Thursday, April 19, 2018

Beth's Books: A Higher Loyalty

Those who know me understand that I am more than a little biased towards James Comey. I find him credible and honorable. I will do my best to write this review in the spirit of fairness and openness and—


Okay, okay, I'll admit that there is a fair amount of confirmation bias in my love for this book. I despise the "president" and I like Comey very much. Nothing in this book changed my feelings or thoughts about either. 

What struck me is that Comey seems very genuine. Whether he writes about his experiences with bullies when he was a kid, or about when he behaved in a bullying manner when he got to college because of 'groupthink' (something he says he remains ashamed of even all these years later), you can tell that it was part of what shaped his worldview. I have said all along that Trump is a schoolyard bully and Comey seems to have had that feeling, too. "All bullies are largely the same. They threaten the weak to feed some insecurity that rages inside them." Very true. 

Comey admits to struggling as an adult with ego and over-confidence. It seems obvious that he also has enough self-awareness to realize that about himself and does his best to counteract that by encouraging others to confront him and push back against his preconceived notions, whether it is his wife or President Obama. 

I found him quite funny and enjoyed the stories about the "presidential apple" for his youngest daughter, learning tips for cooking turkeys from Martha Stewart's shows, and especially his recounting of the infamous curtain incident when he tried to blend into the curtains in the Blue Room. His abiding love for the FBI is also apparent (he even dedicated the book to all the men and women of the Bureau). As someone on Twitter said, "Get yourself a man who loves you the way Comey loves the FBI." 

I also found him deeply philosophical as he recounted his reasoning behind the decisions he made during the 2016 election. I've felt all along that he made the choices he did in order to protect the nonpartisanship and integrity of both the FBI and the DOJ, and he talks about that at length. I think he really was faced with a Scylla and Charybdis moment, not once, but a few times, and he made the only decision he could. 

I get frustrated at hearing the pundits on both sides say that "he should have done this" or "he shouldn't have said that." Or he shouldn't have said it when he did. He has explained over and over how he came to the decisions he did (although there is still some classified stuff out there that he can't disclose). I find his thought processes credible and well-reasoned in the context of doing what was best for the FBI/DOJ and their nonpartisanship. It is easy to second guess someone when you've never been in such a position. There is also a ridiculous amount of semantics involved, especially among those illiterate in legalese. I am certainly not literate in that language but when he explained the subtle difference in legal terms and why they matter, I understood. 

I also enjoyed his thoughts on intelligence vs judgment. It's one thing to have the intelligence to understand facts and figures, to understand something intellectually, but it has to be tempered with good judgment and the ability to look at a problem from other perspectives. He recounts a great conversation with President Obama in which they discussed the Black Lives Matter/Blue Lives Matter movements and the conflicts between young black men and law enforcement. They each got each other to see certain views from other vantage points. That is the mark of true thinkers, the ability for self-reflection, self-awareness, and the ability to approach things with a sense of humility and accept that there are other ways of looking at things that wouldn't occur to you because of your own life experience. 

Oh, how I love to have those types of discussions myself! Going deeper than the easy, superficial talking points and bouncing ideas off of each other. Getting someone to understand your viewpoint and getting them to understand yours, and finding points of consensus when you realize that you both hold many of the same thoughts. We seem to have lost that recently. I miss it. 

I admire and respect some of the same people that he does, including President Obama and James Clapper. I also despise some of the same people that he seems to, including Dick Cheney (who comes across every bit as evil and humorless as I've always thought) and the current "president." Comey doesn't use the word 'despise,' but his disdain and visceral dislike for both comes across loud and clear. 

I think Comey is right when he says that while Trump might not be medically unfit to serve, he is morally unfit. He is devoid of ethics and does not possess the ability to provide ethical leadership. Comey was reminded over and over of his dealings with Mafia bosses earlier in his career and I think the comparison is a suitable one. Trump cares not one whit about societal and political norms, nor about defending the Constitution. He cares only about how things will affect him and about uncompromising loyalty to HIM. People like Comey and professionals in the FBI and DOJ are utterly foreign and incomprehensible to him: people who took an oath to the country and the Constitution, not to any particular person. 

In interviews, Comey has said that he sees this as a situation where we need to put our moral and ethical values—who we are as Americans and human beings—above partisan politics and issues, whether it's gun control or tax cuts. I couldn't agree more. I disagree with the right on so many things but can we get back to the place where we all agree that we value the basic premises of free speech and other Constitutional rights above partisanship? I believe we must if we are to move forward and be our best selves. 

I think that a leader who expects fealty to himself rather than respect for the rule of law cannot be part of that equation. 

Vote accordingly, Citizens. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Not your normal Sunday

Normally, I'd be calling this Dead Day, because it's the Season 8 finale of "The Walking Dead" and the Season 4 premiere of "Fear the Walking Dead."

But there is a little more going on today because it is officially the start of...
COMEY WEEK. [trumpets]
It started unofficially at the end of last week as excerpts from his book started to leak [snicker] to the press and his publishers lifted the media embargo. We got a few video snippets and learned pretty quickly that Comey is pulling no punches.
As much as I love the Dead Universe, there is no way I won't watch the Comey interview tonight. I'll miss the first ten minutes because "The Walking Dead" finale will go past 10 PM, but I'll catch the rest of it later.
It's been a weird fucking week and one of the weirdest things is that despite the serious things happening in the Middle East, the "president" seems to be more preoccupied with James Comey and his upcoming book. He lashed out on Twitter (of course) this morning and it's obvious that Comey has really gotten under his thin orange skin. If it weren't so disturbing and pathetic, it would be funny. (Okay, it's a little bit funny.)
I understand that people are conflicted about Comey. His legacy is a complicated one. I've seen people on CNN both defend him and denigrate him for what he is doing. (The Yamstooges at Fox are calling him a "dirty cop" and shit like that. No surprise there.) He is getting criticism for being too snarky and petty about the "president." I've made it clear that I like Comey and find him admirable, so I say, "You GO with your bad self!" Snark away!
Obviously, I don't know the man personally, but I've read enough about him and listened to enough of his lectures that my gut feeling is that he is a person of integrity. I can only imagine his visceral disgust as he encountered the Yam for the first time, but I can imagine it pretty well because I felt it, too. I've learned to spot bullshitters and I'm sure that Comey is better at spotting them than I am. I don't doubt that he knew from the moment he met him that this is a guy who goes against everything that Comey holds dear, whether it is justice, honesty, devotion to family, or the general concept of how no one should be or IS above the law.
I can't help but laugh as I think about how Comey's media blitz this week is going to drive the "president" absolutely nuts. You think the tweetstorm of the past few days was bad? Wait for this week. It's gonna be a wild ride.
We have tickets to see Comey in Chicago next Friday and I can hardly wait. The event is sold out and I could probably sell each ticket for a grand. I wouldn't dream of it! I will take notes and report back soon.
Buckle up!