|2016 Election:||Hillary's book||Trump's book||Bernie's book||Ted Cruz's book|||||2016 Senate Debates|
Truth, Lies, and Leadership
by James Comey
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW #1 by OnTheIssues.org: M.E.Quinn review below
Question: Where in the Constitution are the powers of the FBI defined?
Answer: Nowhere -- the FBI is not in the Constitution at all.
The Constitution never mentions the FBI because constitutional principles dictate that police functions should be run by state and local authorities. The Founding Fathers would be turning in their graves if they knew that the United States of America had "national police." This book demonstrates why.
James Comey wrote this book to demonstrate how he "did the right thing," in his view, with regards to handling investigations of Hillary Clinton's emails during the 2016 election. Many credit Comey's "October surprise" re-opening of the email investigation with Hillary losing the election -- the book spends dozens of pages justifying that event. We agree that Comey's actions contributed heavily to Hillary's loss -- and that the FBI should be abolished because no federal agency should ever have the power to contribute heavily to any candidate's electoral loss.
Donald Trump fired Comey for investigating Trump with regards to Russian interference in that same election. In other words, Trump claims that Comey was acting politically and using the FBI for political purposes. We agree -- Trump did the right thing in firing Comey. But Comey was not unique -- every FBI director always acts politically, because it is a political position, with directors appointed by political decisions, with high-level positions sought by political people. Mixing politics with police power has proven historically dangerous. Trump got it right by firing Comey for playing politics -- but the real problem is that the institution of the FBI itself plays politics.
Look at a little history of the FBI. It was founded in the 1920s and 1930s to enforce Prohibition (prior to that, the Department of Justice had investigation power, but not police power). But when Prohibition ended, the FBI did not. The wiretapping techniques invented by the FBI to fight alcohol possession were controversial at the time -- several cases about unconstitutional search and seizure reached the Supreme Court -- and those same invasion-of-privacy issues plague the FBI today, including in the cases of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Unconstitutional police power is intertwined with the history of the FBI -- any police agency with national power has always used inappropriate methods to spy on its own citizens. Controversies about the unconstitutionality of FBI actions have followed the FBI for over 80 years now, and will not and cannot be resolved, because that is how agencies like the FBI operate -- and is the reason agencies like the FBI should not exist.
The FBI's founding director, J. Edgar Hoover, used the same justifications that Comey did -- Hoover always thought he was "doing the right thing" and thought he was helping America. Hoover's FBI was instrumental in fighting the Communist infiltration of America so feared by the 1950s McCarthy hearings -- which is where the term "witch hunt" originated (read The Crucible on that topic -- that book uses the Salem Witch Trials as a metaphor for the McCarthy anti-Communism hearings). Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump routinely used "witch hunt" to describe the FBI's "investigations" of themselves -- and they are both right -- the FBI has been hunting fictional witches of the FBI's own making since its beginnings.
In retrospect, most people now believe that J. Edgar Hoover abused his power to investigate people he disagreed with politically -- he famously "investigated" Martin Luther King, as well as Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, and Mickey Mantle -- because they were considered "subversive." The problem is that by the FBI's definition, "subversive" really meant "African-American or Jewish or homosexual or otherwise disagreeable to the FBI." But the bigger problem is that the FBI's headquarters is still named "The J. Edgar Hoover Building" and Hoover's anti-gay anti-Semitic anti-minority attitudes still permeate the agency.
There are good people who work for the FBI, who are not racist nor anti-Semitic nor homophobic. And those good people do some good things. But the institution they work for is inherently racist and anti-Semitic and homophobic -- it is hard-wired into the structure of the FBI. Having a national police agency at all -- THAT is the problem. Prior to the founding of the FBI, America had no national police -- the Department of Justice investigated but had no power to arrest people. That's what the rest of the Department of Justice does today --and the CIA and other federal agencies with appropriate federal power. And that's what the Founding Fathers thought was right -- because they had long experience with political police power exercised against them by the King of England. We agree that political police power is inherently opposed to democracy -- and Comey demonstrates the exercise of political police power exactly like the Founding Fathers feared.
James Comey intended this book to demonstrate how he answered to a "higher loyalty" than politics. But we think he accomplished exactly the opposite -- he demonstrated how the FBI can ONLY act politically, while pretending to be a neutral police agency. National police agencies like the FBI are dangerous for democracy -- not just for their inappropriate intervention in the 2016 election, but for their decades-long history of attacking minorities in the name of "national security." Those attacks against minorities continue today, from "The War on Terror" spying on Muslims and detaining Arabs, to the "War on Drugs" focusing enforcement against African-Americans to such a large extent that black men make up the majority of federal prisons. Comey pretends that "national security" is the target of his "higher loyalty" -- but all that really means is an official justification for racism and other politically-motivated evils.
Comey's claims of serving a "higher loyalty" to "national security" echo those of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany, the KGB in the Soviet Union, and SAVAK in the Shah's Iran -- all famous for their abundance of political prisoners. The FBI should join that rogue's gallery on the scrap heap of history.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, August 2018
Truth, Lies, and Leadership
by James Comey.
BOOK REVIEW #2:
After seeing James Comey become the ubiquitous author over the past several weeks, I really had little to no interest in reading the book. I felt he had pretty much covered it all through the media and had diluted my interest.
I must also, in the interest of full disclosure, say upfront here that I am a die hard liberal.
After reading the book, I was surprised how much I did enjoy it. I felt he is a genuine, honest man. He's also someone who admits to his faults and mistakes and is not afraid to put them in print. A short biography of James Comey shows his impressive legal pedigree:
He gravitated towards law and justice for his career - eventually working under Rudy Giuliani in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan. Here he learned how "not to act". Comey didn't like Giuliani making everything about him. "The most dangerous place in New York is between Rudy and a microphone," Comey's supervisor told him.
He was the lead prosecutor in the Martha Stewart case with the government making sure she served as an example to all that celebrity doesn't trump justice. He investigated and prosecuted the mafia and learned the ins an outs of how "made" men operate and function. He moved on to work in Washington and eventually became disillusioned with the government's hyprocrisy and selective interpretation of some laws and left in 2005 to go back to the private sector. In 2013 President Obama nominated him for director of the FBI.
President Obama had said to him "In a way, this and the Supreme Court are the two most important personnel decisions a president makes because I'm choosing for the future."
He accepted and a new chapter in the FBI's history was created. He set about studying the FBI's weaknesses (leadership) and develop measurements to help create and promote ethical leaders. He also was instrumental in knocking down minority barriers and welcomed qualified agents from all walks of life no matter their skin color or gender.
Comey wants his readers to know that "Though it is a part of the Executive Branch, the FBI is meant to stand apart from politics in American life. Its Mission is to find the truth. To do that, the FBI can't be on anyone's side except the country's."
Basically the main reason I find for Comey's book is to defend himself on two different issues:
#1 Clinton:In July of 2015 the FBI received a referral to open a criminal investigation on whether Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information while using her personal email system. After a year of investigation the Internal findings found her "extremely careless" and then the case was closed in July of 2016. In October of 2016 the political world, as we knew it, blew up. Top agents had found, in their investigation of Anthony Weiner, thousands of emails from Hillary Clinton's Blackberry going back and forth between her and Huma Abedin, Weiner's wife and Clinton's close aide. These were discovered 11 days before the 2016 election.
Comey goes to great lengths explaining why he felt it diligent to let the American people know the case needed to be reopened. One reason being the staff would never have enough time to search all the emails before election day. Reopening the case covered the FBI in case illegal emails showed up that could have threatened the nation's security. He did not want the responsibility of possibly helping to put someone in office who would then have to be prosecuted. If only he had had the luxury of being able to wait one more week. For a week later software wizards at the FBI had resolved the research problem and now all the emails could be assessed before the election (and were the Saturday beforehand). No announcement would have needed to be made by Comey. No campaign would have been derailed, if nothing showed up. Nothing did show up.
Comey remained in a no-win situation. Some Republicans loved him for practically handing the election over to Trump. Other Republicans still said the justice department was ill managed and needed an overhaul. Democrats loathed him.
I felt sorry for him myself. Most men, and it seems Washington is breeding a lot of them these days, would not have had the guts or integrity to do what he did. This decision of his would shake the country and he received very little public support for it. This man became both heralded and ostracized overnight.
#2 Trump:Before the election (in July 0f 2016) the FBI began an investigation into Russian meddling in the American election process.
The FBI saw it as Putin wanted three things:
Comey didn't come under fire from Trump until after the election. After Comey refused to become Trump's "friend." Then Trump went to war.
It should be noted here that Trump's administration had it's own principles and values and none of them were aligned with Comey's. The Trump team also saw no boundaries between them and the FBI or any branch of Justice.
Trump had demanded loyalty from Comey from the get-go. Trump told him "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." Trump put himself above the country here. It's also interesting that during one of their private meetings together Trump asked Comey how he became director of the FBI. It seemed he didn't know President Obama had appointed him.
Comey quickly realized the ""leader of the free world," the self-described great business tycoon, didn't understand leadership. Ethical leaders never asked for loyalty. Those leading through fear – like a Cosa Nostra boss – require personal loyalty." Comey had realized he couldn't trust Trump and had taken to making detailed notes of all private meetings with him. A copy went to senior management at the FBI and a copy kept at his home for himself.
By now Trump was irritated with Comey on several fronts, some being:
On a more personal note Comey made note of the fact he never saw Trump laugh. "Months later, the thought of a man whom I had never seen laugh stayed with me." "There is a risk that I'm over interpreting this, and I suppose it's possible that in private he may keep his wife or children or some favorite staff member in stitches or that I have missed a collection of his public laughs, but I don't know of another elected leader who doesn't laugh with some regularity in public. I suspect his apparent inability to do so is rooted in deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president."
I like Comey. Although I found him preachy and pedantic at times in this book, I balance that against his genuine effort to give his readers a very detailed, honest account of his history and what had happened to him. This is a man who was run through the ringer for sticking to his principles. I don't know many that would do that. I'm not naive enough to believe the FBI is filled with saints, it's not. After all it's bloodlines leads straight to J Edgar Hoover. There were a lot of "devils" running the show. I'm sure there are still "devils" running around today but I do believe there's probably less of them now. All branches of Justice have to watch for power corrupting those who possess it.
Is this book biased? Yes it is. It's anti Trump. Why wouldn't it be? Trump fired him in his typical cowardly fashion - no phone call, no email, no meeting him in person. No treating the man with any kind of respect or dignity. In fact he went out of his way to humiliate him so that Comey saw his firing on a screen while he was addressing an audience of agents out in Los Angeles
It's biased, but, I feel written as honestly and fairly as he could. He even wished Trump well for the sake of the country. It's well-researched by a once badly wounded man who has found his footing. Comey is not looking for sympathy, he just wants understanding. He wants his side of the story out there and doesn't seem to be afraid of taking the punches that will come with it.
I don't believe the "Kool-Aid drinking" Trump fans will read this book but many moderate Republicans should and Democrats should also. They will find a well-written exhaustive account of his journey into the political and judicial world. They'll also enjoy some interesting stories Comey tells of which he was involved, such as: Martha Stewart case, the rush to John Ashcrofts bedside to thwart an attempt to extend a warrantless wiretapping program (Stellar Wind) and prosecuting mafia leader John Gambino among other stories.
They'll learn, if they don't already know, how much dirty politics play a part in life changing decisions. They'll learn the importance of voting for the right person for it's implications will be felt for years to come, either way.
-- Mary Ellen Quinn, May 3, 2018
Page last edited: Dec 20, 2018