FBI Director James Comey’s unprecedented interjection into the presidential contest–just eleven days before the election!–seems on its face a deliberate effort to put his thumb on the scale. He obstinately proceeded, despite the strong objections of the Justice Department, breaking decades of agency policy.
After all, Comey is a Republican who scolded Hillary Clinton for her “extremely reckless” use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State, even as he stated–and many independent observers concur–that “no reasonable prosecutor” would say there was a case against her.
Comey’s action contradicted even recent FBI policy during the primary season, in cases related to the Ukrainian ties of Trump’s former campaign manager and donors to the Clinton Foundation.
While I believe that unconscious bias may well be at work here, I think the real culprit is a syndrome that will be all too familiar to anti-theists.
Comey has succumbed to the blindness of those who consider themselves to be upright and morally superior, so above the fray that their motives could never be questioned.
If I do something, it must be right.
Now, I don’t think Comey was so naive that he thought he wouldn’t get any blowback from the Democrats–and especially Hillary Clinton. Indeed, he may have had in the back of his mind that his finger-wagging during the email case announcement might force him to resign should Hillary win. (A corollary to that argument is that he may have unconsciously wanted to thwart that eventuality by helping Donald Trump.)
And, admittedly, the fact that Comey was informed of the emails weeks before the ill-advised letter sounds suspiciously like he sat on the information on purpose. He claims he was just trying to ascertain the significance of the discovery of the emails on Anthony Weiner’s laptop. Well, gee, you still didn’t really know that when you dropped that particular bombshell, did you?
Oh, and the tweet about the investigation of Bill Clinton’s last-day-in-office pardon of Mark Rich? You’re really not trying very hard not to sound like you’re tightening the screws on the Clintons, are you?
But bear with me a bit, as I engage in a bit of unlicensed, amateur psychology.
Though Comey undoubtedly weighed the fraught political issues, I believe he felt pulled by stronger emotional undercurrents. Stung by the vehement criticism he received from the GOP–particularly Donald Trump–and most personally his conservative-dominated FBI agents, he decided to endure the opprobrium his maddeningly vague letter would engender.
Indeed, as President Obama recently said in an interview with NowThis News:
We don’t operate on incomplete information. We don’t operate on leaks. We operate based on concrete decisions that are made.
This is the same person who insisted that FBI officials shouldn’t publically announce the involvement of Russian intelligence agencies in the various hacks targeting the DNC and the Clinton campaign in order to influence our presidential election. His argument? That it was too close to the election and might sway the American electorate.
I’ll pause a second to let you pick your jaw from the floor from the naked hypocrisy.
Um, isn’t that exactly what he did when he released his letter to congressional leaders? Yup! Is he even aware of the contradiction? I doubt it.
This is where Comey’s moral blindness comes into it. Listen closely and you’ll hear the parallels with religious psychological blind spots.
Comey’s thinking: I promised that I would consider any new evidence in the email case and keep Congress apprised of any developments. My honor is at stake. (Oh, and incidentally, my friends at the FBI are still mad at me about the email case. I care a lot more about their opinions than Harry Reid’s!)
I believe that Comey suffers from Elliot Ness Syndrome. I’m the straight-shooting good guy, so my actions are by definition justified…no matter what they are. In the end, everyone will see that I have the moral high ground.
Yet for people whose sense of their own personal rectitude is so complete, they develop a tunnel vision in which any views outside of their narrow self-conception fades to black in the periphery.
Comey was a liberal hero when he prevented Alberto Gonzales from ambushing John Ashcroft in the hospital as he recovered from an emergency appendectomy in order to authorize an extension of the NSA’s warrantless domestic spying program.
But that same Boy Scout certitude prevents him from seeing when his own actions cross the line.
The irony is that in trying to prove that the FBI has long moved away from the dirty political maneuverings of J. Edgar Hoover, Comey wound up reanimating that dark G-Man’s rotting corpse.