I will confess something: I can very easily imagine myself as James Comey. I remember, when I worked on Wall Street, developing the reputation of being one of those guys who wouldn’t just toe the line, but actually spoke his mind if something didn’t smell right, and had to be convinced. But I could be convinced. I worked within the system as it existed, for better and for worse.
I can’t quite imagine myself making it to Comey’s level in the Justice Department, but if I imagine that I suddenly found myself there, I can easily imagine myself, like Comey, running to John Ashcroft’s bedside to bolster his commitment not to rubber-stamp a dubious grant of surveillance authority. And I can also easily imagine myself splitting hairs to give my superiors at least some of the leeway they wanted to implement a regime of torture-based interrogations. I can easily envision that mix of profiles in courage and in coyness that constitute James Comey’s record in office.
And I can imagine myself being torn apart by the situation of having to investigate possible law-breaking, including possibly covering up that law-breaking, by a major party presidential candidate in an environment of hyper-partisanship.
All of which is by way of prelude to explain my latest column at The Week, about the tragedy of James Comey:
If Comey was trying to put his thumb on the scales for the Republicans, he could not have done so in a more ham-handed fashion. If he was trying to stay above the partisan fray, he could not have failed more spectacularly. He will likely be remembered more as a fool than a villain, the fellow who stumbling after an intruder with his candle in the dark, lit the drapes on fire and ultimately burned the house down.
But I see Comey as a tragic figure, in the classic sense: someone undone by a flaw that is inseparable from his virtues. His fall is a sign of just how corrupted by rabid partisanship our government has become. And if we don’t do something about that, James Comey won’t be the last honorable public servant who turns himself into exactly what he was trying to keep himself from becoming.
Read the whole thing there.