James Comey has contributed his name to our political vocabulary. To “Comey” is a term that should gain wide usage in politics. May it live forever.
Some of us are old enough to remember Robert Bork, a respected legal scholar who was so mercilessly (and groundlessly) eviscerated by his political opponents when he was nominated to the Supreme Court that, today, to “Bork” a nominee is to savage them before they ever get a chance to open their mouths. Similarly, to “Comey” means to repeatedly deceive while cloaking oneself in pious, self-anointed virtue. In Washington, this happens frequently. But until now, it had no name.
Comey earned his verb and his iconic status as a swamp creature par excellence. He ignored the rules and used his office to give a pass to the candidate he thought was going to win and decided to deceitfully derail the candidate he simply did not like, even after he won. If you don’t believe me, just look to the Justice Department Inspector General’s report. Per the report: “Comey’s own, personal conception of what was necessary was not an appropriate basis for ignoring the policies and agreements governing the use of FBI records, especially given the other lawful and appropriate actions he could have taken to achieve his desired end.” Read: Comey didn’t have to break the rules, but he chose to anyway.
The more one reads the Inspector General’s report, the more shaken one should be. Comey told the president, to his face, “I don’t do sneaky things, I don’t leak, I don’t do weasel moves,” but the facts of the report read otherwise. Most damning is the example Comey set for the FBI’s 35,000 employees when it comes to the gathering and handling of law enforcement information. No special agent would ever get off as easy as Comey has.
To put an exclamation point on the hypocrisy that “Comey-ing” conveys, Comey actually had the gall to want an apology. That is a page straight out of President Donald Trump’s own playbook.
Comey’s impact on history cannot be overstated. He may well have cost Hillary Clinton the presidency, even though she was obviously his preferred candidate. He threw out the rule book to avoid indicting Clinton and, more than any other person, he has shaped Trump’s presidency. Few single characters can say that.
Anyway, we will soon see if Comey, author of the ironically titled memoir, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” will keep flogging his book so as to show him as a celebrated hero: someone who merely tried to save the country from the villain Trump, who supplied the truth and to whom the dignity and rules of the FBI did not apply. It’s a classic tale of an egotist suggesting that the ends justify the means. So, if you believe that you are better, that you know best and that your wishes should not be subservient to the rules, you can just go ahead and “Comey.”
Ed Rogers is a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour in 1991.