Part 3—Two different liberal approaches: Reading James Comey is hard. All in all, we're inclined to agree with the views expressed by certain Democrats in today's Washington Post.
The report was written by Dave Weigel. In hard copy, the headline stretches across the top of page A4:
Forgive and forget? No, say Clinton backers who blame Comey for 2016 loss.We're perfectly willing to "forgive." Judgment is someone else's, or at least so said the Lord.
That said, we do tend to agree with the highlighted assessment:
WEIGEL (4/18/18): Even in his criticism of Trump, Comey’s Democratic detractors said they see the same flaws they believe led him to mishandle the Clinton investigation: an inflated sense of righteousness and an outsized concern about how he will be perceived.Other Dems are quoted offering similar readings of Comey the person. As they do, they continue to say that he seems to have handed the election to Donald J. Trump.
Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said Comey was “an honorable man, but his job was to do everything by the book, and not to manage reputations—either his own, or that of the agency. He seems a little bit too concerned about his own.”
“I think Comey is an honest man who’s extremely self-righteous and thought he could, in his own judgment, violate Justice Department guidelines, with very unfortunate results,” Rep. Nadler is quoted saying.
"Extremely self-righteous?" To our ear, that's a bit harsh, but it's in the ball park. Indeed, we'll have to admit that this unflattering reading by Lanny Davis has sometimes popped into our heads:
WEIGEL: “There is nobody in Washington, D.C., who is more similar to Donald Trump, in his unchecked narcissism, than James Comey,” said Lanny Davis, a longtime Clinton ally who published a book this year blaming Comey for her defeat...."[H]e’s such a self-serving narcissist that he can’t even own up to his mistake.”We'd avoid the clinical term "narcissism," perhaps preferring "self-absorption." But the comparison to Donald J. Trump has sometimes popped into our heads.
Everybody's some kind of way; also, nobody's perfect. Rachel sometimes reminds us of Trump. That doesn't make her evil.
As we've been reading Comey this week, he's mainly struck us as a rather strange duck. Over the next few days, we plan to provide examples.
Major Dems have been reading Comey in the manner described. We've also been struck by the number of liberals who seem to be trying to rehabilitate the godlike figure, now that he's caught in a tribal war with the reviled and aforementioned Trump.
Nadler, Davis and the like have refused to forgive. Other liberals may perhaps be doing so, in deference to the childish desire for simple stories with hats of two colors—black hats arrayed against white.
Was Michelle Goldberg rehabilitating the fallen god in yesterday's New York Times column? As we noted yesterday, the thought has entered our heads.
It sounds like Goldberg has read Comey's book; we're working from excerpts and interviews. She describes the book as an "earnest tome, in which [Comey] comes off as a somewhat tragic figure who, in striving for decency, makes errors of judgment that helped put the singularly indecent Trump in the White House."
That sounds a bit like James B. Comey's reading of James B. Comey! According to Comey, Comey's constantly "striving for decency." To Goldberg, this makes him a tragic figure. To us, it makes him a rather strange duck.
It may be true that Comey is constantly striving for decency. In our reading, it seems to us that the gentleman doth possibly strive too much!
In our reading of Goldberg's column, it seemed to us that she might be striving to rearm Comey for the fight with Trump. No doubt that would be completely subconscious, like so much of Comey's behavior, at least according to Comey, who's buffeted by flashbacks and out-of-body experiences to a degree previously unknown at the top of the FBI.
We'd have to say that Goldberg is one of those people who want to "get Donald Trump." Rehabilitating Comey might help, but good grief! Consider her main takeaway from reading his earnest tome.
Here's how her column started:
GOLDBERG (4/17/18): Whatever you think of the former F.B.I. director James Comey, he has started a long overdue national conversation about whether the pee tape is real.Has Comey started "a national conversation about whether the pee tape is real?" If he has, we don't know where it's occurring.
“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 in his hotly anticipated interview with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday night. “It’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Other people have criticized Comey for detailing the many things which he says are "possible." Everything's possible, after all. That includes the possibility that Goldberg herself paid the fees of those possible Moscow performers.
Still and all, Goldberg spends her column in a somewhat peculiar way. In this passage, she almost gives us our old Comey back—and she offers a shaky assessment of his book's "most significant new information:"
GOLDBERG: I doubt Comey wants these salacious details to be the main message of his earnest tome, in which he comes off as a somewhat tragic figure who, in striving for decency, makes errors of judgment that helped put the singularly indecent Trump in the White House. Yet the book’s most significant new information is about Trump’s obsession with the rumored tape, which he brought up with Comey again and again, and the lies Trump told about why it couldn’t be real.Did Trump tell "lies" to Comey about this alleged performance art? We're sorry, but that isn't clear.
Goldberg's two alleged examples are notably flimsy. So is her alleged "evidence that the pee tape might be real." Even as she cites a highly tangential matter from the Corn/Isikoff book, she fails to mention their report that Christopher Steele himself is pretty iffy as to whether the alleged Moscow incident actually happened at all.
We're dreaming here of getting Trump, and we're locked in on The Sex. The whole package is helped along by the partial rehab of Comey.
Did the Moscow incident actually happen? As we said last week, we'd all better hope it didn't.
If Donald J. Trump, possibly with Goldberg's help, actually staged that incident as a way of sliming the hated Obama, then Donald J. Trump isn't simply unfit. The man is stark raving mad.
And yes, he holds the nuclear codes! If we want the human race to survive, we'd better hope that this attention-grabbing story is wrong.
We're prejudiced against Goldberg for our view of her work during the 2016 campaign. That said, she's among the group of liberals who do seem willing to forgive—and who may be rearming Comey for his novelized fight with Trump.
He "strives for decency," Goldberg said. James B. Comey could hardly have said it better himself!
Tomorrow: Sliming Lynch (and others)