A HIGHER LOYALTY by James Comey: a book review

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Among many other things, the book offers up interesting first-hand descriptions of the three presidents Comey worked with: Bush Jr., Obama, and Trump. Having the most favorable opinion of Obama (“I couldn’t believe a person as intelligent as Obama could be elected president.”). Describes Bush as having a sense of humor, but usually at the expense of others and as a way to assert himself on the top of the hierarchy. And he’s scathing about Trump.

 

James Comey, in this memoir, comes across as a pretty thoughtful person who spends a lot of time considering other people’s perspectives (as opposed to just projecting his own). Of course its fascinating to see how Comey got caught in the middle of the 2016 presidential election. And of his many critics, and the incredible amount of shit he took from people on BOTH sides, he wryly points out that “most of them would do what would be best for their favorite team.” As opposed to things like, oh, rules of law,  truthfulness, or a higher loyalty (hence the title).

And he said that one particular tweet captured the feelings of the times: “That Comey is such a political hack. I just can’t figure out which party.” Ha ha.

Right or wrong with some of the decisions he made, Comey comes across as a very questioning person who sincerely wanted to do the right thing, what was right for the country. While surrounded by people screaming for “their side.” Period.  I don’t question Comey’s integrity. But I’m not completely sold on his intelligence and judgment.  Admittedly Comey was in a difficult position. A “damned if you do damned if you don’t” position. The fact that, at various times, he was getting equal shit from both the Democrats AND the Republicans probably speaks volumes. Ha ha

He never seemed motivated by partisan politics. Always seemed to take great pains to be objective.
I DID question the wisdom of his decisions.  Announcing an FBI investigation into Hillary’s emails just days before the election was probably bad judgment. It tainted Hillary at a crucial juncture. And since the public wouldn’t get the full results until AFTER the election, it was like a “cloud of suspicion” that couldn’t be refuted.
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Comey is one of the many, many people Hillary Clinton blames for her loss in the 2016 presidential election.

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Comey spends a lot of time in the book debating about — and explaining — why he made that fateful decision. To announce the FBI investigation of Hillary’s emails days before the election. Basically he felt that if there WAS something seriously damaging in Hillary’s emails, it would have looked like a “cover-up” by the FBI if they didn’t publicly announce the investigation.

But heres the dumb part. Comey — like most people — assumed Hillary was gonna win by a landslide anyways. So he felt it wouldn’t make any difference anyways.

Wrong.

PS. There WAS quite a bit of damaging stuff on those emails. These were the Hillary emails that for some unknown reason had ended up on the computer of Anthony Wiener, the husband of Hillary’s closest aide. Aside from sex texts that Wiener had sent to minors — which further tainted Hillary’s campaign. There was quite a bit of classified emails that Hillary should have never let get on somebody else’s computer. There were also a large number of “work-related” emails that Hillary had never released to the FBI during a previous investigation. When she had claimed at the time that she had released all of her work-related emails.

For what its worth Comey’s wife and daughter were ardent Hillary supporters. Comey himself claims that he was so disgusted by the behavior of BOTH parties that he ended up not voting.

One oddity in the book. Comey — who is 6-foot-8 — claims he was constantly bullied when he was in high school. I went to the same high school as Comey (Northern Highlands) and I was one of the smallest kids in my class but I never got bullied. Sheesh.

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The part where Comey meets Trump for the first time right after the election is particularly fascinating. One thing about Comey, he has a well-developed ability to “read” people — a trait you’d expect from a lifelong investigator. And he notices the subtle nuances of people’s behavior that reveal their character (for example Comey noticed something about Trump that has always deeply disturbed me — in the thousands and thousands of hours that Trump has been captured on video, he couldn’t find a single example where Trump laughed). Comey is particularly scathing writing about Trump’s character. Virtually every sentence screams out the unspoken message: HE’S UNFIT TO BE PRESIDENT!!

Comey meets Trump and his team for the first time at Trump Tower. And seeing them all sitting there, Comey couldn’t shake his first impression that they reminded him of a bunch of La Cosa Nostra members hanging out at one their clubs. And, like the Mafioso, Trump constantly conveyed the message: You’re either part of our family or you’re the enemy. At one point — to Comey’s great surprise — Trump even asked the FBI director how they should spin this meeting to the press — already assuming Comey was part of his team.

At a second meeting Trump repeatedly tells Comey he expects “loyalty” from him, and implies that he’ll fire him if he isn’t sufficiently loyal. Comey responded that his only loyalty was to “honesty.” And repeatedly tried to explain to Trump that the FBI by its nature must remain independent from the White House, and couldn’t be involved in partisan politics. An explanation that went in one ear and out the other with Trump.

During a third meeting, Comey actually dared to disagree with one of Trump’s opinions. “At that remark, Trump stopped talking altogether. I could see something change in his eyes. A hardness, a darkness. He looked like someone who wasn’t used to being challenged or corrected. The meeting was done.” Later at FBI headquarters Comey told his staff, “I probably ended any personal relationship with the president with that move.”

How Trump fired Comey was absolutely outrageous and classless. He totally broad-sided Comey, with no prior warning or even an explanation. Comey was in Los Angeles speaking at an FBI convention. And Comey is at the airport and he sees on the TV screen the headline: “Comey has been fired.” That’s how he found out about it. . . Then, Trump was outraged when he learned that Comey took the FBI plane back to D.C. since Comey was no longer a member of the FBI. Like Comey is supposed to hitch-hike cross-country to get home or something. . . And then Trump barred Comey from ever entering FBI property. So Comey had to get somebody else to pack up his office.
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Comey is pretty sharp with the details. But he’s often not so good at seeing the big picture. For example, after going through all of Hillary’s emails that were on Wiener’s computer, he ended the investigation by clearing Hillary of all wrong-doing. But for some inexplicable reason,
1.) Comey never got around to asking Hillary HOW all of her emails got on Wiener’s computer in the first place.
2.) Comey never asked Hillary WHY classified information was on the computer of a private citizen.
3.) Nor did he ask Hillary why she had previously claimed that the 30,000 emails that she turned over to the FBI at the beginning of the investigation were ALL of her work-related emails, when hundreds of thousands of MORE work-related emails were found on Wiener’s computer.
4.) Nor did he question her as to why there were many gaps — often 2 or 3 month periods — from which they could find NO Hillary emails, and often during those time periods that were most pertinent to the investigation. (In fact, Comey never talked to Hillary even once.  About anything.)
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All in all, the most disturbing thing about the book is Comey’s portrait of Trump, a man who never laughs and never tolerates a dissenting opinion, surrounding himself with yes-men. And not particularly bright (at one point Trump is admiring the beautiful lettering on a hand-written menu.  “It’s caligraphy,” said Comey.  “No, it’s hand-written,” corrected Trump. Ha ha.)
Comey concludes at the end of the book: “Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. The president is unethical and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego-driven, and about personal loyalty.”

So there you go.

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NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!

                                            George P. Bush wins state-wide race

George P. Bush is shown. | AP Photo

 NO NO NO NO NO!!  I’ve been praying to God for NO MORE GEORGE BUSHES!!!   . . . Is that really too much to ask from a benevolent diety?

Is there some farm in Texas where they’re breeding George Bushes?   And now we have  the New Improved model,  George Bush III.  And specially bred as half-hispanic to appeal to the “Latino vote.”

I think they’re purposely breeding these George Bushes to increase their demographic appeal with the voters.  You just watch.  There’s gonna be a half-black George B. Bush.  Then a half-asian George A. Bush.  Then a half-lesbian Georgina L. Bush.  Etc.. . . They’ll start mass-breeding these George Bush creatures like rats.  Its like some hideous horror movie.  “Night of the Living George Bushes.”

Just keep telling yourself…. Its only a movie. . . It’s only a movie . . .

Photo: Just keep telling yourself.... Its only a movie. . .

Does anyone even remember the War in Iraq?

The headlines yesterday really pissed me off:   “Iraq May Be Just One Step Away From Full-Fledged Civil War.”  Now correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t we spend about a decade, and endless billions, and countless human carnage for the express purpose (allegedly) of improving and uplifting Iraq’s society. And now we find, a decade later, that things are just as bad, if not worse than ever. In fact, correct me if I’m wrong:   we didn’t accomplish a damn thing!!!

Its weird to me. I remember all the debate back in 2002. All the reasons that Bush and Cheney and all the other “experts” were feeding us for why we should INVADE IRAQ. And the BILLIONS spent towards that end. And then, 10 years later, WHATTAYA’ KNOW?? Nothing came of it. And its just like “ho hum.”

But what gets me. Remember all the debate in 2002?  All the arguing. All the expert opinions. It was important enough to go to war over. And now, 10 years later, its like. “Oh well it was just a bunch of bullshit after all. Ho hum.” And nobody is held accountable. And nobody even cares. The American people would just as well forget about it and focus on Justin Beiber and the Super Bowl.  Aside from the vets with blown off limbs who can’t forget about it.   And its just so ANTI-CLIMACTIC how the whole thing peters out.

I mean, has there even been a single Hollywood movie about the War in Iraq?  I don’t follow movies much, so I could be wrong, but I can’t think of any.  No movies commemorating our great victories.  And no movies commiserating over our tragic defeats.  Nothing.

I remember Bush invaded Iraq shortly after 9-11.  So for the first couple days I took a wait-and-see attitude. For all I knew it could prevent another 9-11 type attack.  I’m not privy to the intelligence reports, after all.  And I don’t follow foreign affairs that closely, so what do I know.

But I remember this distinctly.  A couple days after the invasion Bush started making speeches about “bringing Democracy to the Iraqi people.” I remember thinking: “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING!!!”

Why did we go there in the first place?   According to the far Right, “Israel was behind it all.”  Now I don’t doubt that Israel exerts a powerful influence over our foreign policy.  But I think there were a lot of other factors.  According to the far Left, it was “all about getting Iraq’s oil.”   But that seemed like a red herring, too.  As far as I know we never got our hands on Iraqi oil.  By accident or design, Iraq seems to control most of their oil supply today.

I suspect there were a lot of other factors that pulled us into that debacle. Former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, for instance, famously awarded Halliburton a 7 billion dollar contract right from the outset. Then there was Bush Junior, all gung-ho to finish the job that Daddy started with Saddam Hussein. And there was also this prevailing attitude  of “Lets get them Aye-rabs!” coming from both the military and the public after 9-11. To name but a couple factors.

I generally agree with the idea that it was Dick Cheney who mostly came up with the policy ideas.  And George Bush’s job was basically to sell them to the public.  But according to books I’ve read, even Bush soured on Cheney about half way through his second term, and froze him out.  Apparently Bush finally became pissed at Cheney for how he’d been duped by all the WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION bullshit.  That George, quick as a whip.  Catches on eventually.

But in retrospect the whole thing just seems like an incredible waste.  I’ve heard horror stories from people in the military about how many BILLIONS we wasted, in typical military fashion, supposedly building up Iraq’s infrastructure.  All these hare-brained projects building sewer systems and schools and etc. But none of the projects were coordinated with each other and they mostly all collapsed.

And the far-fetched notion of bringing “democracy” to Iraq. Holy Geeziz!! Not only was it a hopeless idea from the beginning, considering the people of the region have no history or affinity with the concept.  It was condescending to impose it on them in the first place.

It was obvious to anyone with half a brain (a category that apparently didn’t include George W. Bush)  that the minute we disposed of Saddam Hussein it was inevitable that a civil war would result from the power vaccuum.  And now, 10 years later, the newspapers announce it like its late-breaking news.

March of the Morons: Spanning the Globe

 

Originally published December 19, 2005

When George W. Bush first announced he was invading Iraq, I vaguely supported it.  This was right after “9-11” and I figured they (the Government) knew something we didn’t know about “terrorist” activities in Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction and all that shit.  I figured they were gonna do like what they did with Noriega in Panama, where the army marched in there, yanked Noriega out of his throne, and then got the hell out of there. Saddam Hussein was an obvious asshole, and a definite threat to any human being within his sorry-ass radius.  So I wasn’t crying any tears over him, and good riddance to the bastard.

But as soon as Bush started talking about bringing “Constitutional democracy to the heart of the Middle East” I couldn’t help thinking: “GEORGE W.BUSH; YOU STUPID WORTHLESS SHIT-FOR-BRAINS SONOFABITCH!  Surely you are joking? ‘Democracy to Iraq’?”

The only forms of government that have EVER taken hold in the Middle East are a.) blatant military dictatorships — like Saddam Hussein in Iraq, where the people are kept at bay by the barrel of a gun. Or b.) religious dictatorships — like the Ayatollah Khomeni in Iran, where they kept the people at bay by cowing them with “Wizard of Oz” type of religious pyrotechnics (‘DOWN ON YOUR KNEES BEFORE THE AWESOME POWER OF THE GREAT AND ALL-POWERFUL WIZARD OF ALLAH!!’). And I guess a third type of Middle East government would be like in Kuwait, where you got Oil Company dictatorships propped up by western corporations.

But “democracy in the Middle East”? Surely this George W. Bush fellow isn’t THAT stupid? (Feel free to correct me on this assumption.) It’s never going to happen, I said at the time. You can figure that out now. Or you can figure that out 20 years and countless billions of dollars and countless thousands of U.S. servicemen’s deaths, later.

There is no third alternative.

The only so-called “democracy” that’s ever been able to survive in the Middle East is Israel. And that so-called democracy has been artificially propped up with endless billions in foreign aid courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers, as well as the full backing of the U.S. military. And even then, the so-called Israeli democracy has only been sustained by absolutely and brutally squashing all the democratic rights of one half of the population, namely, those hapless Palestinians. So, some “democracy.”

Meanwhile, this blithering imbecile — otherwise known as President George W. Bush — is going to continue in his folly to bring a European-style, representative type of “democracy” to the Middle East. To which I can only say: Good luck. And I admit I am hardly a sophisticated observer of political matters (so far, I’ve concluded that politics is all bullshit, but I haven’t worked up any political ideology much more sophisticated than that). And — unlike many strident, leftwing, Bush-hating, Michael Moore-loving, Leftists — I certainly would love to be proven wrong. I’d love to see Bush actually salvage something out of this seemingly hopeless mess.

Can anybody out there tell me how that could be humanly possible? Grafting western style democracy onto the hopelessly barbaric landscape that is the Middle East seems about as feasible as transplanting an internal organ from a baboon into the body of a butterfly.

My prediction — and its here in black-and-white permanently embedded in the rock that is cyberspace — is that we’ll be able to prop up some kind of phony-baloney government in the Middle East for only so long as we’ve got the military might to back it up.But once we leave — 5 minutes after we leave —  the country of Iraq will devolve into an endless series of civil wars. Until one tribe gets the better of the other and props up a.) a military dictatorship, or b.) a religious dictatorship.

The end.