I think that I screwed up when I wrote several days ago that it might be a good idea for us to cut current FBI director James Comey a little slack on the letter that he sent to certain Congressional leaders on Friday, Oct. 28 in which he said reopened the Pandora’s Box on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Now it seems that Comey may be on a mission to clearly do political harm to Clinton. No sooner had the Weiner tie-in with the e-mails found its way to the press than Comey released information on a clearly ill-advised pardon that President Bill Clinton gave on his last day in office to financier Marc Rich. Comey is clearly a man who must be judged by his deeds rather than his words, because he simple ain’t talking. In that respect, he is a straight arrow about doing his job by the book.
I think that my problem in correctly understanding Comey comes from my attachment to a television show that ran from 1965 – 1974. It was aptly named “The F.B.I.” and it literally starred a character from central casting, Ephrem Zimbalist, Jr. Zimbalist and the character he played, Lewis Erskine, had a profound impact on my post-adolescent mind. Perhaps my problem was that I allowed Erskine to be my “boy hero” long past the time for such reverence. As a teenager, I was smart enough to know that J. Edgar Hoover was bloviating myth, but I desperately wanted the head of the F.B.I. to be someone I could respect. Well into my 20s, Zimbalist was my man.
Back to the real world. Comey gained my admiration in 2004 when as assistant Attorney-General to John Ashcroft, he stood between the attorney general, bed-ridden in intensive care, and two key White House aides in the George W. Bush administration. White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and President Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., wanted Ashcroft to sign off on Bush’s reauthorization of the domestic surveillance program, which the Justice Department had just determine was illegal. Comey kept the two from steam-rolling Ashcroft and the result was that the domestic surveillance program was not renewed at that time.
There obviously was another part of me wondering how good could Comey be if he was the Number Two person to the Bible-thumping reality-challenged Attorney General from Missouri. But then again, I had seen some decent Republicans in my day including Charles Percy, Jacob Javits, Earl Warren and John Lindsay. These are all people who would not have been let into the Quicken Arena in Cleveland last July for the Republican National Convention because they wouldn’t check their empathy at the door.
I should have known that if Comey was in the good graces of Bush and Ashcroft, that he was not an upstanding fellow like Lewis Erskine from “The F.B.I.” But if I was fooled, I was in good company with the likes of perhaps America’s best judge of character, Barack Obama.
The old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” seems to apply here. So I guess that my feelings for Comey have gone from bewilderment to something called “pissed empathy.”