Opinion: Comey’s great book is about more than just Trump

Opinion: Comey’s great book is about more than just Trump

By Ellen Ratner   
Then-FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Oversight Committee on July 7, 2016. President Donald Trump fired him on May 9, 2017. The talk about Comey's book has mostly focused on Trump but those discussions comprise only a small part of the book. (Danielle Wilde)

I just finished reading former FBI Director James Comey’s book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership.” What amazes me is not what is revealed in the book but what the mainstream press focused on.

The headlines about the book were everywhere. Here are some examples: “Comey, in new book, paints Trump as a liar divorced from reality” and “James Comey book: Trump likened to mob boss, called ‘unethical and untethered to truth.’ ”

What the press ignored almost two weeks ago was the substance to the book. I may be a looney liberal, but I like to tell things as I see them  and this book is about way more than the discussions then-FBI Director Comey had with Donald Trump.

There are 14 chapters in the book and an epilogue. Only chapters 12, 13 and 14 and the epilogue discuss President Trump. The book is a revealing look at James Comey’s life and why he decided to become an FBI agent. It also recounts his perspective, as well as that of the whole FBI, in many notable cases. This recounting should have made the headlines, but it didn’t.

Having studied psychology, I pay attention to why adults choose careers and factors that contribute to those decisions based on their childhood experiences. Comey’s reasons for choosing law enforcement make up the most fascinating part of the book. Comey, who was much taller than his contemporaries, was bullied as a child. (I was bullied, too, because I was the shortest in my class.)

What was not reported in the press was how he learned leadership skills from the manager of the grocery store where he worked. The manager’s name was Harry Howell, and he taught Comey about leadership. Comey tells a story of how another boy who was a co-worker tried to get him in trouble, but Howell saw though it. Comey said Howell was “one of the finest bosses I have ever had.”

Comey spends a lot of the book discussing what would have been front-page stories back in the day, but now they’re stories that no one cares too much about. Comey is big on lying, being it under oath or not. He discussed a pastor from Richmond, Va., who was in government service and was sent to jail for lying. I have a cousin who is a white-collar attorney and says these big guys get in trouble with the government for telling their first lie. Comey’s book gives numerous examples of those lies.

I think what stuck with me most was his confrontation as a teen with the “Ramsey rapist” in Bergen County, New Jersey. To be fair, Comey did discuss this in his interview with George Stephanopoulos and also recounted the event at a town hall with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I thought about the Ramsey rapist every night,” Comey said. “I don’t mean most nights. I mean every night for at least five years.”

The life-changing event took place in October 1977, when he was 15. The rapist/burgler entered the Comey residence when only James and his younger brother were home. The story is long and worth reading. After the teens’ encounter with the “Ramsey rapist,” who escaped after terrorizing the teens and pointing a gun at their heads, the incursions stopped. The incident gave Comey, who thought he might be killed, new respect for the rule of law.

I loved his description of how he decided to deal with the Hillary Clinton server debacle. He makes it clear in his book that the issue wasn’t that Clinton had a private server in her home, as former Secretary of State Colin Powell had a private server as well. The problem was the classified information that was shared, especially after Clinton’s assistant, Huma Abedin, shared a computer with her former congressman husband, Anthony Weiner, who was sexting various women.

Comey talked in detail about prosecuting the Mafia and getting members to rat on each other. That alone makes reading this book worthwhile. The stories of the FBI working to find out how the Mafia operates make it a great read.

This book is a whole lot more than the current story of the day  Comey’s relationship with President Trump. It is selling wildly due in part to Trump calling Comey a liar. I’m sure Comey is laughing all the way to the bank.

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