No Comment — May 18, 2007, 12:26 pm

The Assault on Comey Begins

We’ve seen the pattern–with Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill and a dozen others. They come out and reveal some unpleasant truth about the inner workings of the Bush Administration. They have broken the most sacred law of the “Loyal Bushies,” the law of omertà. So out comes the hatchet.

I’d been wondering: who would be picked to start the attacks on James Comey, a man not so dangerous for the truth he speaks as for his own integrity (next to which Alberto Gonzales and his team look like a pack of banditti). And the answer is: Doug Kmiec, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Reagan twilight years. In an op-ed piece in today’s Washington Post, Kmiec accuses Comey of “histrionics.” And then he goes after Senator Specter with similar slashes. The thrust of Kmiec’s piece is purely partisan–let us Republicans not swerve from the Truth Path, under which the President is King.

Indeed, he says that the whole rush to see Ashcroft was really beside the point, because the President had the right to override Ashcroft anyway. In the Gospel according to David Addington, which is emerging as the new sacred text of the team Bush’s ailing and all-but-irrelevant clique of lawyers, Kmiec is surely speaking true. But this raises the question: so why did they go visit Ashcroft in his hospital bed to get that signature? Indeed. If you read Kmiec’s hatchet job, be sure to see Marty Lederman’s brilliant take-down of his whole argument published over at Balkinization. The only thing that survives from Kmiec’s piece is the Washington Post’s unbroken track record as official apologist for the Bush Administration.

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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