James Comey: Fall of the legend

Byron York describes the fall of James Comey. Byron notes that Comey, who presents himself as the Last Honest Man, is now under investigation for possibly mishandling classified and confidential information in his apparently all-consuming desire to get Trump.

The view of Comey as the Last Honest Man was widely shared by mainstream media and among liberals after he faced down top representatives of the Bush administration in that dramatic encounter at the hospital bed of then-Attorney General Ashcroft. And during the 1990s the view of Comey as a man of integrity, though not the last such man, was almost universal.

I’m not sure when Comey lost the plot, but I suspect the Ashcroft incident was a factor. The adulation he received from the media may have gone to his head.

I give Comey credit, though, for preventing the complete whitewashing of Hillary Clinton’s email-related misdeeds. If, as Andy McCarthy and others plausibly contend, the fix was in on the Hillary investigation from the moment President Obama opined that she was innocent, then Comey’s detailed public discussion of her case provided a huge public service.

Instead of walking away from the scandal unscathed, the result Obama and Loretta Lynch desired, Hillary’s misconduct was laid bare by the director of the FBI. He partially foiled his bosses, and did so knowingly, just as he foiled President Bush and would later partially foil President Trump.

Did Comey believe Hillary committed no crime? I don’t know. In my view, his argument that she was legally innocent is unpersuasive, but not frivolous. Comey might well have believed it, or at least managed to have half convinced himself of its validity.

But the key point is that he pulled rank on the partisan attorney general in order to inform the public that Hillary was skating on something like a technicality, not because she was innocent in any strong sense.

But for his enormous ego, fueled by the Ashcroft incident, I doubt Comey would have attempted this end-run. Thus, Comey’s status as a legend in his own mind served the public good, at least in this instance.