Former FBI Director James Comey, who fancies himself an above-the-fray arbiter of justice and rectitude, has decided to dispense some political advice to the American electorate. Then again, the word 'advice' may not be the most apt description of what's conveyed in the tweet below, which reads more like a directive. If people care about American values, Comey declares, they "must" vote for Democrats this fall -- adding that policy differences aren't relevant in our current national climate, before and tossing in a bonus, overwrought Hamilton reference for good measure. He who serves 'A Higher Loyalty' hath spoken:
This Republican Congress has proven incapable of fulfilling the Founders’ design that “Ambition must ... counteract ambition.” All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall. Policy differences don’t matter right now. History has its eyes on us.— James Comey (@Comey) July 18, 2018
A few thoughts on this:
(1) I'm not sure too many Americans are terribly interested in taking electoral marching orders from a controversial and unpopular figure whose conduct has earned him bipartisan contempt. I realize that Comey views himself and his professional actions as broadly inerrant, but the Justice Department's nonpartisan Inspector General slapped him pretty hard for unprofessionalism and insubordination in a recently-published report, also revealing that Comey is the subject of an ongoing investigation into improper leaking of classified material. And Comey's top deputy at the Bureau was fired for lying to federal investigators, a crime for which the IG has referred him for prosecution. It's probably worth pointing out that after Andrew McCabe was rightly dismissed, a number of Hill Democrats -- to whom Comey has offered his blanket endorsement -- turned McCabe into a martyr, with some even exploring the option of offering him a job to help keep his full, taxpayer-funded pension intact. Because we must "fulfill the Founders' design," you see.
(2) "Policy differences don't matter right now," Comey assures us, fixing his steady, earnest gaze upon considerations far greater than grubby little fundamental disagreements over public policy. There are times, yes, when political differences are less important than larger issues, and one could make the case that this is such a time. Some arguments are stronger than others. But to select just one potential counterpoint, it's awfully difficult to tell conservative-leaning voters that they ought to help elect members of a party that could very well blockade future qualified nominees to influential courts. The Supreme Court just upheld free speech rights by the narrowest of margins in two recent rulings, in which four dissenting justices were prepared to uphold a California law, for instance, that forced pro-life centers to advertise abortion. Egregious conscience-violating, state-compelled speech was struck down by a one-vote majority. Other enormously critical issues will be coming before various federal appeals courts soon, and voting for Democrats could very well determine the types of judges who hear those cases.
James Comey is more than welcome to apply a different calculus in weighing his voting decision, but it's insulting to lecture millions of others that policy concerns "don't matter right now." They always matter, that unsupported assertion notwithstanding. Comey seems genetically incapable of adopting a tone that doesn't ooze with self-righteousness, in this case tut-tutting that people who don't share his attitudes must not "believe in this country's values." A superior, more Comeyesque man might respond to such a nasty implication with something more elegant than 'get bent,' but not all of us are cut from such impressive, sturdy cloth.
(3) President Trump has routinely, and too often unfairly, denigrated the integrity of America's federal law enforcement and intelligence communities -- most members of which toil around the clock to keep their fellow citizens safe from crime and other threats. Some of Trump's hostility is warranted, but much of it is just raw, self-interested, institution-harming, public trust-eroding politics. At a time when important institutions are under siege, resulting in wavering and waning public faith, the guardians of the targeted institutions should do everything within their power to dispel the central charge against them; namely, that they've been run by politicized, agenda-driven "deep state" operatives. The urgent, overwhelming goal should be to restore Americans' confidence that the IC isn't partisan, and that the FBI is an impartial, trustworthy law enforcement agency.
And yet it increasingly appears as though a growing number of long-ternured custodians of these institutions are bound and determined to vindicate Trump's potshots, and his supporters' suspicions, by evincing deranged hyper-partisanship. A former CIA and NSA director employed a Holocaust comparison to critique a controversial and problematic (and quickly reversed) immigration policy:
Other governments have separated mothers and children pic.twitter.com/tvlBkGjT0h— Gen Michael Hayden (@GenMhayden) June 16, 2018
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
And now, here's Comey outright endorsing the president's opposition party, and doing so in such a way that heavily implies that joining the resistance is something of a matter of national emergency. I'm not sure these figures could hasten the collapse of civic faith in their institutions more effectively if they tried. That's a lamentation, not a gleeful political point. I'll leave you with my appearance on Fox this morning that touched on this subject, as well as a scornful anti-Comey stiff-arm from a top Hillary spokesman:
Democrats don't want your endorsement, but thanks.https://t.co/1BVei3GbUC— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) July 18, 2018
It's quite a feat to engender this much animosity from both political parties, but Comey's somehow managed it. This is surely further evidence of his own transcendent honor. Just ask him.