Former FBI Director James Comey may have, for the moment at least, become the most polarizing figure in America not named Donald Trump.
The president’s detractors laud Comey as an honorable man who was wrongfully dismissed from his job and is using the freedom of private life to speak truth to power.
As I pointed out last week when the first excerpts from Comey’s book were leaked, these are the same people who until recently blamed him for getting Trump elected.
Trump’s supporters, on the other hand, just think Comey is a partisan hack whose public behavior is a bit off the deep end.
Comey kicked off his book tour with an interview on ABC with George Stephanopoulos that was little more than an embarrassing gossip chat.
Since the excerpts were first leaked last week, almost everyone in the media has been effusive with praise for Comey’s catty personal attacks on the president. Gregg Jarrett of Fox News was one of the few exceptions:
I’ve finished reading Comey’ book. It’s an easy and superficial read. I saw nothing that was true. I can only conclude that Comey’s version of events is fantasy. It is fiction. Things will end badly for Comey. He stole government documents.
— Gregg Jarrett (@GreggJarrett) April 13, 2018
In an early tweet, Jarrett said that the book was full of “self-adoration and puffery.”
A Fox News contributor not liking the anti-Trump book or Comey himself isn’t really unusual.
The New York Times, however, is also calling Comey’s current publicity turn into question, saying that it could “hurt a carefully cultivated image.”
More from the article:
For decades, James B. Comey cultivated an image of purity as a lawman who stood above politics and politicians.
Then came the book tour.
With the release of his memoir this week and a set of high-profile media interviews to publicize it, Mr. Comey — whose firing by President Trump made him a hero to the president’s critics — has veered onto risky terrain, shedding the trappings of a high-minded referee and looking instead like a combatant in the country’s partisan battles.
When James Comey was first fired by the president, we heard a lot about what a man of honor and great public servant he was. He was supposedly a dedicated professional who was above the partisan fray.
That doesn’t seem to be the case these days.
The personal potshots in particular have surprised some former colleagues who thought of Mr. Comey as relatively sober and serious. Observers on both the left and right — including many who count themselves as fierce critics of Mr. Trump’s — say that in embarking on his star turn, Mr. Comey may be undercutting his own indictment of the president’s character and conduct.
Comey isn’t veiling his overwhelming contempt for the president well at all. He also isn’t the first Trump hater who excuses his own behavior by saying that it is all for the betterment of the country.
His pettiness belies his sincerity and seriousness.
“After he was fired, he finally became the martyr he always held himself out to be,” said Matthew A. Miller, who served as a top Justice Department official under President Obama when Mr. Comey led the F.B.I. “By doing a tour like this where you kind of get down in the gutter the way he has, you sacrifice your claim on being a martyr.”
Comey seems to have made himself at home in the gutter. He also clearly loves the spotlight. After the his book’s fifteen minutes of fame are up it wouldn’t be surprising to see him turn up with a full-time CNN or MSNBC gig.
Perhaps he is merely going to use this book tour as an audition.