The Comey Question

I suppose that any blog that bills itself as dedicated to “current events” has, at some point, got to talk about James Comey. Of course, so much has been said already, so I’ll try to keep this short and limit it to mostly original ideas, instead of just summarizing what others have already written.

I would venture to say that, despite all his recent decisions, James Comey remains somewhat of a binary figure for most Americans. I think this is due to the fact that the media loves a good narrative, complete with emotions, heroes, and villains. In this story, Comey usually comes out as the hero, the gallant FBI man fighting against the forces of secrecy and obfuscation, attempting to topple the nefarious plot of an evil foreign government.

This is a good story, but at the end of the day, it’s just that: a story. Nobody in real life is that cut and dried. Recently, in fact, the New Yorker had a fantastic article on Comey’s unusual intellectual history. Over the course of his career, he has veered between the ideology of a communist and that of a Reagan republican. His public life is a clear study in attempting to be perceived as independent and apolitical in an increasingly partisan world. These attempts came to a head with the Hillary Clinton debacle, in which Comey, impressively, managed to anger both major parties within the span of a few months.

The irony, of course, is that, for all his effort to appear at a remove from “politics as usual”, Comey is clearly an extremely cunning political operative. This much was demonstrated yesterday, when Comey provided a truly damning testimony against the Trump administration. In his actions, it is evident that his goal was to stay one step ahead, in everything from writing down all his conversations with Trump to orchestrating the leak of his memo in an attempt to get a special prosecutor appointed, the latter of which, of course, worked flawlessly.

Actually, it’s not that surprising that Comey went to all this trouble considering that, even though he declined to state it outright, his testimony strongly implies, if not obstruction-of-justice, at least behavior that is strongly borderline. I think it has to be reiterated that this is an extremely serious allegation for anyone to make against the president, let alone Comey, and the Republican defense that Trump was essentially too incompetent to know what he was doing is probably not going to hold up against it. Of course, Trump immediately dismissed Comey’s testimony as lies, but surely, Comey predicted this as well. Presumably, this is the reason that he was so meticulous about recording all his conversations with Trump. Furthermore, even if it comes down to a he-said-she-said sort of thing, I think Comey still has an advantage here in terms of credibility. Essentially, then, the testimony that he gave was perhaps not as risky or surprising as it might have seemed, considering that there seems to be a strong chance of all this working out in Comey’s favor.

The fact that Comey went to such trouble and seems to have orchestrated everything so carefully begs the question: What is his endgame? Well, obviously, he is a man of the law; Presumably, then, he wishes to see justice administered with as much fairness and conformance to the truth as possible. I would be willing to bet, however, that he’s also at least partially motivated by the petty desire for revenge. After all, Comey does not strike me as a man who likes to be told what to do, especially if those orders go against his principles. Trump, on the other hand, is a man who loves telling people what to do, and has no principles. In hindsight, it’s not that surprising that their relationship was so fraught. In that light, surely, Comey viewed his firing as an illegitimate and unfair display of power, if nothing else. Furthermore, the fact that Trump then went around claiming (without evidence) that Comey’s subordinates had all lost faith in him must have been infuriating.

I suppose the reason I find this interesting is that Comey is an inherently fascinating character: Unpredictable, difficult to pin down, sly, and secretive. It’s still too early to speculate on where this investigation is ultimately going, but Comey is clearly taking full advantage of his time in the spotlight.

 

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