Friday, June 09, 2017

On loyalty

I'm preoccupied today, but just wanted to drop some unoriginal thoughts here about the Comey hearing on Thursday.

Comey's opening statement reported that, when Trump pulled the FBI director into an unexpected private conversation, he said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.”

After Comey's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the President's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, both denied the exchange and focused on the concept:

“The President also never told Mr. Comey, quote, I need loyalty, I expect loyalty, close quote. He never said it in form, and he never said it in substance,” Kasowitz said.

But, Kasowitz hedged, “Of course, the Office of the President is entitled to expect loyalty from those who are serving the administration.”

That seems contradictory.

During the Comey testimony the Washington Post ran a graphic (can't find it now; perhaps the Post thought it ephemeral) showing what text MSNBC, CNN, and Fox were running under their coverage. Fox was somewhat reticent -- many of the early chyrons said something like: "Comey -- Trump asked for loyalty".

I just wonder: have the Republicans run focus groups and found that their voters view government and rulers in personal terms. Loyalty is often a positive quality between individuals, especially between friends. Perhaps in Fox-world, asking for loyalty suggests good character.

But if you view government and democracy from an institutional perspective, what commands loyalty is not particular individuals or leaders. Democratic loyalty would be to the country, to values and abstract customs, to such enduring framing norms as the Constitution or the obligation to "take care that laws are faithfully executed" (the presidential oath).

Trump pretty clearly knows only the sort of loyalty that mafia bosses understand. Via CNN:

During a question-and-answer session from The Learning Annex Wealth Expo, Trump was asked for the "key things" a boss should look for when hiring someone and building a team. Trump was blunt.

"The thing that's most important to me is loyalty," Trump said. "You can't hire loyalty. I've had people over the years who I swore were loyal to me, and it turned out that they weren't. Then I've had people that I didn't have the same confidence in and turned out to be extremely loyal. So you never really know."

He added: "The thing I really look for though, over the longer term, is loyalty."

Loyalty to Trump means to him, personally -- no reciprocity for this guy.
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Peter Beinert has a thoughtful take on all this.

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