It is a sad commentary on the degraded state of political discourse in these times – and likely having more to do with the election of a sociopath as president of the U.S. than any other single factor – that so much of the reaction to James Comey’s scathing book this week has zeroed in on his brief descriptions of Donald Trump’s hair and hands.
What a disappointment that the New York Times’ otherwise salutary columnist Frank Bruni fell into that briar patch with his ‘James Comey’s Debasement’ commentary this week. He begins, “James Comey’s book is titled “A Higher Loyalty,” but it surrenders the higher ground, at least partly. To watch him promote it is to see him descend.”
What a pile of sanctimonious claptrap, and for what? Is it for the purpose of appeasing the still-simmering anger of Hillary Clinton loyalists who refuse to give up their antipathy for the former FBI director’s behavior in the fall of 2016 that they are convinced cost their candidate the election…even as Comey has now unloaded a full frontal assault on Trump?
Who is fixated on the gutter, after all, Comey or those who would divert the public’s attention to what Comey commented, in passing, about it?
“I mention hands because Comey does,” Bruni writes. But Comey’s reference was confined to a single page of his 290-page book. Bruni’s entire column was about it. Could this have something to do with why Trump won in the first place?
There is a far more important basis for Comey’s incredible indictment of Trump in his book, and sadly it seems to be something to which much of the nation appears to have become tone deaf.
The book is about the juxtaposition of notions of ethics, values, character, morality and truth against everything that Trump stands for, which is the opposite of all the above.
It is far less about the “inside baseball” arguments for this or that move that Comey did or did not make in the lead up to the 2016 election.
Experts can argue over that for eons, and Comey does present his case in the book. But the book is far more about addressing the national crisis we find ourselves in right now, far more about the need to better grasp and to do something about this moral trainwreck that occupies the White House right now.
In this well-written and gripping autobiographical account of a lawman at war with the thuggish forces of the criminal world, especially including the Mafia, Comey’s case is grounded in the notion of what a president of the United States should be.
He then sets that model, in part defined by his own moral compass, against the degenerate and sociopathic language and behavior of Trump.
Comey is gravely concerned that this man, who fits the profile of so many of the criminal elements he dealt with throughout his career, is in charge of the country.
His goal is to alert us to the facts and implications of this, not from the standpoint of a political partisan or even a newsman, but from the unique standpoint of being the Number One cop in the land.
To set the stage for this, Comey describes dramatic incidents in his life that led him to a life as a protector of “the weak, the struggling, the frightened, the bullied,” as he put it, including being faced down by a gunman robbing his parents’ house as a boy, and the premature, avoidable death of his infant child.
A college course in religion, where he was introduced to the theology of Reinhold Niebuhr (the same man who most influenced Dr. Martin Luther King in seminary), shifted his career goal to an “obligation to try to seek justice in a flawed world,” to “protect the weak from being crushed by the strong.”
He wound up in New York City taking on the Mafia, about whom he wrote, “Evil has an ordinary face. It laughs, it cries, it deflects, it rationalizes, it makes great pasta. These killers were people who had crossed an indelible line in human experience by intentionally taking another life.”
This relevance to Trump?
Read the book.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.