Former FBI Director James Comey has written a piece for the NY Times in which he describes President Trump as a soul-eating monster:
Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. For example, James Mattis, the former secretary of defense, resigned over principle, a concept so alien to Mr. Trump that it took days for the president to realize what had happened, before he could start lying about the man.
But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites…
You feel this happening. It bothers you, at least to some extent. But his outrageous conduct convinces you that you simply must stay, to preserve and protect the people and institutions and values you hold dear. Along with Republican members of Congress, you tell yourself you are too important for this nation to lose, especially now.
You can’t say this out loud — maybe not even to your family — but in a time of emergency, with the nation led by a deeply unethical person, this will be your contribution, your personal sacrifice for America. You are smarter than Donald Trump, and you are playing a long game for your country, so you can pull it off where lesser leaders have failed and gotten fired by tweet.
Of course, to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.
And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.
James Comey is a weird guy. Back before the 2016 election, I had some respect for him. Why? Because there was a time when he came out in defense of the Ferguson Effect even though that was an argument his then boss, Barack Obama, clearly didn’t like. And it wasn’t just Obama who didn’t like the idea. The Ferguson Effect was trashed by many media outlets, especially those on the left who didn’t like its implications for Black Lives Matter (among other things). Much of that reporting was based on the work of one criminologist who published a paper discounting the idea and then later changed his mind.
In any case, Comey bucked the trend and stood up to President Obama in a way that seemed unusual and refreshing. And yet here he is a couple of years later whining about how the president eats your soul as if he is a helpless character in a Harry Potter novel.
Clearly, Comey believes the right course would be to take a stand and if that fails to quit. He praises Gen. Mattis for doing just that. But that’s not what Comey himself did. He hung around and was eventually fired. He’s telling us his own story and it’s a story of someone who privately thinks himself too smart and too good to quit, someone who will compromise to hang on. It’s not an appealing picture Comey is painting of himself. That’s too bad because, as I said, he once seemed able to make up his own mind and buck the president where necessary.
When did James Comey become Moaning Myrtle? The old James Comey wouldn’t be blaming this on someone else, he’d be blaming it on himself. What happened to that guy?