• Review: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership is Mostly About Making Jim Comey Rich

    April 25, 2018 // 17 Comments »

    Jesus to Trump: Drop Dead

    Despite the lofty title, in A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership James Comey comes across in turns petty, smug, sanctimonious, bitter, and most of all, pandering.


    Comey feeds the rubes exactly what they paid the carnival sideshow barker in front at Barnes and Noble to hear: the pee tape, the jokes about small hands, the comparisons of Trump to a mob boss, and enough Obama-worship to fill a week’s worth of Maddow.

    Where Comey could have shined — clarifying historical events from the Bush and Obama eras, shedding real light on the FBI’s interplay with the Clinton campaign, verifying or denouncing parts of the Russiagate narrative — he stops purposefully short. A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership is a quick grab at the money, something that in the old days would have been on pay-per-view cable or tucked away inside a second-tier men’s magazine.


    Comey tells us Trump is obsessed with the pee tape, desperate for the FBI to investigate-to-exonerate. “I’m a germaphobe,” Comey quotes Trump, emphasizing the president claimed he only used the Russian hotel room to change clothes. The then-Director of the FBI was apparently non-committal to his boss, but in his book safely removed by a year and the publishing process Comey writes “I decided not to tell him the activity alleged did not seem to require either an overnight stay or even being in proximity to the participants. In fact, though I didn’t know for sure, I imagined the presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton in Moscow was large enough for a germaphobe to be at a safe distance from the activity.”

    Classy, and it sets the tone for the two men’s encounters over loyalty pledges, Mike Flynn, and all things Russia. Trump says something neatly packaged and impeachment-worthy, conveniently only in a conversation he and Comey are privy to. Comey, rather than seek clarification, always assumes the worst, keeps his thoughts to himself, but remembers to document every word in writing. Everything about James Comey is presented so that you get the message that everything he is — straight-arrow bureaucrat, warrior-poet of the people, apostle of law and order, defender of the Constitution — is what Trump isn’t. It’s my word against his, you know who you believe, might as well be the title of the book.

    You were expecting insight? Trump never laughs, Comey writes, a clear tell to a soul-seer POTUS harbors “deep insecurity, an inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others.” Comey describes Trump as shorter than he expected with a “too long” tie. The eyes, by the way, are “expressionless.” Comey says the president’s hands were “smaller than mine.” Jim, we get it — Trump is short, wears his ties long to compensate, has tiny hands — brother, just represent: I’m a bigger man than the president!


    The Clintons are always in the background. Comey teases there is classified but unverified info on Loretta Lynch that “casts serious doubt on the Attorney General’s independence in connection with the Clinton investigation” but unlike in the case of Trump, where classification and proprietary have the value of a paper bag in the rain, Comey reveals no details.

    Elsewhere, Comey creates his own standard, well outside the law, for why the investigation into Clinton’s exposure of classified material on her personal unclassified server did not lead to prosecution: she gosh golly just didn’t intend to do anything criminally wrong, he says, taking the term “willful” in the actual law and twisting it to mean “evil intent.” Comey says prosecution would have required a specific smoking gun message from someone telling Clinton sending classified material via unclassified channels was wrong. He has nothing to say about whether that message might have been in the 30,000 emails Clinton deleted, only shrugging his shoulders to say there was nothing to justify prosecution as far as anyone looked. Why, he adds, they even asked Hillary herself.

    And as long as he’s making up the law, those memos Comey wrote of conversations between two government employees, on Federal property, regarding national security-related official government business? He “regards” them as personal property, so their contents didn’t have to be classified and thus could not by definition be leaked. He did not, however, include them in his book and they remain hidden from the public.

    Comey writes he felt confident reopening the Clinton email probe days before the election because he ­assumed Clinton would win, and if the new investigation was revealed after her victory it might make her seem “illegitimate.” He says the same thing about keeping Russian meddling quiet, certain it wouldn’t matter when Hillary became his boss a few months later. The irony of Comey setting out to legitimize the expected Clinton presidency ended up hurting her aside, what is disturbing is the blatant admission a partisan calculus was part of the decision making in any way at all.


    It’s a heck of a thing to admit in writing, and shows how empty Comey’s constant claims to integrity lie. Should any serious prosecution emerge from the mess of the Trump presidency, Comey’s credibility as a witness is tainted, and his value to the American people he claims to serve thus diluted. Comey will see his testimony whittled down by defense lawyers even now cross-indexing statements in the book with the public record. And who knows what Seth and Trevor and Rachel will pull out of him?

    Most people tangled up in Washington beheadings get around these problems by waiting until after the dust has settled to write their books. That was the case for the Watergate gang, Oliver North, and Monica Lewinsky. The problem with Comey waiting is that there’s very little new here. If your impeachment fantasy includes the pee tape, or if you believe it is made-up, Comey has nothing to enlighten you either way.

    Instead, this is like reading a 13-year-old’s diary about why she hates boys, or a bunch of angry Tweets dragged out over 304 pages. Comey doesn’t appear to have any political ambitions, and he doesn’t seem to be using the book to audition for a talk show job. It’s not even good “score settling” in that it’s just mostly the same stuff you’ve heard before.


    And that’s all a shame, because there is a better book Comey could have written. Comey was witness to the legal wranglings inside the Bush administration over NSA’s illegal domestic spying on Americans, and was in the hospital room when Bush White House officials tried to bully ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft into reauthorizing the Stellar Wind surveillance program. Comey was there for the debates over torture, and under Obama, the use of the Espionage Act to punish journalists and whistleblowers. None of that was morally repugnant to him at a Trump-like level, and he never resigned in protest to protect his honor. Why, Jim?

    Bu instead of insight into all that we get a quick overview that adds little to the known facts. Comey’s narratives are designed only to show leaders in each instance acted honorably enough for Comey’s taste, as opposed to Trump. Comey’s visceral hatred of Trump as a liar and a boor prevents Comey from writing an honorable memoir of his decades inside government, and instead drives him to present a version of events where history is only of value when it can be slaved to making Trump look bad in comparison. It’s a thin shell for anyone who knows more about these events than Colbert or Meyers spoon out.

    There’s a reason why circus sideshows got out of town after a few days, before the rubes figured out the “Alien from Mars” was just a rabbit with some fake teeth glued on. It’s pretty clear Comey’s higher loyalty lies only to making a quick buck for himself with a near-substance free book, before anyone realizes it’s all a fraud.


    Update: Amazon dropped the pre-order price three bucks the day after for Comey’s book was formally released…)


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    Copyright © 2017. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity. Follow me on Twitter!

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    Why Hillary Lost, According to Hillary

    December 20, 2016 // 27 Comments »




    It wasn’t her fault.

    The Clinton campaign, and Hillary herself, summed up her loss by blaming FBI Director Comey as an individual, the FBI as an organization, and of course the Russians and the Russians and the Russians and Putin himself for the loss. “Angry white men” got tagged as well. Nobody likes Huma Abedin anymore, either. That’s pretty much it.

    The Russians

    In a speech to her wealthiest donors, as a group kinda wondering what happened to the approximately one billion dollars they gave to the campaign, Clinton was damn paranoid perfectly on point:

    Putin publicly blamed me for the outpouring of outrage by his own people, and that is the direct line between what he said back then and what he did in this election,” [the attacks] were ordered by Putin “because he has a personal beef against me.

    Clinton laid out her scenario clearly, basically that based on some remarks she made in 2011 that Russian election were not fair, Putin lay in wait for five years until he could hack the DNC emails and crush Hillary’s chances to win against one of the most amateur campaigners ever to join an American election.


    Comey

    Hillary went on to say the hacking was only one of two “unprecedented” events that led to her defeat. The other was the release of a letter by Comey shortly before the election disclosing new questions about emails handled by her private server. The letter, she said, cost her close races in several battleground states. “Swing-state voters made their decisions in the final days breaking against me because of the FBI letter” not that there was actually any evidence of that.

    The ever-dutiful New York Times added “In Moscow, fear of Mrs. Clinton has loomed as large or larger than any warmth for Mr. Trump.”

    An article in the Times also added “Liberals say Mr. Trump’s victory is proof that the Electoral College is biased against big states and undemocratically marginalizes urban and nonwhite voters,” and that Trump “was lucky.”


    The Entire FBI, Maybe Also Obama

    As for the FBI as an organization defeating Hillary beyond the Comey letter, that charge was lead by Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile, who said Russian hackers persisted in trying to break into the organization’s computers “daily, hourly” until after the election, contradicting Obama’s assertion that the hacking stopped in September after he warned Vladimir Putin to “cut it out.”

    Clinton campaign chief John Podesta said the FBI did not provide adequate cybersecurity help to the DNC, and accused the Trump campaign of direct collusion with the Russians.



    Angry White Men

    Last to pile on was the Old Dog himself, Bill Clinton, who told the world (actually, just a handful of media in Katonah, New York) “Trump doesn’t know much,” but that he does know “how to get angry, white men to vote for him.” Bill, when asked about Russian cyberattacks said, “you would need to have a single-digit IQ not to recognize what was going on.”


    The Unmentionables

    Left unmentioned in the Clinton list of reasons she lost were the private email server, her clear violations of national security, the tangled relationship among many State Department decisions, access to her as Secretary of State, and the Clinton Foundation, the vast sums of money she earned from the Wall Street firms she promised to reign in, the hypocrisy of accepting large sums of money from foreign governments in general, and in the specific how her claimed support for the rights of women and girls can coexist with millions of dollars of Foundation donations from Arab nations with some of the worst human rights records toward women, and how her core argument — nothing was illegal — ignored the more important questions of what kind of honesty, ethics, and transparency. Plus any strengths Trump as a candidate may have had and the judgement of the American people, whatever.



    BONUS: So, hey, Democrats, a tip: if you select a weak candidate with as much political baggage as Clinton carried, and blame everything on “someone else,” then try and overturn the election via needless recounts, active campaigns to upset the Electoral College, timed leaks from the CIA, and threats of impeachment, you will probably lose the next time, too.


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    Posted in Democracy, Post-Constitution America, Trump

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