Who is FBI director-nominee James Comey? A Rorschach Test for the left

Turns out, James Comey and his nomination as Obama’s next FBI Director is a Rorschach Test. Doubt me? Read on.

A Rorschach Test is a test that measures the person responding to the test — statements made about the test are really statements about the speaker, who becomes the tested.

The Holocaust is such a test. Deny the Holocaust? That’s a statement about you, not the Holocaust. Think that married person you’re dating, who’s been “trying” to leave the spouse for the last 10 years, will actually leave? That’s a statement about you, not the person you’re dating.

James Comey: “6-foot-8 … the man who sat at the head of the bed in that hospital room …”

James Comey is the key character in the Ashcroft Hospital Drama™ I mentioned here. He’s also the Bush II Deputy Attorney General who signed off on everything Bush II did — except for that one single thing he didn’t sign off on.

So who is James Comey? How about this guy, as described by an almost breathless Rachel Maddow:

I’ve cued up this Maddow Show segment at her closing description (11:21) — if my cuing doesn’t work, just advance the clip. You can replay the entire clip to see Comey tell his own breathless story.

Note that he repeats his last line — “Then [Ashcroft] said, ‘But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the Attorney General …'” — after Schumer’s interruption of his well-crafted close, in a letter-perfect, word-perfect way. I suspect a good writer wrote this, and a fine coach trained him in line delivery. Doesn’t make the story false, mind you. But there’s much art and little spontaneity in its telling … just sayin’.

Now watch Maddow again starting at the mark I cued (11:21). Watch the finger. Listen to the pauses, the dramatic reading. Breathless praise, wouldn’t you say?

A taste (emphasis and indicated pauses hers):

But these guys … [points to Comey image behind her] … stopped it. In part with a car chase … and that standoff in the hospital room.

And now today … James Comey … six-foot-eight … former terrorism prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General under John Ashcroft, the man who sat in an armchair at the head of the bed in that hospital room, where John Ashcroft was laying there sick with acute pancreatitis and everybody thought he couldn’t even speak, the guy who sat there and said … to the White House:

[dramatic build] “No, you cannot do this. It is illegal. I will stop it.”

[Pause, then reporter-voice] Tonight the New York Times has just reported that President Obama is about to pick him … to run the FBI.

[Big smile] Anybody else looking forward to that confirmation hearing?”

The Glory that is Comey. Please, if you doubt my read of this segment, just relisten. This is journalist Rachel Maddow’s report of the news that James Comey is Obama’s choice to head the FBI.

Do I believe there’s a place for cheerleading and editorializing in stories like this? Yes I do. But I also get to judge the editorialized content as representing a mind and its thinking. This content clearly is — the Glory that is Comey.

James Comey: “Bush II Movement Conservative down to the decoder ring”

Or is this the real James Comey, a man whom I called someone just like Ashcroft, a “Movement Conservative down to the decoder ring“?

Rick Perlstein has more (my emphasis):

So now comes James Comey, the Republican former deputy attorney general almost certain to be confirmed as Obama’s next FBI chief. Some liberals are apparently poised to celebrate. Isn’t [Comey] the hero who stood up to President Bush and his attorney general and insisted they stop warrantless wiretapping?

Not so simple. As my colleague George Zornick documented three weeks ago, “warrantless surveillance didn’t stop because of that episode. Bush just agreed to make an as-yet-unknown modification to warrantless surveillance, which continued.” And as Glenn Greenwald explains, NSA’s warrantless spying wouldn’t have happened in the first place but for Comey—who as deputy attorney general “approved a legal memorandum in 2004 endorsing radical executive power theories and warped statutory interpretations, concluding that the Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program was legal.”

What about eager Bush II torturer James Comey? Perlstein again, from a different piece:

James Comey, currently sailing smoothly through Senate Judiciary Committee hearings for confirmation as chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was:

José Padilla in sensory deprivation gear at the Navy Brig. (Is this torture? Want to take his place?)

José Padilla in sensory deprivation gear at the Navy Brig. (Is this torture? Want to take his place?)

(a) in charge, and proudly so, of a “terrorism” case that began with a detention without charges, continued with made-up and spurious charges, and ended with a conviction won against an American whose treatment during confinement (on the American mainland) turned his brain to jello

(d) the man who, as former FBI agent Colleen Rowley pointed out this morning in The New York Times, “sign[ed] off on most of the worst of the Bush administration’s legal abuses and questionable interpretations of federal and international law. He ultimately approved the C.I.A.’s list of “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding, which experts on international law consider a form of torture.

Or maybe you’d like to meet corporate cash-out lobbyist James Comey, from the same piece as above:

(b) general counsel for a defense contractor while it was busy hushing up a whistleblower who exposed $24 billion contract that they were building vessels for the Coast Guard, on a $24 billion contract, that buckled and leaked on the high seas;

(c) as of three months ago on the board of a bank, in charge of cleaning up their reputation after it paid a $1.92 billion fine for laundering drug money from Mexico

Let that last one sink in.

James Comey … helped a bank clean up its brand … after the bank had been penalized nearly $2 billion for … [dramatic vocal change] … laundering drug money … for cross-border crime lords … who chop … their enemiesheads off … in the town square.

[Return to reporter-voice] Mr. Moral. Our justice-seeking James Comey.

James Comey is all of these people. Who are you?

The fact is, James Comey is all of these people. He’s the guy who tortured José Padilla into cranium-encased jello, made him a man who will never know thought as you know it, in pursuit of what Comey thinks of as “justice” … or vengeance … or something.

Comey’s also the guy who cashed in, the way they all cash in, by working for the 1% of the 1%, to make sure even small fines don’t have “branding” consequences — yep, that $2 billion fine is the bankster version of “getting off the hook” when the alternative could have been RICO, racketeering and conspiracy to commit terror convictions for the humans at that bank.

That’s justice too, you know. Bankster-justice, which isn’t quite Padilla-justice.

And Comey’s definitely the six-foot-eight giant of a manly man who stood by the Ashcroft when Bush II sent his bad lawyer boys to the Ashcroft’s noble bedside. Bush II wanted signatures for a program so bad it was too bad for Ashcroft and Comey. (Is that a statement about the program, or about Comey? Maddow thinks that’s a statement about Comey. I think it’s a statement about the program. Or Maddow.)

James Comey will be the next head of the FBI. Does that scare you? Does that delight you?

Answer those questions and I’ll tell you who you are, especially with respect to torture and NSA spying.


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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15 Responses to “Who is FBI director-nominee James Comey? A Rorschach Test for the left”

  1. Arthur J. Clemens Jr. says:

    Why didn’t Comey indict Osama Bin Laden for masterminding 9/11 when he was US Attorney for the Southern District of New York?

  2. Bill_Perdue says:

    It’s not a left right dispute. Democrats are part of the right and they have at least equaled, if not surpassed, their Republican cousins record of eroding the Bill of Rights.

    The left exists only when it’s outside the Democrat Party.

    Clinton added a couple of hundred thousand unneeded cops to increase the prison population with people of color. Then Bush orchestrated an attack on the courts for upholding the Bill of Rights. And now Obama is murdering American citizens who oppose his warmongering, people like Anwar al-Aulaqi, Samir Khan, ‘Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi and Jude Mohammed.

    This is Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, born in Denver and murdered at age 16 by a drone attack for which Obama is solely and directly responsible.

  3. Ford Prefect says:

    Yeah well, there’s careerism and then there’s careeeeeerism, right?

    I figure when even torture and working for a criminal bank won’t tip the scale against, there’s precious little that would shock her conscience.

  4. karmanot says:

    11ty dimensional is difficult to figure out.

  5. karmanot says:

    “I wonder if she has any moral or ethical limits at all now” Well, it’s hard to tell at times….ever since she left footprints on old mentor Keith Olberman back on the way up and agreed to tone it down or end up like Shuster, Cenk, and Donahue, or be demoted to Sesame Street hours like Ed.

  6. Ford Prefect says:

    Oh, next up is Ray Kelly for DHS.

    I can’t wait to see how MSNBC promotes Stop & Frisk!

  7. Ford Prefect says:

    Terrific piece, GP! Comey is just the latest diagnostic helping us all see whose moral compasses work and whose don’t.

    Comey signed off on waterboarding, so I guess that means Rachel Maddow is pro-torture!

    One point about her and everyone else at MSNBC, they are polemicists/propagandists, not “journalists.” Chris Hayes can be considered one at times, but not like when he worked for the Nation. Maddow was never a journalist. She’s always been a party operative, as far as I know.

    Maddow’s breathless promotion of a moral cripple like Comey just shows she is no “lefty” at all. I wonder if she has any moral or ethical limits at all now. If so, we have yet to see them.

    Rorschach Test indeed!

  8. BeccaM says:

    I just remember how often we assured that our Gitmo Gulag only imprisoned the worst-of-the-worst, men so evil it was worth throwing away due process and the rule of law to ensure the entire world was protected from them. 100% guilty, no doubt whatsoever.

    Then we find out many of ’em were turned in to the U.S. for the substantial bounties we were paying, and the men merely cab drivers or goat herders.

  9. ezpz says:

    Heart wrenching.
    Thanks for posting that link.

    ETA: I’ve seen Jeremy Scahill talk about Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and he gets all choked up because he got to know him well.
    Even though it will be painful to watch, I’m looking forward to seeing Jeremy’s movie.

  10. Zorba says:

    Back home, we used to say “Even a blind pig finds an acorn once in awhile.”
    So he did one right thing. It doesn’t excuse all the heinous shit he did. Not in the least.

  11. BeccaM says:

    Not that long ago, my wife and I got into a bit of a spat. Y’see, she still has some faith in our system of governance and in our future as a functioning democracy.

    Me… well, readers of this blog know differently.

    She came right out and asked me if I trusted our government anymore. My answer? (Paraphrasing, because my memory ain’t this good.) “No, I don’t. I think it’s been taken over by power-crazed hypocrites who’ve been completely co-opted by the corporatist plutocratic oligarchy. That’s the system they serve, not democracy and certainly not the American people.”

  12. BeccaM says:

    Bingo. Sometimes bad men can do the right thing… although it usually pays to dig deeper to see if that ‘right thing’ actually happened the way they’d have us believe it went, or if there’s another story altogether.

  13. cole3244 says:

    anyone aligned with the bush admin i am not in favor of having power in wash but obama shows his true colors again as he bows to the con bent in america at the expense of rights here and abroad.

  14. nicho says:

    I’m not impressed by his supposed creds for taking one side or the other in a palace spat. The fact that he was part of the apparatus is fully in line with his other heinous acts.

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