I was drawn to the phrase, “Too much toothpaste has left the tube” appearing in Washington Post’s (January 13) article under the title, “Comey should resign.”
“(FBI Director James B.) Comey was in a difficult situation, boxed in by Clinton partisans and heading an agency that allegedly was expressing distrust of the Obama Justice Department. By all accounts, Comey is a decent man and a straight shooter, and it’s unfortunate that the Clinton scandals landed him in such an untenable position. But too much toothpaste has left the tube. The FBI won’t be thought of as being at its best, and the agency’s investigations and actions won’t be met with complete trust, unless there is a change at the very top.”
I often hear the expression, "You cannnot push toothpaste back into the tube," but I've never heard of “too much toothpaste has left the tube.” Does “toothpaste” here represent unsettled problems or suspicions on the stage? Is it a popular turn of phrase, or simply a writer’s coinage? If it is a well-received expression, how can it be used in other contexts?