James Comey’s literary apology
He’s writing the book about his bungled pursuit of Hillary Clinton
James Comey has good reason to despise Donald Trump. He would hardly be human if he doesn’t. The president cashiered him without ceremony, and nobody likes to hear “you’re fired!” Now the director of the FBI until he was sacked has a book contract, and he’s in the dilemma similar to that of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s seventh husband. He knew what was expected of him on their wedding night, but despaired of making it fresh and surprising.
Mr. Comey, the Associated Press reports, “will write about experiences that made him the FBI’s best-known and most controversial FBI head in recent times, from his handling of the bureau’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s private email server to allegations of ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.” That looks like a lot of material, but his publisher, Flatiron Books, is paying him $2 million for it, and a reader has a right to expect more than what an old rewrite man in a green eyeshade would call “a clip job.”
Reader will expect more than what the publisher breathlessly calls “yet-unheard anecdotes from his long and distinguished career,” and even more than the stories that fill the pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other exhausted organs of the mainstream/legacy/magpie media every day about how much the author of a piece despises Donald Trump. Not another warmed-over nothingburger. That media has delivered more nothingburgers than McDonald’s has Big Macs, and at $40 a copy Reader deserves a $40 Kansas City sirloin.
The publisher at Flatiron Books promises “an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in leadership.” Mr. Comey does in fact have a blockbuster at hand if he can bear taking the heat of the kitchen to cook one. Why did he stay silent and docile at the sight of ethical collapses and national-security crimes of Hillary Clinton? Why didn’t he blow the whistle on his boss, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, when she held her tete-a-tete with Bill Clinton aboard her airplane on the tarmac of the airport in Arizona, where the boss and Bubba talked about more than grandchildren, as cute and cuddly as grandchildren are.
Mr. Comey can be tutored by his publisher, if he needs it, into what Reader expects in the way of teasing and titillation. This will be difficult, perhaps, for the ultimate Boy Scout who has carefully cultivated a reputation for piety. Nobody wants to hear about what he has learned in Washington about “ethical leadership,” because nobody really believes that duty, ethics and probity are subjects that very much interest a Washington lawyer.
The New York Times, taking note that there are national-security limits to what Mr. Comey can say or write, observes that “Mr. Comey’s book will go through the standard legal and governmental vetting to ensure that nothing classified is disclosed.” True, and he must be more careful with national-security secrets in his book than Hillary Clinton was with those secrets on her infamous email server.
Hillary blames Mr. Comey for her losing the election to Donald Trump, with his reopening of his investigation of her campaign on the eve of the election. If that’s so, the nation owes him its gratitude — for his good citizenship. Judgment of his book will have to wait.