FBI Director James Comey pauses while making a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, July 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Political grandstander James Comey, obviously anxious both to curry favor with the hard left and to exact revenge on the Trump administration, is only hurting his former professional home with his new book.
Agents and officials at the FBI who spoke with CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel are “not happy” with his book, she told Wolf Blitzer last week. They find it “crosses the line of professionalism” and is basically the last thing they need.
“I’ve talked to quite a few former FBI high ranking sources. They are not happy about this, because they feel it crosses the line of professionalism. They are worried about their reputation. They’ve been under attack, the organization has been under attack. And they’re afraid when he says these things and goes this far, it further hurts their reputation short term and long term.”
A totally understandable position. The FBI is a law enforcement agency. They’re on the front line in the War on Terror. According to conservative think tank Heritage, they’ve done a pretty decent job of that. But they’ve been under institutional attack from all sides since the campaign season in 2016.
It comes from all sides. For example, if ever you’ve said anything in defense of the FBI on social media, you’ve surely been met with scornful Trumpist martyrdom. “Oh excuse me, I didn’t realize the precious FBI was above reproach.” You see this whiny remark in dozens of articles at certain websites. It’s projection, really. They must cartoon your position because their is a cartoon.
Substantive praise, like substantive criticism, should be taken in context. Of course, in the new “it’s a binary choice” America you can either condemn the entire agency and all within it, or you must worship them as holy warriors above reproach.
On the flip side, Hillary Clinton, and her many columnist and blogger minions, never ever ever EVER stop blaming Comey and the FBI for her losing the election. Aside from the fact that the Comey revelations didn’t sink her, there’s something perverse about blaming the person who exposed your wrongdoing for the the subsequent fallout, rather than blaming yourself for doing wrong in the first place.
Nevertheless, when not praising the FBI as the new and righteous warriors against the Red Menace, the left can’t stop trashing the FBI as activist or incompetent in having single-handedly sunk the otherwise destined by prophecy presidency of her pristine and flawless majesty Hillary.
In such an environment, it’s perfectly natural to resent this personal power play by Comey, who is no savior of Democracy but essentially a peddler of gossip and grudges. Writing the book was unprofessional, and discourtesy to those who still work there.
Of course the truth is that the FBI has many problems, amid much to admire. This is true of all our intelligence agencies, which are full of dedicated men and women who risk their lives on our behalf. You might have forgotten that under the barrage of criticism they relentlessly endure, most recently (and justifiably) over the failures in Parkland, Florida, lately of Trump and his devotees generally, and previously of Democrats broadly and Clintonistas specifically who didn’t like Comey saying mean things about her. (Things which I personally think he’s been trying desperately to make up with them over ever since.)
As an aside since we’re on the topic here, I think it’s important to always note something. Namely, that Comey and McCabe are bad apples. They make the whole agency look bad. But the whole agency is NOT bad. And it’s not trivial to make that point. It doesn’t “go without saying” when ranting about the FBI that you don’t mean every single agent. You should say that. It’s exactly what conservatives demand of liberals who bitch about the police.
Every time there is police misconduct, conservatives take to the internet to say “not all cops are bad” or “blue lives matter”. It is strange to me that this same care for specificity doesn’t seem to make it to the near-daily bashing of the FBI. There is bad leadership, or was. There have been big mistakes. But FBI lives matter and not all agents are James Comey. It’s not hard to say that.
The point is, you can criticize the parts without condemning the whole.
Or I guess you can go the Ann Coulter route and start trashing them as more guilty of 9/11 than the terrorists.
Or you can go the James Comey route and stab them in the back and hang the body out to dry.
And if you don’t think that’s the route the great and long-suffering James Comey is taking, you should listen to what the people who work there, or worked there in the past, actually think. That’s what Jamie Gangle did. And it’s what NRO’s Jim Geraghty did last week.
Now, Gagliano says he was once a “mild fan” of Comey, but has been unhappy with the former director’s decision to venture into the public eye, writing a tell-all book and promoting it on a highly visible press tour.
“This current effort to meet the president in the public square, at his own game of slinging mud and punching and contributing smugness to the debate, it’s a bad look for him,” Gagliano says. “I think it’s going to diminish the FBI, and I think it’s going to diminish whatever’s left of Comey’s reputation.”
Former special agent Bobby Chacon, who now works in Hollywood as a technical advisor and story consultant, has had a similar change of heart. Back when President Trump didn’t even tell Comey that he was fired in person or by phone, Chacon bristled. “Nobody deserves to be treated like that,” he told the Guardian. But since then, he has come to concur that Comey is burning through the goodwill he accumulated over the course of his career in the bureau.
“I liked him when I worked at the bureau, although who the director was never really impacted my day-to-day life in the bureau too much,” Chacon says now, adding that he began to develop some concerns about Comey beginning with the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. He wondered why a grand jury wasn’t empaneled in that investigation, a move that he contends would have somewhat insulated the bureau from political controversy by leaving the decision to indict or not indict in others’ hands.
James Comey’s publicity and revenge tour is bad for the FBI. It’s a law enforcement agency, not a springboard to left-wing stardom. Or it shouldn’t be, anyway. His inglorious tweeting and self-serving behavior since getting fired have only served to erase any doubt that his firing was justifiable.
I would say “he should stop” but of course there’s not a remote chance of that. His utility as a bludgeon is irresistible to “The Resistance.” It’s enough that we point it out. And that we remind people that he is not the whole FBI, nor is the whole FBI him, nor does it even like him.