We need mature voices of leadership
Jordan Ryan | Monday, April 16, 2018
“His face appeared slightly orange with bright white half-moons under his eyes where I assumed he placed small tanning goggles, and impressively coifed, bright blond hair, which upon close inspection looked to be all his […] As he extended his hand, I made a mental note to check its size. It was smaller than mine, but did not seem unusually so.”
I’m sure its no surprise that the subject of this description is President Trump. What is surprising is who wrote it: Former FBI Director James Comey. This is only one instance in which former Director Comey writes of the physical or otherwise futile characterizations of President Trump in the excerpts leaked of his new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” expected to be released this coming week.
Director Comey, in a marketing and publicity blitz for his soon-to-be released book, leaked excerpts which appeared to be designed to provoke an emotional response from President Trump. As the quoted language demonstrates, Mr. Comey’s personal attacks border on the absurd if the goal of his book is to demonstrate that Mr. Trump is unfit for office. Similarly, in comparing Mr. Trump to a Mafia boss, Mr. Comey claims that President Trump lies “about all things, large and small,” and is unethical and untethered to truth. This does nothing more than confirm for the reader Mr. Comey’s lack of objectivity with respect to matters involving Mr. Trump.
While such over the top character attacks may well sell books, these comments are below the dignity of the former Director of the nation’s chief law enforcement agency. What unfortunately shines though from these insults is Director Comey’s intense dislike of President Trump and his desire for retribution for Mr. Trump’s decision to terminate him in May 2017. A more cynical perspective may view Mr. Comey’s comments as intended to elicit a very public and equally overblown reaction by Mr. Trump in order to strike controversy, public discussion and most importantly, sales of his book.
Confronted with these personal attacks, President Trump was presented with a perfect opportunity to rise above the mean spirited and unproductive rhetoric and make a more measured and “presidential” response. Predictably, this was not the path followed by Mr. Trump.
President Trump quickly took Director Comey’s bait and unleashed an equally personal response to the attack. Excerpts from the book were leaked on Thursday night, and by 8 a.m. Friday morning, Mr. Trump tweeted “James Comey is a proven LEAKER & LIAR.” He continued by attacking Comey’s job performance as Director: “Virtually everyone in Washington thought he should be fired for the terrible job he did-until he was, in fact, fired. He leaked CLASSIFIED information, for which he should be prosecuted. He lied to Congress under OATH,” and concluded with attacks on his character, “He is a weak and untruthful slime ball who was, as time has proven, a terrible Director of the FBI. His handling of the Crooked Hillary Clinton case, and the events surrounding it, will go down as one of the worst ‘botch jobs’ of history. It was my great honor to fire James Comey!”
Mr. Comey did not have to be a mind reader to know that his comments would incite a strong and immediate response from Mr. Trump. The President’s often colorful tweets have become his hallmark. Not long ago and in somewhat analogous circumstances, President Trump characterized Michael Wolff, author of“Fire and Fury,” as “mentally deranged.”
Irrespective of your political views or opinions of these two men, it is clear that such heated language is totally unproductive. Such attacks and counterattacks may be designed to secure political points, continue a personal battle or even sell books. What this senseless dialogue will not do is ease the political polarization and dysfunction of our federal government. These childish personalized attacks, which seem to have become the norm, must stop. We need mature voices of leadership, not schoolyard name-calling to meet the domestic global challenges with which we are faced.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.