Streetwise Professor

March 15, 2018

Fire McCabe–On the Merits, et Pour Encourager Les Autres

Filed under: Politics — The Professor @ 7:55 pm

In the aftermath of a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Minorca in 1756, the British hanged shot the losing Admiral John Byng for a “failure to do his utmost.” [Thanks to pedant2007 and Tim Worstall for the correction re the means of execution.] . Voltaire sardonically remarked that the real reason for Byng’s execution was “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres–“In this country, it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.”

Former Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe is at risk of being fired before he can quit. If Attorney General Jeff Sessions follows the recommendation of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility and terminates him, McCabe will lose his pension.

From what we know, McCabe clearly warrants such treatment on the merits,  far more than Admiral Byng deserved for the treatment meted out to him.  But there is an additional reason to terminate McCabe: Voltaire’s reason.

“Les autres” in the FBI and the rest of the US intelligence and security apparatus have to know that they are accountable. Alas, the execrable, loathsome, abominable James Clapper has escaped accountability for his clear criminal conduct.  Since he has escaped, all the more reason to let McCabe swing–for encouragement to others in the security state.  To let those who operate in the shadows know that they are at risk if they cross the line.  This is important, because there is every indication in the conduct of many of them that they believe that they can act with impunity, at no personal risk.

Many of the DC pilot fish swarming around the security establishment sharks–including, remarkably, many leftists who once upon a time excoriated the FBI and CIA–are wringing their hands at the prospect that a man so long in public service could be disgraced and punished.  That’s exactly the point: “public service” of the sort that McCabe rendered is actually a public menace, which should be stamped out with malice aforethought.

There is also the issue of the stark hypocrisy that runs rampant in DC.  Mike Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI in order to avoid financial ruin.  In the view of the Office of Professional Responsibility, FBI agent McCabe lied to the FBI: why should Flynn–whose record of public service is far longer and more distinguished than McCabe’s–swing twisting in the wind while McCabe retires on a public sinecure? Especially since Flynn probably did not lie to the FBI, and the conduct that the FBI was questioning him about (communications with a foreign government while he was a high ranking member of an incoming administration) was legitimate, whereas McCabe almost certainly lied to his own FBI as part of an illegitimate coverup of illegitimate exercise of his power.

Which means that merely denying McCabe his pension would still be too light a punishment in view of what Flynn could suffer: whatever penalty is imposed on Flynn, McCabe should get far worse.

If Sessions wusses out and lets McCabe skate, the consequences will be baleful, especially in light of Clapper’s dancing past the statute of limitations.  It will be clear that those in the FBI and CIA can act with impunity.  They will probably think that their risk of punishment for misconduct is low even if Sessions axes McCabe, but at least there will be a nagging doubt in the backs of their pea picking minds.

And that would be somewhat encouraging, anyways.


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  1. Byng was shot. (I suppose this had something to do with naval law, but I don’t know.)

    Comment by pedant2007 — March 16, 2018 @ 12:08 am

  2. ” the British hanged the losing Admiral John Byng”


    On his own quarterdeck, he dropping the handkerchief to give the order.

    Comment by Tim Worstall — March 16, 2018 @ 3:47 am

  3. You got your way. Is it possible that McCabe will take the matter to court?

    Comment by dearieme — March 17, 2018 @ 3:00 pm

  4. @dearieme–Ah, the power I wield!

    There is an appeal process. Perhaps after that he has recourse to court, but I seriously doubt that he would want to do that, if he is at all concerned about his reputation.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 17, 2018 @ 4:32 pm

  5. what – no mention of Brennan?

    Comment by elmer — March 18, 2018 @ 9:59 am

  6. Sessions reads you!

    Comment by ETat — March 18, 2018 @ 5:24 pm

  7. @ETat–LOL. He did snap to it, right?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 18, 2018 @ 6:25 pm

  8. The McCabe affair is mostly about him saving face. He will not lose his federal pension, at least not much of it:

    Comment by Tom Kirkendall — March 22, 2018 @ 7:10 pm

  9. @Tom K. Too bad. Hopefully he does time. Would that cost him his pension?

    The news re his launching a criminal investigation of Sessions is staggering. The predicate for such an investigation was non-existent and it was clearly ginned up for the purpose of leaking it to wreak political havoc. The man was a menace.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — March 22, 2018 @ 9:04 pm

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