O Comey, All Ye Faithful!
If I was told to pick just one person I believed was the most to blame for the current political fiasco we find ourselves in it would be a no-brainer. “James Brien Comey,” I would answer, without skipping a beat.
Yep, I contend that if then director of the FBI hadn’t made an announcement 10 days before the 2016 presidential election that his agency was re-opening its investigation of candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails, we wouldn’t be facing the American Armageddon we are today. Of course, we’ve subsequently learned that Russia’s meddling had a lot to do with it too. But Comey’s ill-timed (and proven to be unnecessary) declaration about Clinton was a tectonic shift in public perception; the ultimate game changer, so to speak.
I could probably continue to bash Mr. Comey for this entire blog post, but this is a writing blog, so I’ll refrain from any additional political commentary. Instead I want to talk about his recently published book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, which currently resides at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. It’s received a lot of press, and Mr. Comey has been working the talk show circuit promoting it. It’s clear he desperately wants people to read it, and there’s an excellent reason. In it he lays out a very lawyerly argument for why he’s done what he’s done throughout his career, including the ill-fated Hillary announcement just before the election, up to and including the actions he took that lead to his firing by Donald Trump.
I read it in 24 hours. Not because I had to in order to write this blog post, or for a review of the book for another publication. I read it in 24 because it’s beautifully written, and Comey opens himself up in a way that made me feel I was hearing from a man of honor and integrity. Comey intimately drew me in. I found myself liking him, despite the devastating consequences of his actions for ‘my team’ in the winter of 2016. By the end of the book if I had to find him at fault for anything, I would say he was remarkably naïve to believe there would be no repercussions for his refusal to pledge his fealty to Trump. As he mentioned to Anderson Cooper during a town hall-style interview at Comey's alma mater, William & Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, he “was stunned” that Trump fired him; such innocence from a man that had previously gone head-to-head with Mafia bosses and drug lords seems completely unfathomable!
In reading the book I learned Comey had suffered personal trauma at an early age, the consequences of which stuck with him throughout his life and career. It molded him into a man who doesn’t like bullies. It was therefore inevitable that he would cross swords with the man in the White House who promotes himself as a Bully-in-Chief.
I also learned Comey doesn’t care much for liars. In contrast Trump, as reported in The Washington Post last week, just passed the 3,000 mark in the number of falsities he has uttered during his presidency, (that’s an average of 6.5 lies per day). I never once got the impression that Comey was untruthful. In fact, he seems overly self-reflective, constantly checking himself to ensure he is not overstating his message in any way. He speaks of personal loss and coming to terms with it, and learning to grow in spite of it, which comes across as heartfelt and compassionate. And he really, really believes in maintaining one's integrity, regardless of external pressure.
In sum, I came away liking the guy even though I really didn’t want to before I started it.
But more importantly, I came away BELIEVING him. If our choice is to believe James Comey or Donald Trump, there is no question in my mind which of the two men stands on the right side of history; and considering I hold Mr. Comey personally responsible for the destruction of American democracy as we know it (okay, that maybe a tad overly dramatic) he clearly wrote quite some book.
Get it here. It’s worth the read.