The Comey Firing -- Have The Progressive Journalists Completely Lost Their Minds?

One theory is that in order to consider yourself a progressive, you need first to have lost your mind.  The other theory is that the progressives had at least some slight cognition of the real world up until last week, but the Comey firing gave them that last push over the edge.  Either way, can there be any doubt that at this point that most if not all progressives -- at least those calling themselves journalists -- have completely lost their minds?

My favorite bits of evidence are the assertions from various quarters that by firing FBI Director Comey Trump has committed some kind of "coup" against the American republic, or maybe has thrown the country into some kind of "constitutional crisis."  OK, there can always be one or two kooks to make ridiculous statements on any subject.  But this was not that.  This was dozens of mainstream voices everywhere you looked.  Over at the Daily Caller they had a round-up a couple of days ago of one after another seemingly respectable news source making these kinds of statements.  Examples:

From CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin:

"It's a grotesque abuse of power by the President of the United States," said Toobin, speaking with Wolf Blitzer on "The Situation Room." "This is the kind of thing that goes on in non-democracies, that when there is an investigation that reaches near the President of the United States, or the leader of a non-democracy, they fire the people who are in charge of the investigation." . . . "This is not normal," he continued. "This is not politics as usual. This is something that is completely outside how American law is supposed to work."

From McClatchy, May 9, "Donald Trump takes a dictator’s stand against inquiry":

Trump has taken the kind of steps that would be routine for the dictatorial leaders—the Putins, the Dutertes, the Erdogans of the world—whom he appears to admire.  

From David From of the Atlantic:

The day began with Trump attempting to intimidate a former acting attorney general & Senate witness. It ends with a coup against the FBI. 

And then there's this important question, asked by Chris Hayes of MSNBC:

If we're in a constitutional crisis, what's the proper response?

Do you have the impression that because these people are on TV and talk with a tone of authority, they must know what they are talking about?  The fact is that all they are doing is displaying their profound ignorance of first principles.  

Let's have a basic civics lesson.  This is not the stuff you need to go to law school to know, but rather the most basic stuff that they teach (or ought to teach) in high school, or even junior high school.  The relevant provision of the U.S. Constitution is not exactly hidden.  It's the first sentence of Article II -- the article that defines the powers of the Presidency. It is all of 15 words long:

The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

That's it.  There is no executive power of the United States that does not belong to the President.  The power to investigate and prosecute is an executive power, and therefore belongs to the President, and only to the President.  

This is what is sometimes known as the "unitary executive."  Making the President a unitary executive with all of the prosecutorial authority under his control was a very intentional decision of the framers of the Constitution.  To learn more, read Federalist 70, by Alexander Hamilton.  It does not have to have been this way.  For example, our 50 states have their own constitutions, and 45 of the 50 have not adopted the unitary executive concept when it comes to the prosecutorial power.  Instead, they divide their executive powers, and have their attorneys general separately elected (or, in a couple of cases, appointed by some entity other than the governor, in one case by the legislature (Maine) and in another case by the state Supreme Court (Tennessee)).  Thus, in the large majority of the states, the governor cannot fire the attorney general.  But the President of the United States absolutely can fire the Attorney General, and can also fire anybody else in a policy-making role in the Justice Department, including the Director of the FBI.  That's what the Constitution says, and there isn't the slightest doubt about it.

Separate from the question of constitutional powers are issues of tradition, or maybe of good judgment.  Some saner voices than those quoted above have asserted some kind of inviolable tradition in the U.S. that a president should not fire the FBI director, so as to maintain the complete independence of the FBI.  Look into the subject, and you will find that there is no real evidence of any such tradition.  The FBI as currently constituted only traces its roots back to 1935, and the first occupant of the position of Director, J. Edgar Hoover, came over from the prior Bureau of Investigation.  Hoover then proceeded to serve under six presidents without ever getting fired, but it's hard to claim much precedent from that.  The first few of those presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower) had no particular reason to consider firing Hoover, but by the time we got to Kennedy Hoover had accumulated to himself way more power than was appropriate.  And thus we had Kennedy appointing his brother to be Attorney General, and Nixon appointing his closest crony and ex-law partner (John Mitchell) to the job, in both cases undoubtedly in large part to have an assured way to zap Hoover if the need arose.  The need would have arisen for Nixon, but Hoover had died in 1972, just before the Watergate thing got going. 

So has any other President ever fired an FBI Director?  Yes -- Bill Clinton.  Clinton fired William Sessions a few months after taking office in 1993.  Sessions had been appointed by Reagan, served through the term of Bush 41, and still had more than 4 years to go in his 10 year term when Clinton came in.  Clinton gave some kind of excuse for firing Sessions having to do with alleged improper use of an FBI airplane.  Sessions denied it, but maybe it was true.  Do you think Clinton may have had some skeletons in his closet that he did not want investigated?  Funny, but I don't remember a single outraged word in the press about Clinton's firing of Sessions.  (Coup?  Constitutional crisis?)  Of course, Clinton shortly thereafter got Ken Starr as a Special Prosecutor, so the Sessions firing did not do him a whole lot of good.

Now, does Trump have some skeletons in his closet that he does not want investigated?  Anything's possible.  But, as previously stated in a post here, I find the whole idea of "collusion with the Russians to hack the election" completely absurd.  You may believe that meme, and time will tell.  But in the end, the only place where the President is really accountable is to the electorate in the next election.