You have to wonder if former FBI director James Comey is a little disappointed with the reception that he’s getting as he begins his book tour to promote A Higher Loyalty. Yes, the New York Times adored it and called it “persuasive” and “absorbing,” President Trump is helping ensure it gets maximum publicity by repeatedly fuming about Comey on Twitter, and he’s probably going to sell a ton of copies.
But the Washington Post put its decidedly mixed review of the book on the front page of Sunday’s paper, and reviewer Carlos Lozada begins by asking, “Does Comey live up to the standards of ethics and leadership he outlines in this book?” He seems pretty skeptical. Lozada found the book riveting but the author almost insufferable: “When Comey cops to petty misdeeds, however, the self-criticism — and self-regard — is almost comical . . . When the stakes rise, self-examination diminishes . . . Comey isn’t just the kind of writer who quotes Shakespeare, but the kind who quotes himself quoting Shakespeare.”
If the book aimed to persuade others not to blame Comey for the outcome of the 2016 election, it does not appear to be working.
Garrett Graff, a longtime correspondent in the realm of law enforcement and national security and frequent interviewer of Comey earlier in his career, writes in Rolling Stone that, “while the only true villain of Comey’s book is President Trump — the man who bears so much responsibility for exacerbating the nation’s poisonous partisanship and trying to undermine our democratic institutions — James Comey shares blame for putting Trump in a position to do it. Comey’s own sense of duty and lifelong study of consistent ethical leadership appears to have failed him at the moment America most needed it.”
And USA Today picks up on a key point of my article from last week — that Comey is likely to be a key witness in any legal charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, and Comey is now laying out 300-some pages of personal accounts and many interviews worth of material that could conceivably contradict something he says on a future witness stand.
“The book amounts to a new 300-page witness statement, and if it differs at all from what he provided the special counsel, you can be sure that there will be a challenge if this case moves to an impeachment or a trial,” said Jack Sharman, a former special counsel in the Whitewater investigation involving then-President Clinton. “This will be at least, a pain (for Mueller) to deal with.”
Former Obama strategist David Axelrod offered a cynical thought: “I question the timing of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, as a matter of the public interest, adding, as it does, to the circus at a critical time in the probe. But I have no doubt about its brilliance when it comes to book sales. Maybe he should have called it Higher Royalties?”