In the Bizarro World of the Trump administration, it’s only fitting that the president serve as publicity director for James Comey’s big book tour. (In the old Superman comics, Bizarro World was an upside-down reality where wickedness was virtue and vice versa.) Supposedly, Trump’s stomping around the White House and various golf courses red-faced with anger, emitting smoke from his ears.
So what else is new?
Meanwhile, Trump’s demands that the former FBI director be jailed for the crime of lese-majeste (defaming the emperor) have succeeded in making his book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership Amazon’s #1 non-fiction best-seller. There’s a more complicated explanation, but Trump’s just blowing smoke as usual.
If people took Trump’s temper tantrums seriously, things could get dangerous. But nobody does. The man’s as thin-skinned as a virgin bride who’s afraid her butt looks too big in a wedding dress. For a guy whose greatest political talent is dishing it out—“Liddle Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” etc.—he’s extremely bad at taking it.
Historically bad, in fact. Considering that Comey’s bungling interventions into the 2016 campaign did more to make Trump president than Vladimir Putin, it’s tempting to wonder if he’s simply returning the favor—a pro-wrestling fake feud to keep the Fox News audience aroused.
However, judging by early reviews and Comey’s TV appearances, I suspect a lot more people are going to buy the book than will actually read it. First, because bookshelves everywhere groan with stultifying treatises on “leadership”—elaborate excuses for paying corporate bureaucrats like Stormy Daniels.
Then too Comey certainly hasn’t held much back on TV.
“I don’t buy this stuff about [Trump] being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. 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.”
So far so good, although I’d add that intelligence is one thing, ignorance quite another. Trump’s a terrific bluffer, making up for his alarming lack of knowledge by reading people acutely. Alas, it’s impossible to have a coherent Middle East policy if you know nothing about Syria’s ethnic and religious stew and can’t find Iran on a map. Remember, this is a guy who went broke running casinos. He bluffed his way into a half-dozen bankruptcies.
Then they put him on reality-TV, a faker’s paradise, and he’s gotten himself in way over his head again.
Compare author Comey, Dudley Do-Right in a G-Man suit: an honest, hardworking lawman with a sterling reputation and the political acumen of a fourth grader.
How can a man have the physical and moral courage to prosecute the Gambino crime family, scale the career ladder to become the nation’s top law enforcement officer, and yet have no clue how his ill-considered interventions into the 2016 presidential campaign affected the race?
Does Comey really not grasp how his comparing President Trump to a mob boss—however justified—might affect his usefulness as a witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe?
“I think he is a man of integrity,” former Justice Department official Matt Miller told the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, “but he also thinks of himself very much as a man of integrity and likes the spotlight that highlights that.”
In Comey’s version, he appears blindsided by his own moral vanity. Here’s what he told Stephanopoulos about why, as FBI Director, he declined to sign an October 2016 statement by the nation’s intelligence agencies exposing Russian attempts to hijack the presidential election: “[T]here’s an important norm that I’ve lived my whole government career obeying. If you can avoid it, you should not take any action in the run-up to an election that could have an impact on the election.”
Why perish the thought! Yet on October 28, Comey announced that potential new evidence compelled him to re-open the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s accursed emails—evidence that proved to be literally non-existent.
The national media went crazy, Clinton’s poll numbers plummeted, and that was that. Comey alibis that he expected Clinton to win anyway and was keen to protect the new president’s legitimacy. Instead, he appears to have been covering his own pasty white posterior with both hands.
I’m with Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce: Comey “knew that both campaigns were being investigated, and that one of those investigations [the Trump/Russia probe] was considered by his colleagues to be far more serious than the other. His answer is, quite literally, unbelievable.”
No Comey, no Trump. It’s that simple.
IMAGE: FBI Director James Comey arrives for a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts