James Comey’s new tell-all book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, riddled the White House with anxiety when it was introduced to the nation this week, and it had nothing to do with the title’s use of the Oxford Comma. The book was expected to expose Comey’s true feelings about the character of the President, and whether he felt Trump was qualified specifically in his duty as Commander-in-Chief. But as the first snippets of the book were released to the press, and Comey began his introductory book tour, it took on a different tone than what people were expecting.
Scan the media outlets across the spectrum, and you can tell that Comey’s book left a sour taste in their mouths. Nearly all pieces highlight Comey’s opening description of Trump. It wasn’t about his off-the-cuff policy announcements, or his egocentric decision making tactics. Comey got personal: “[Trump’s] face appeared slightly orange, with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coiffed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his.”
If anyone was wondering if this characterization was or wasn’t central to Comey’s book, they need look no further than his ABC interview, where he was explicitly asked again — as if to clear up the impressions from the book — what his first impression of Donald Trump had been. Comey answered, “My impression was he looked exactly like he did on television, except he looked shorter to me than he did on television, but otherwise exactly the same. And the reason I say that is most people look slightly different in person. I don’t know whether that’s bad or good, but he looked the way I’d seen him look on television.”
George Stephanopoulos, who interviewed Comey seemed puzzled by this response and asked, “you even clocked the size of his hands?”
So there you have it, folks. Comey was in the unique position, as an FBI Director who served under both Obama and Trump, to give the electorate an expert account of Trump’s fitness to be President. Sure, the book was assumed to be a bit slanted from the outset, given he was fired by Trump, but his respect in the intelligence community could have gotten him past that.
No longer. Comey’s decision to focus on these types of portrayals was met with widespread criticism. As Frank Bruni of the New York Times writes, “to watch him promote it [the book] is to see him [Comey] descend.” Jake Tapper grilled Comey when interviewing him about the book after Comey said it’s “possible” the Russians have compromising material on Trump but “unlikely.” Tapper asked why he would suggest it is possible if he has no reason to believe it to be true, arguing this was “unfair to President Trump.” Comey responded that his suspicions were based on “common sense.”
This is not what we needed from James Comey. We needed a book that would give the American people an inside account of Trump’s policy decisions or lack thereof, not another celebrity appealing to gossip looking for a lucrative book deal. It’s a loyalty to one’s pocket, not the American people, which drove him to write this book.