Last night I finished James Comey’s book.
From the much-ballyhooed public reviews, you’d think this book was all about President Trump.
Out of 277 pages, the reviews I’ve absorbed from TV, friends, or newspapers, are largely focused on a scant few pages—or even a few paragraphs. Maybe a few short chapters at most, but all from the tail end of the book.
Thus, like everyone exposed to phony reviews, I thought I’d experienced the whole text, meaning no need to read it. And anyway, I was kind of Trumped-out. So why exert myself to read one more expose? I hadn’t planned to buy the book—but then Rob bought it for me.
Mostly out of loyalty to Rob, I began reading. And from chapter to well-written chapter, I kept expecting, here comes the Trump stuff. Yet nothing of the sort appeared. The message I gleaned was about the journey of one conscience-driven man who took on a number of public service assignments (mostly in the arenas of policing and Justice), and throughout absorbed hard lessons about the world of bad guys . . . about finding ways to “commit justice” . . . and finally about his ever-increasing, personal struggle to “do the right thing.”
Adding to the reader’s involvement, all Comey’s hard-earned lessons had context—specific among them, the actual jobs he was assigned to do, and the reasons they perplexed him. And how often he was saved by great bosses and leaders (we actually “see” these guys), starting with childhood.
But perhaps of greater consequence, came the insights of his wife, Patrice. We learn of the couple’s personal tragedy and how they coped and adjusted. We see Comey taking on a series of assignments, each of escalating importance, but every one containing mis-steps and mistakes, combined with new insights. At last, to his surprise, he is chosen by President Obama (not from his political party), to head the FBI.
Four enlightening, lesson-learning years follow. As always, Comey names names and ponders actual assignments. Among his revelations are his two brief, but amazing encounters with President Obama. How tellingly these scenes depict both men!
At last, around Page 211, we meet Trump. At first Comey is perplexed, but fair-minded. He sincerely hopes—maybe expects--the man will prove to be a better president than his campaign suggests. However, for these last few chapters we are led into the Trump/Comey scenes as he experienced them. In the end, we get to know our current president in ways we’ve guessed at but never seen so clearly depicted.
Because he kept such detailed notes, Comey reveals a blazing truth: our president is even trickier, more self-absorbed, more vacuous, and ultimately a more consistent liar than the media has portrayed him. He is such a non-stop talker that nobody in his presence gets to say a complete sentence. You have to be sitting in Comey’s chair to realize the extent of his emptiness—and yes, vindictiveness.
As his final maneuver with Comey plays out, we realize our president is even meaner than we imagined; his ultimate, outrageous betrayal of the head of the FBI is almost beyond belief.
Still, the book ends on a strong note of hope. In the way that a forest fire clears out old growth and allows new saplings to take over, Comey believes our country will rebound from this destructive administration in ways that will accomplish what we’ve all been hoping for—a new generation of leaders who govern with a conscience.