[ by Charles Cameron — Thomas à Becket, Jim Comey, Vladimir Putin, Stormy Daniels ]
Okay, let’s start with the movie version of “Who will rid me..?” Here’s the set up, the breaking of the long and deep friendship between King Henry II, his will driven by the power of the State, and his Archbishop, Thomas à Becket, driven to opposition by the honor of Mother Church
When the King determines at last to have his Archbishop removed, he utters those words which ring down the centuries — “will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” — shown here in Anouilh‘s version of Becket at 3.32 in this clip or thereabouts:
Becket meanwhile offers his resignation unto death in surrender to the will of his God:
In Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral, a passage with which one must wrestle lays out the conflict and its resolution:
They know and do not know, what it is to act or suffer.
They know and do not know, that acting is suffering
And suffering is action. Neither does the actor suffer
Nor the patient act. But both are fixed
In an eternal action, an eternal patience
To which all must consent that it may be willed
And which all must suffer that they may will it,
That the pattern may subsist, for the pattern is the action
And the suffering, that the wheel may turn and still
Be forever still.
Becket was killed in his cathedral on 29 December 1170, by four knights acting on the spur of the moment utterance of their king, and their own certainty as to the wish their king intended to express.
Becket was canonized — named a saint and martyr — in 1173. And the King? Wiki summarizes:
The king performed a public act of penance on 12 July 1174 at Canterbury, when he publicly confessed his sins, and then allowed each bishop present, including Foliot, to give him five blows from a rod, then each of the 80 monks of Canterbury Cathedral gave the king three blows. The king then offered gifts to Becket’s shrine and spent a vigil at Becket’s tomb.
So much for Becket.
President Trump, who had somewhat reluctantly fired Flynn, suggests to Jim Comey, head of the FBI, that he might want to close down the further investigation of the Russia business:
I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.
Comey was later questioned by Sen. Angus King in an intelligence committee hearing:
KING: In terms of his comments to you — I think in response to Mr. Risch — to Senator Risch, you said he said, “I hope you will hold back on that.” But when you get a — when a president of the United States in the Oval Office says something like “I hope” or “I suggest” or — or “would you,” do you take that as a — as a — as a directive?
COMEY: Yes. Yes, it rings in my ear as kind of, “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”
KING: I was just going to quote that. In 1170, December 29, Henry II said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” and then, the next day, he was killed — Thomas Becket. That’s exactly the same situation. You’re — we’re thinking along the same lines.
That’s the direct use of the Becket theme turned to a contemporary purpose. But there’s more..
Julia Ioffe on All In with Chris Hayes, speaking of Putin‘s plausible deniability using the oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin as a cut-out:
IOFFE:It`s a very, very close relationship. In Russia, he`s known as Putin`s chef. And this is very much in keeping with how the Russians do things, right? There`s never going to be or probably not going to be any finger – any of Putin`s fingerprints on this, right? Probably what it looked like was Putin essentially saying, you know, who will rid me of this you know troublesome Hillary and everybody else kind of gets what that means and swings into action.
You might think the Becket story was enough. You might take delight in its contemporary echo by Comey and King. Julia Ioffe using the same example of Vladimir Putin was an unexpected bonus — but there’s (sadly) more..
Doing conspicuous favors and fixing things is in the nature of this bizarrely public toady-chieftain relationship. Read through Cohen’s interviews. You’ll find it’s replete with mixes of mafia tough guy talk and zany levels of conspicuous self-abnegation. It’s all theater at some level. But I think to a great degree it’s genuine. It’s the guy’s identity, like the way a top captain thinks about the mob boss he serves. Who will rid me of this meddlesome Stormy? Did I mention that Cohen and Trump’s mafia business partner Felix Sater were childhood friends long before they both ended up as top Trump business partners right around the same time? Well, that’s true too. In the scale of money both Trump and Cohen operate at, covering the $130,000 payment himself seems entirely plausible as something Cohen would do as part of the larger relationship. He probably did get paid back some way or another. But I think it’s totally plausible he didn’t. He’d love to be that guy who made the problem go away. Doing Trump a solid like that would be something he’d happily do. It’s the basis of their relationship. He’d get paid back in other ways.”
When Donald Trump, in one of his furies, makes an offhand comment about Mueller, does that then become an order in the ears of one of his loyal subordinates?
The Becket story has much to teach us.