Politics & Policy

Comey Got Petty, Trump Took the Bait

James Comey on Capitol Hill in 2014. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
The president would have been better off to say nothing at all.

Excerpts from James Comey’s new book were released Thursday night — and from the looks of it, the former FBI director made the decision get petty in his descriptions of Donald Trump.

For example, this:

His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his. . . . As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.

Honestly, I can’t even read this section without rolling my eyes. James Comey is supposed to be a former FBI director, not a high-school bully, and the tanning and tiny-hands comments sound a lot more like something from the latter from than the former. If Comey really wanted the book to be taken seriously, he’d have been better off avoiding this passage (as well as, for example, another passage where he refers to the “soft white pouches” under Trump’s “expressionless blue eyes.”)

What difference does President Trump’s appearance make in any of this? None, and childish attacks make the author look, well, childish — which is not a description you should want to apply to you when you’re making the kinds of serious allegations that Comey makes elsewhere in the book.

Think about it: Right after Comey makes the comments about the “soft white pouches” and “expressionless blue eyes,” he writes: “I remember thinking in that moment that the president doesn’t understand the FBI’s role in American life.” That’s a pretty serious charge, and you think you’d want to do all you could to build your credibility as a witness before making it. Preceding it with unnecessary attacks on Trump’s appearance, however, makes Comey look more like a disgruntled former employee — hell-bent on slamming the president however he can — than an unbiased narrator.

(Oh, and by the way: Not only are comments about President Trump’s hands or tan skin petty and juvenile, they’re also hack. They’re jokes that have probably been made millions of times before; what’s the point of wasting ink on something so overdone? If Comey really felt the need to make fun of Donald Trump, he could have taken the time to come up with something more original.)

So why did James Comey insist on making these kinds of jokes, anyway? It’s not clear, but the fact that he brought up Trump’s hands — a charge that the president couldn’t seem to handle in the past — seems to suggest that he was looking to get a rise out of Trump.

Which, of course, he did:

I understand wanting to strike back when someone hits you, but the truth is, President Trump would have been better off to say nothing at all. Comey was clearly behaving childishly, and Trump would have been better off just leaving it alone and not giving him the extra attention. Going on this tweet storm was obviously intended to be self defense, however, it wound up making Trump look unhinged. I know that it’s 2018, and that it doesn’t seem to be how we do things anymore, but it would be great to see everyone start to act a bit more adult.

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