Putting GOP conspiratorialists in perspective

FILE - In this June 8, 2017 file photo, former FBI director James Comey speaks during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, in Washington. Comey defended the agency Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, on Twitter, writing, "All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. " President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have been attacking the FBI for its investigation of potential ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
Former FBI director James Comey.

As I understand the latest developments in the conservative realm where facts have lost their currency and conspiracy theories hold sway, the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller have been exposed as instruments of the Deep State, skullduggerously engineering a coup against Donald Trump.

It can give you vertigo, trying to follow all the twists and turns the cockamamiacs spin out as they peer into their conspiracy kaleidoscopes. And whiplash, too, watching President Trump and his GOP enablers and media lackeys shift their view of people and events depending on whether their actions are helpful or hurtful to Trump.

Sometimes, when dealing with conspiracy theorists — be they true believers, party-above-all hyperpartisans, or conservative-media buckrakers flying under flags of convenience — it’s instructive to examine how their past assertions have fared.


Everyone knows by now that Trump’s claim that President Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate was fake was just so much rot. But let’s look at the conservative conspiratorialists’ view of former FBI director James Comey, who in their hysterical conjecture has been part of the Deep State’s determined effort to oust Trump.

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This would no doubt tax an elephant’s memory, but recall that when Comey and the FBI were initially investigating Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, leading right-wing commentators considered him the very personification of an intrepid investigator. A guy “with impeccable integrity,” opined Rush Limbaugh. Someone “respected on both sides of the aisle,” said Sean Hannity.

Until Comey announced, in July 2016, that he wouldn’t recommend prosecution of Clinton.

“If you don’t think the fix is in here, you do not understand your government today,” declared Hannity.

That’s also when Trump, by then the GOP’s de facto nominee, took up what would be one of his main campaign canards: “Totally rigged,” he proclaimed. Over time, Trump and his enablers would sketch out this theory of the world: The FBI had tanked the investigation because a political action committee controlled by Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe had made big campaign contributions to the wife of Andrew McCabe, who later became the bureau’s deputy director and as such, had an oversight role in the Clinton e-mail investigation.


And so it went, until a strange thing happened. In late October, Comey informed Congress that more e-mails had surfaced and the FBI was reviewing those. Campaigning in New Hampshire just after the news broke, Trump spun out his standard conspiratorialist fare.

But Comey’s October surprise didn’t fit with the storyland storyline of a rigged probe, so Trump had to improvise. Calling the original decision “a grave miscarriage of justice,” Trump said: “I have great respect for the fact that the FBI and the DOJ are now willing to have the courage to right the horrible mistake that they made.” Over the next few days, Trump was almost generous. “It took a lot of guts,” he said of Comey. “He brought back his reputation.”

The FBI’s move certainly helped Trump. The news refocused attention on Clinton’s e-mail; there’s a reasonable argument that it cost her the election. Embittered Democrats would grow even angrier to learn later that the FBI had also been investigating the Trump camp’s Russia ties during the campaign but had made no mention of it.

So, to a rational person, Comey’s late, Clinton-damaging intervention should have put to rest the notion that the FBI director had tanked the investigation in July to help her.

And yet, when, two days before the election, Comey announced that the FBI had found nothing to alter its previous conclusion against prosecuting, Trump was back at it. Claiming there was no way the FBI could have reviewed the new e-mails in just eight days, he said: “Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it.”


The problem with the Conspiratorial State’s delusions is that, when you look closely and think critically, their narrative doesn’t square with reality. Not that that matters to the denizens of that wild-eyed region. You’ll never talk them out of their delusions.

But their rantings shouldn’t distract those of us who inhabit the rational world.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.