the front of room, that's where the light switch is. See you around campus.