Former FBI director James Comey’s sitdown with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Sunday night was objectively newsworthy. It was also full of the kind of preening, hollow sanctimony we have come to expect from Comey since he was unceremoniously fired by Donald Trump last year.
It is worth remembering, yet again, that Comey headed a fundamentally immoral institution, signed off on torture and mass surveillance, and—oh yeah—played a huge part in getting Trump elected in the first place. But that has not seemed to matter much these days.
Comey—whose interview with Stephanopoulos kicked off a roughly 150-year-long tour for his new book, A Higher Loyalty—has revealed himself to be the type of man who constantly posts bad tweets about honor and fortitude, recommends that Donald Trump read more David Brooks (seriously), and worries incessantly about Institutions and Norms. In short, he’s exactly the sort of glib, portentous Washington zombie our media and political elite will never stop obsessing over.
All of these grim qualities were on display Sunday night. Here are just a few of the more nauseating moments. (Note: The text is taken from the full transcript of the five-hour interview posted by ABC News, not the severely edited one-hour program that aired Sunday night.)
Towards the end of the interview, Comey let loose about what he thinks of Trump:
I don’t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who’s tracking conversations and knows what’s going on. I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.
A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it — that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds. And that’s not a policy statement.
Wow, this is all so true! And if James Comey had gotten his way, he would be still be working for this horrible person and—given that this is the FBI—probably doing terrible things for him. One wonders what his recollections about Trump would have looked like then.
Some Bullshit About Hillary
Comey’s defense of his fateful October 2016 announcement that the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton again leaves much to be desired (emphasis mine throughout):
JAMES COMEY: I want people to know where the decision came from. That’s between speaking and concealing. It would destroy the Department of Justice and the FBI to conceal that information from the American people.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the judgment you made. Boy, you seem to be alone in that judgment. You look at previous attorney generals for President Bush, for President Ford, for President Obama, Justice Department officials for President Clinton; they all disagree with you. They say this crossed a line.
JAMES COMEY: Yeah, I’ve— I’ve heard a lot of that. And in fact, all that was put together allegedly to be the reason for my firing. What I would hope is that they would, by reading the book, come with me to October 28th. Come with me, and sit there with me.
Not knowing the future. And sit there with me, look at the doors I looked at, and tell me then what you would do. Tell me which you would pick? And that’s what I would, in my mind’s eye, scream at the television. I wouldn’t scream at the television, but I’d say, “Tell me what you would do. Tell me which door you would pick.”
This portion of the interview was instructive to me personally because I did not know I had so much residual rage left over about 2016. If I was Comey, I would have picked the door that said “don’t make a huge break with precedent for highly dubious reasons mere days before a national election,” but that’s just me!!!!!! (And yes, Clinton sucked as a candidate and is very bad and there were many factors but Comey definitely helped tip the scales and oh god we’re doing this again aren’t we.)
I wanted to throw something at the screen for this one.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What did it feel like to be James Comey in the last ten days of that campaign after you sent the letter?
JAMES COMEY: It sucked. Yeah, it was— it was a very painful period. Again, my whole life has been dedicated to institutions that work not to have an involvement in an election. I walked around vaguely sick to my stomach, feeling beaten down. I felt, when I went to the White House— I don’t want to spoil it for people, but there’s a movie called “The Sixth Sense” that I talk about in the book where Bruce Willis doesn’t realize he’s dead. That’s the way I felt. I felt like I was totally alone, that everybody hated me. And that there wasn’t a way out because it really was the right thing to do. And that— that, in a way, I’m ruined. But that’s what I have to do. I had to do it the way.
Hey, you know what else sucks, possibly more than James Comey’s hurt feelings? Having Donald Trump as president! Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear.
‘I Looked Out at the Lights of the Country I Love So Much’
Lord save us from this description of Comey’s flight home after he was fired:
I took a bottle of red wine out of my suitcase that I was bringing back from California, a California pinot noir, and I drank red wine from a paper coffee cup and just looked out at the lights of the country I love so much as we flew home.
And then I— as— we got close to the airport in Washington, I asked the pilots could I sit up with them, ‘cause I’d never done it. Been all over the world with these pilots and sat in the passenger’s seat. Hundreds of flights, I’d never sat up there and watched them do their work. So they put the headphones on me and I sat on a jump seat between the two pilots and watched them land along the Potomac. And— and then we shook hands with tears in our eyes and then I left and get driven home.
‘I’m Going to Travel Around and Speak About Leadership’
What a charming euphemism for “I’m going to make a shit-ton of money.” TMZ reported that Comey could make between $75-100,000 per gig on the speaking circuit, where he promises to give “executives—and the people who work for them—a road map for ethical leadership.”
If you hoped that you would be able to avoid more of this drivel, you are out of luck. Comey is also scheduled to talk to Rachel Maddow, Anderson Cooper, Stephen Colbert, The View, Fox News, PBS, NPR, and on on and on and on until we all sink into the sea.