Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Comey’s Overdue Departure

The Corner
The one and only.
 by Victor Davis Hanson// National Review
If a FBI director is doing his job, we probably should neither see nor hear of him much on television.
The FBI director by his very office holds enormous power. And like the IRS director, by definition he or she must show restraint given the vast resources at his discretion and thus the potential for abuse. In other words, we want a FBI director to exude coolness, stay dispassionate, and remain professional. I don’t think that has ever been a description that fit Director James Comey.
Comey’s nadir came in the summer of 2016 when, confused over the investigatory role of the FBI and the prosecutorial prerogatives of the Justice Department, he de facto turned the FBI into investigator, prosecutor, judge, and jury in presenting damning evidence against Hillary Clinton, then nullifying it, then reopening the case, then re-reopening it and backing off — all in front of television cameras in the midst of a heated presidential campaign.
And then after doing all that, Comey confused the act with its intent, and as a veritable legislator reinvented statutes about communicating classified information by suggesting that even if one likely committed a felony, but did not intend to (not a proven assertion), then it wasn’t really a felony.
Comey’s behavior was never properly addressed. His recent performance in front of Congress likely sealed his fate. We do not expect our FBI director to whine, in teenager fashion, about being treated unfairly, as he alleged when Loretta Lynch dumped the Clinton e-mail scandal in his lap. (A good FBI director, of course, would simply have run the investigation, presented the findings to the Justice Department, and then have let them deal with it (if not Lynch, then someone else). Comey misrepresented the volume of Huma Abedin’s improper e-mails; and in general always fell back on loud assertions of FBI integrity rather than displaying it through his behavior and statements.
Nor did Comey have a reservoir of good will. Long ago, he acted bizarrely in the John Ashcroft hospitalization melodrama; he was responsible for the career of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald who miscarried justice in the case of Scooter Libby (not to mention Fitzgerald’s own subsequent Conrad Black prosecution). His legacy is that Hillary Clinton paid no price for illegally setting up an improper e-mail server, destroying evidence, and communicating classified material in an insecure fashion.
Comey seems to think that he could freely discuss the charges of Russian collusion, but not so transparently the far stronger evidence of unlawful unmasking of Americans caught up in (or in fact targeted by) government surveillance — apparently in understandable fear that the Democrats and media posed the greater danger to his career.
Politically,Comey’s thirst for celebrity rankled his own bureau and, finally, achieved the difficult result of alienating both Republicans (who thought he was an Obama operative in service to Hillary) and Democrats (who thought he was a tool of the FBI, freelancing to sink Hillary). Usually being roundly distrusted would be a sign of disinterested non-partisanship. But in Comey’s case, the universal disdain was more likely rare unity that Comey lacked the temperament to run the FBI and had created a climate of fear that at any given moment a Comey press conference would destroy someone’s career without commensurate investigation and evidence.
Democrats, who despised Comey (see Hillary’s latest whine) and blamed him for Trump’s election, are already calling the firing cruel, mean spirited, and proof of a Trump conspiracy (why would Trump fire and set loose on the media the man who supposedly had handed him the election?); Republicans will shrug that long ago Comey should have been fired (the entire Clinton investigations, including the quid pro quo Clinton Foundation matters, were sloppy and amateurish), but the timing and methods of his firing seemed momentarily messy.
The proper analysis is probably twofold: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — roundly praised in bipartisan fashion (please read his detailed memo critiquing Comey’s performance) — wanted to start out with a clean slate and not have a damaged-goods FBI-director albatross around his neck for the next four years — in the contexts of the past recusals of Lynch and then Jeff Sessions.
Second, the surveillance/unmasking scandal remains a potential bombshell and it was probably felt that Comey (who was loquacious about the collusion charge, but suddenly silent about likely felonious unmasking) could not be trusted to conduct a timely, fair, and prompt investigation. (Would he have had another press conference announcing that surveillance statutes had been violated by unmasking, but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would pursue such a case, supposedly given its lack of criminal intent?)
The hysteria will subside, because in the end Comey has no supporters left, and lots of critics — he will be missed by very few.

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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