James Comey has had a spectacular week.
The former FBI director gave a headline-hogging interview with George Stephanopoulos in anticipation of the release of his new book, A Higher Loyalty. A book which follows his life and career from childhood up to his ignoble dismissal by the president in May of last year and has pre-sold 200,000 copies. It goes on sale today and is the unfortunate tarnish on this whole series of events.
In the five-hour interview with ABC, Comey dropped some choice criticisms of the president and his administration, chief among them his offering that the president is “morally unfit” for the office.
“I think he’s morally unfit to be president. A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” he said. (Fortune)
For those with a more sensationalist bent, he said he remained ambiguous about the existence of the so-called “pee tape” allegedly featuring Trump and two Russian prostitutes in the suite where President Obama had stayed.
“I honestly never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013,” Comey said. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.” (Fortune)
Then there is the ongoing Mueller investigation, where Comey stated that there was “certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice by Trump,” alluding to his encouragement to look the other way on Michael Flynn. He went on to say, "The foundation of this country is in jeopardy when we stop measuring our leaders against that central value of the truth."
Comey is assuming the mantle of America’s moral conscience. He says the word “truth” over 40 times in the interview – as if he is its defender. He uses the president’s clear personal failures to deflect from his own past which is not without its problems, chief among them the Clinton email scandal which he orchestrated and which, in no small measure, led to the election of the man he finds so morally repugnant.
His persona aside, the larger question remains: will this overture by Comey have any lasting political effect?
I think it’s pretty clear it will not.
With the specter of a book to peddle, all Comey’s revelations are so much sound and fury. Just another person profiting off the grand huckster himself. I’m sure the higher loyalty Comey intends the reader to infer is to the United States but, cynically, I can only think it is to his pocketbook.
This is not to dismiss a lifetime of service and execution of duty at a level of which most of us cannot conceive. However, that legacy is lost amid the stacks of his memoir, shipping to people eager to read about what a maniac Trump is, not about the rigors of being director of the FBI.
Nor does this bitter taste mean that what Comey says is not true, I am inclined to take a famously fastidious man at his word. But his account gives us little insight into Trump that we did not already have. No one is going to change their minds based on the evidence that Comey has to offer.
We already knew about the lurid pee-tape, the bullying, the disrespect for American institutions – lest we forget that Donald Trump built his brand off being the kind of morally dubious mogul who plays a businessman on TV and shouts catchphrases while declaring bankruptcy. Anyone who is shocked by this information has been living under a rock.
More significantly, as is always the case with Trump’s base, no amount of new allegations or accounts of his indecency will sway them. Just more fake news from the biased liberal media. Comey is just one more hater in a long line of haters, taking a swing at the president because it is fashionable to do so. This belief will be easily backed up by the fact that Comey really is trying to sell books. To sell himself.
He will tour the country giving talks about truth and duty for years to come. And he might well appeal to the right of center rational folks who see Trump for the indefensible nightmare that he is. But for what? It will change nothing in the final tally. Trump will endure, and Comey will have his moment in the sun.
I guess the ax I’m trying to grind here is that I had higher hopes for Comey. If he wanted to play the white knight he could have become political; he could have launched initiatives to obstruct the president and been vocal from the start, he could have given that interview and not sold books right after.
But he didn’t.