Skilled observers can perceive disconnects between the nonverbal expressions and verbal comments of politicians. Or between their spoken comments and their subsequent actions.
Given the failure of many journalists to pick up on such disconnects and trace them to irreconcilable actions, it’s more important than ever for ordinary people to become more adept at noticing and reading those contradictions.
Today, as Vice President Pence discussed the firing of FBI Director James Comey, his considerable ability to convey conviction or dismay by a mere tilt of his head or a squint of his eyes couldn’t camouflage his willingness to turn on a dime to justify the disturbing actions of the president.
Skilled observers watch for such cues as the slight sneer, the snicker, the twitch of eyes, the turn of the head, and the odd change in vocal pace, tone or volume. Even the best of liars leak cues. Fail to read them and you may be misled or even blindsided.
Previously on this site, I have disagreed with Director Comey’s decisions regarding then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. However, the unprofessional, insulting way that President Donald Trump fired Comey demonstrated once again a crude sense of entitlement that poses a danger to U.S. democracy.
What appears to be erratic leadership or adjusting to the job of president is a methodical ambiguity in governing. The president gave as a reason for Comey’s firing the American people’s need to regain confidence in the FBI — yet the timing and tone of the abrupt dismissal damages the agency’s ability to continue an effective investigation into the alleged connections between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. How can that possibly increase confidence?
Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation and its damage to her campaign was praised by President Trump only months ago. The Director was supposedly doing his job until that job involved what Trump likely saw as disloyalty. In this case, the response to such disloyalty has been disguised as administration recognition of a rather sudden lack of confidence in Comey by increasing numbers of key people. First it was the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General who carried water on the decision. According to Sarah Huckabee Sanders today, high ranking people in the FBI had lost confidence as well.
If indeed there was a growing lack of confidence in James Comey’s leadership, a process over time, what was the rush to fire him yesterday and do so before talking with him?
For how long will such discrepancies between leadership and truth pass as presidential idiosyncrasies rather than the pathological politics they reveal? How long will it take for the press to call out Republican leaders who give boilerplate responses to important questions — that is, if they bother to respond at all since the latest fad is to rudely walk away?
When people smell a rat, that usually means there’s a rat in the vicinity. Comey’s precipitous firing raises the odor of rats — and not for the first time. If we don’t see the disconnect there, we’re simply not looking. Or, worse, we’re turning our heads and justifying what can’t be justified in the service of those advancing their own twisted agenda.