Barr and Comey: an Odd Couple of Peas in a Pod

Becky O'Malley
Thursday May 02, 2019 - 04:18:00 PM

The Internet age has made “I told you so” a lot easier to say.

Case in point: the whiney, self-serving op-ed by James Comey which appeared in my Thursday New York Times.

Title and subtitle: James Comey: How Trump Co-opts Leaders Like Bill Barr: Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive this president.”

The piece, published just in time to pile on with the Democrats’ fully justified disgust at Barr’s mendacious performance before a Senate committee the previous day, is a wordy description of how virtuous men like Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein [and Jim Comey?] are gradually compromised by sucking up [he uses fancier words] to Donald Trump. The ending is especially stirring:

“…to stay, you must be seen as on his team, so you make further compromises. You use his language, praise his leadership, tout his commitment to values.

“And then you are lost. He has eaten your soul.”

There’s just one problem. If you look back on the public history of both Barr and Comey, you’ll discover that they deserve each other. People who’ve known them before have predicted what they’re doing now. They’re not exactly cut from the same cloth: Barr has always been an unprincipled schemer, whereas Comey has specialized in self-deceptive self-aggrandizement. But both of their souls have long since been off the menu. 

You can find all the evidence online if you look around. 

First, has Barr recently been co-opted? Has he undergone a mystical transmogrification from virtuous leader to sycophantic shill for Trump? 

Not exactly. He’s sung the same sort of tune before, when he engineered the cover-up and eventual 1992 pardon of six in-process prosecutions of participants in the Iran-Contra affair, including Caspar Weinberger. 

The independent counsel assembling the case against Weinberger was Berkeley’s own Jim Brosnahan, and he still remembers how it went down. 

“If you want a presidential cover-up, Barr is your guy,” Brosnahan, now 85, told VICE News in April. “And I think we’ve already seen that.” 

Comey’s good-man-gone-wrong theory is just a myth. Barr’s been a black hat for most of his career. 

Watch the Vice video for a quick take on who he’s always been: 


And then if you want to get to know what makes Comey himself tick, you should read Kurt Eichenwald’s November 7, 2016, Newsweek piece which thoroughly deconstructs him: FBI Director James Comey Is Unfit For Public Service 

Here’s how it starts: 

“James Comey should not simply be fired as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He must be barred forever from any form of public service.”
And it goes on from there, expressing in lengthy and graphic terms Eichenwald’s outrage at Comey’s wink-wink-nudge-nudge expose of the email server in Hillary Clinton’s basement: 

“In the last 10 days, Comey has whipsawed the election for president of the United States. Now we know he did it for no reason. When his agents found information that suggested there were emails on a laptop that might have relevance to the investigation of Hillary Clinton and her email servers, Comey did not wait until he knew even a scintilla of information before announcing it to the world. Reasonably, lots of voters assumed there must be a there there—who could imagine a person with the power of the FBI director would turn the election on its head for no particular reason, on the basis of nothing?
Then, Sunday, Comey handed down another missive from on high: Never mind. His agents had looked through the emails and decided they were piffle. His majesty, the FBI director, has not yet deigned to officially inform his subjects—the American people—whether the emails related to the Clinton case or what they were. (However, people involved in the case tell Newsweek that almost all of them were duplicates of what the bureau already had or were personal.) He just said “nothing to see here” and waived us on our way. “Well, forget it, Jim. We’re not moving on. America has just witnessed one of the most—if not the most—egregious abuses of power in the service of one man’s ego in its history. Joseph McCarthy and A. Mitchell Palmer at least believed they were fighting a Communist threat. Richard Nixon, in Watergate, at least had the motive of retaining power and covering up wrongdoing. But Comey—who I do not believe did this for partisan reasons—has no such motive. This was about him, about preserving his now forever-destroyed reputation, about preening with his self-satisfied standing as a maverick who acts based on what he thinks is right, regardless of others’ opinion. But there is a very thin line between being independent and being reckless. And Comey has demonstrated he does not know the difference.” 

That’s just the beginning of a lengthy and outraged essay which Eichenwald himself called ”a full Comey tear-down”. Do remember, November 7 was the day before the disastrous election, so the piece accurately anticipated the pivotal role which Comey’s stupid grandstanding would play in creating the Trump victory. 

(The role of the New York Times, where Eichenwald once worked, and especially of Maureen Dowd, in propagating this nonsense should not be forgotten either.) 

More: “Plenty of people in Washington knew of Comey’s self-infatuation and predicted it would lead to the exact kind of problem born of his arrogance that has convulsed the country for more than a week. In fact, shortly after he was nominated for FBI director, the Daily Beast quoted an unidentified Justice Department official saying these frighteningly prescient words:’If past is prologue, something will happen in the context of a legal, policy, or operational disagreement where Jim may get on the high horse and threaten to resign or take some other action unless things go the way he believes they should.’ “
Far be it from me to make excuses for Donald Trump, but it’s just possible that “the Russia thing” was not the only reason he fired Comey. 

In any event, it’s more than a little scary to think that this country is now in the hands of a cast of characters who wouldn’t have been credible in a ‘40s B movie. Neither Comey, nor Barr, sadly, will be “barred forever from any form of public service”, though they both should be. 

And neither is a valiant leader co-opted by the evil Mr. T. Anyone who remembers history or at least knows how to do a Google search might have predicted the pickle we’d be in with these two jerks right about now. We were warned, weren’t we? 

In fact, when you think about it, it’s not a B movie these two belong in, it’s an opera, a genre where the malign underlying nature of the principal villain is established early on and leads to the inevitable disastrous outcome.  

John Adams, are you watching? This could be your next big hit.