The FBI Does Not Need Another Don Quixote as Director

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 May 13, 2017|
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In Miguel de Cervantes’ classic 17th century work, Don Quixote, the eponymous character becomes enamored with the concept of chivalry. Believing that chivalry was dead and in need of rehabilitation, Quixote assumes he is the last chivalrous man alive. Thus, he resolves to single-handedly revive chivalry and bring justice to all.

Of course, as the reader soon discovers—spoiler alert!—Quixote is insane. In Quixote’s self-imposed quest to revive chivalry, he often confuses his arrogant urge to feed his ego with a desire to do good. Quixote is also delusional and often suffers from impaired judgment; as he prefers to view the world according to the dictates of his delusions rather than from within the confines of reality. Hilarious adventures ensue.

The characteristics that make Don Quixote such a great fictional character are terrible traits to have in a director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. With James Comey, the United States had a Don Quixote-like character running the FBI.

After all, Comey was a quixotic individual who was so wrapped up in his own delusions about being the “last honest man in Washington, D.C.,” that he brought professional ruin to himself and likely damaged the reputation of the FBI.

Comey was a federal prosecutor for many years (having famously taken down Martha Stewart on trumped up insider trading charges that later resulted in a conviction for “obstruction of justice” and making false statements under oath). Comey soon became the deputy attorney general during the George W. Bush Administration, serving under former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Despite being a lifelong registered Republican, Comey’s allegiance was with neither the Bush Administration nor the GOP. Comey’s allegiance wasn’t to the Truth, either―whatever his rumored reputation may be. Like Don Quixote’s dedication to his perception of chivalry, Comey’s dedication was to his own definition of Truth (which was ultimately self-serving).

The characteristics that make Don Quixote such a great fictional character are terrible traits to have in a director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. With James Comey, the United States had a Don Quixote-like character running the FBI.

First, as deputy attorney general, Comey selected federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to lead the independent investigation of the Valerie Plame scandal.

Here’s how Peter Baker described Comey’s role in the Plame investigation:

John Ashcroft [the Attorney General] recused himself from the CIA leak case because Karl Rove [senior Bush adviser] used to work for him, so the matter had fallen to his deputy attorney general, James Comey. In turn, Comey had decided to turn it [the investigation] over to a special prosecutor. On December 30, he announced that Patrick Fitzgerald [a] close friend, would lead the investigation of the White House.

Swamp creatures always stick together.

By selecting his friend as special prosecutor, Comey was setting up the Bush Administration (whether he meant to or not is irrelevant) for destruction. Fitzgerald was the lead federal prosecutor in Chicago. Not only was he obsessed with his conviction rate, he was also dogmatic in his belief that if he was investigating someone, they were guilty. As Baker details, after a particularly contentious interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, Fitzgerald became obsessed with indicting someone high up in the Bush Administration. Cheney was his target, but in the process, he ended up forcing Karl Rove out and, more damagingly, destroying the man described as “Cheney’s-Cheney,” I. “Scooter” Libby. But, all that mattered was that Fitzgerald passed the James Comey “honesty” and “moral rigidity” test!

Comey, the ultimate Washington insider, was not finished forcing the Bush Administration to conform to his own absurd standards. In 2005, the Bush Administration’s warrantless surveillance program was up for reauthorization. Basically, the program was so controversial (even within the Bush Administration), that the DOJ had to get monthly presidential reauthorization allowing for the continuation of the program. Both Bush and Cheney firmly believed that the program was a vital tool in the War on Terror.

Yet again, Comey’s view of himself as the “last honest man” in government was reaffirmed. However, the Democrats would soon discover how unreliable and quixotic Comey was.

The reauthorization process was usually a matter of course. However, personnel changes in the DOJ’s Department of Legal Counsel began a major debate between the Bush DOJ lawyers and the White House. Unfortunately for the White House, Attorney General Ashcroft was hospitalized with a bout of pancreatitis. Yet again, his number two, the incorruptible Don Comey, took umbrage with the White House.

Being in command of the DOJ for a very short period, Comey upended administration policy by refusing to reauthorize the program without significant changes. Irrespective of one’s opinion on the warrantless surveillance program, the fact remains that it was not up to Comey to alter Administration policy in fundamental ways. If he (and others in the Administration) were so concerned, they should have aired their grievances through proper channels.

Ultimately, Comey resigned—and ran to the Democrats in Congress to testify about the administration’s alleged missteps. His quixotic tale doesn’t end there, of course. President Barack Obama would name Comey as his FBI Director in 2013. Here’s what the New York Times had to say about his nomination at the time:

By choosing Mr. Comey, a Republican, Mr. Obama made a strong statement about bipartisanship at a time when he faces renewed criticism from Republicans in Congress and has had difficulty winning confirmation of some important nominees. At the same time, Mr. Comey’s role in one of the most dramatic episodes of the Bush administration—in which he refused to acquiesce to White House aides and reauthorize a program for eavesdropping without warrants when he was serving as acting attorney general—should make him an acceptable choice to Democrats.

Yet again, Comey’s view of himself as the “last honest man” in government was reaffirmed. However, the Democrats would soon discover how unreliable and quixotic Comey was. And, shortly thereafter, the Republicans would be reminded of Comey’s haplessness also.

Comey clearly missed the memo that as FBI director his role was no longer prosecutorial, rather, he was the nation’s top investigator. But, Comey’s ego—like Don Quixote—needed to be fed. Like Quixote, Comey did not view it as his ego compelling him onward, rather, it was his selflessness. This is why he took to the cameras to detail the purported crimes of Hillary Clinton and assert that “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

Not long after that press conference, he would return to the cameras to insist that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton. Clearly, Don Comey needed to rush to the defense of our ailing republic, and become the grand referee in the psychodrama that was the 2016 Presidential election. And as no one ever asked Don Quixote to take upon himself the role of  reviving chivalry, no one ever asked James Comey to become the arbiter of the 2016 election.

Comey was “mildly nauseous” about his public pressers having negatively influenced the chances of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This is akin to when Don Quixote finally realized that his goal of returning chivalry to the world had the opposite of its intended effect. The reason? Delusional people delude themselves into believing they are beyond reproach. When Quixote did it, we laughed, because it makes for great fiction. When Comey did it, we were all mortified, because it was a grotesque misuse of his power.

Egoists like Comey exist throughout the federal bureaucracy. Given enough power, they become a threat to everyone. In this way, the elite should support Trump’s calls to “drain the swamp.” Comey is the epitome of a swamp creature. Comey’s allegiance was only to himself. Comey cared little for the truth (if he had, Clinton would be on trial right now). Instead, Comey wanted to be the country’s chief moralizer.

The FBI does not need another Don Quixote as its director. It also does not need either a politician or a lawyer as its next head. But, it must get someone who is untarnished by the partisan miasma that dominates the upper levels of the bureaucracy. It needs someone who is an objective investigator with years of experience in the FBI. In short, the FBI needs an FBI agent to lead it. The Trump Administration would do well to dig deep into the FBI’s ranks and find some new blood; someone at the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) or the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) level.

The FBI needs real leadership, not political hackery or faux moralizing imposed from on high.

 

About the Author:

Brandon J. Weichert
Brandon J. Weichert is a contributing editor to American Greatness. A former Republican congressional staffer and national security expert, he also runs "The Weichert Report" (www.theweichertreport.com), an online journal of geopolitics. He holds master's degree in statecraft and national security from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. He is also an associate member of New College at Oxford University and holds a B.A. in political science from DePaul University. He is currently completing a book on national security space policy due out next year.
  • Joel Mathis

    A tendentious retelling of the surveillance issue. To start with: Because he was acting attorney general at the moment reauthorization was needed, Comey WAS the proper channel.

    Second: It was Bush Administration officials who attempted to circumvent proper channels. “Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card — then White House counsel and chief of staff, respectively —(attempted) to force John Ashcroft to overrule Comey, despite the fact that Ashcroft was debilitated in a hospital with pancreatitis.”

    https://thinkprogress.org/comey-breaks-silence-white-house-tried-to-force-incapacitated-ashcroft-to-back-spying-program-66fb293ac29

    “In the confrontation that ensued, Ashcroft supported Comey both formally (because Comey was legally the attorney general while Ashcroft was incapacitated) and on the legal substance. Bush reauthorized the program despite the Justice Department’s conclusion that it was unlawful. Comey then threatened to resign—with Ashcroft, FBI director Robert Mueller, and other top officials reportedly ready to join him. Bush ultimately backed down, and the troublesome program was briefly suspended until it could be renewed under a different legal authority.”

    https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/07/what-the-ashcroft-hospital-showdown-on-nsa-spying-was-all-about/

    Despite Brandon’s telling of this tale as “Comey the rogue Don Quixote,” he was backed in this case by Ashcroft, the FBI director, and others who threatened to resign.

    The result of the mass threat to resign — not just Comey, but a number of top DOJ officials — was that Bush signed a narrower reauthorization of the program that was within the legal parameters set by Congress.

    Read the Ars Technica link above, and you’ll see a lot more detail about the program. But the truth — contra Brandon — is that in this case, at least, Comey did act bravely, and with a fairly widespread base of support within the administration.

    • Unqualified?

      My problem with Comey:

      Comey testifies to Stefanik in Congressional testimony that the normal protocol in a new investigation is to to alert Justice, DNI, and Congress on a quarterly basis..Stefanik then asked when he contacted these agencies with respect to the July 2016 Investigation on Russia. Comey’s answer was Justice(Obama) knew all along; he wasn’t sure about DNI because there wasn’t a DNI(his words) until Coates came on board when he was notified. He then tells Stefanik that Congress was only recently notified; she asked why since this went against normal protocol, and he responds because of the sensitivity of the investigation…

      So, this is my concern: You have an investigation on Russian interference that was started obviously between the FBI and Obama’s Justice department in July 2016; They were operating apparently in the dark with no Congressional oversight and no contact with DNI. What is giving me pause here is there actually was a DNI with Clapper leading it in July 2016. If normal protocols were met Clapper would have been notified by then of the year at the latest about an ongoing investigation as important as this was…But no contact with DNI and no contact with Congress…Someone is lying about DNI and something stinks to high heaven about why Congress wasn’t notified……

      • Severn

        He then tells Stefanik that Congress was only recently notified; she
        asked why since this went against normal protocol, and he responds
        because of the sensitivity of the investigation…

        Which seems to basically translate to ‘If we had briefed Congress then some Republicans would have found out what we were up to, and I did not want that”. So the whole illicit investigation was conducted by the Democratic Party with zero oversight.

        • Unqualified?

          It appears so…I’ve always considered Comey a very political guy…

  • lyndaaquarius

    yes!! Someone raised up within the ranks/culture of the FBI.An agent.Young,dedicated and non political.A good and very,very smart soldier type.Must be many to choose from.

    • fb274

      No politician. That includes Cornyn and Gowdy. Yes, one of the career FBI agents with NO blemish needs to lead.

  • George Dixon

    Trey Gowdy…
    Director of the FBI
    Has a nice ring to it, eh?

    • JamesDrouin

      No, it does’t … he’s a politician, and he supported James Comey.

  • Whiskey Sam

    It seems Weichert has his own personal liberal troll following him from post to post. Amusing to see how Comey goes from villain to hero from moment to moment for the Left depending on what is most politically expedient for them at that moment.

    • The Demon Slick

      I don’t dispute the authors observations about Comey, except to say, that for the average person Don Quixote invokes imagery of tilting at windmills, or Quixotic crusades, and not the complex personality study he describes. I think Comey tilted away from windmills, and everything else.

  • Ironwrkr

    Comey sending Stewart to jail for false statements when there was no underlying crime was enough for me. Happy he is gone.

    • Charlotte Aines

      I thought the same thing.

    • Terenc Blakely

      I was sympathetic toward Martha Stewart until I found out she was a a big time broker before her glitzy homemaker routine. After that I realized she knew exactly what was going on and was feigning ignorance and innocence. A lot of criminals end up going to jail not for their crime but for their coverup.

      • JamesDrouin

        She was sent to prison for telling two incosequential lies during an interview with an FBI agent who repeatedly lied to her.

  • 57nomad

    Rudy G. !!!

  • I’m no fan of Comey’s, but this turgid article tells us more about the writer than Comey,

  • Nick Berio

    any connection to Obam administration has to be excised

  • Warren Fahy

    It seemed like he was about to break into a Thomas More soliloquy from A Man for All Seasons at any moment.

    • John Stephens

      He should have remembered how that story ended.

      • ShermanLogan

        And that More was an enthusiastic persecutor and torturer of those who dared to disagree with him.

        A man of immense moral courage and integrity, for which he should be honored, but not in all ways someone to emulate.

  • Many persons believe themselves to be morally and ethically superior to those around them. Most are wrong…but not all of them. Comey was wrong…but what if he’d been correct? What if he really had been a lone honest man surrounded by thieves and frauds? Wouldn’t the general reaction to his actions have been just the same?

    We have a deep and serious problem today: the loss of the universal standards of right and justice — really, one and the same thing — that were once the bedrock of American life. Relativization has made it impossible to avoid problems such as this. Moreover, there will come a time when, under a thoroughly corrupt executive administration, a morally stainless man of traditional standards will be in Comey’s position. We’d better be ready for it.

    • JamesDrouin

      What if pigs could fly???

  • I’m convinced more than ever that one man is needed to lead the FBI, Merrick Garland.

    • JamesDrouin

      You should convince yourself to cut back on koolaid.

      • It was Grape Flavor Aid. My tastes rum towards Bordeaux.

  • JamesDrouin

    “The FBI Does Not Need Another Don Quixote as Director”

    Well, James Comey may have been a “Don Quixote”, but that wasn’t his problem … his problem was (among other character flaws) that he was a “corrupt, incompetent, venal, buffoon”. And you can quote me on that.

  • joenyc

    I’m a PhD Social Psychologist, a politics- and news- junkie, Trump zealot, and trained student of social phenomena,

    the hue- and cry here against Comey, is now beyond McCarthyism (Joe, a contemporary of the earlier, 1950s, Red Menace),

    rather, is the Salem Witch Trials, a burgeoning steam roller of Big Nothing paranoia, capturing a sector of public hysteria and Trump Dementia, adding to itself by self-importance, and independent of facts

    and of course, the absence of evidence, is proof of conspiracy, as always
    =
    I read, and post, at NYT daily,

    THEY and others, offer us truth or TRUTH

    The most recent offeror of TRUTH, is Stalin’s PRAVDA; and, ‘truth,’ is a Lefto metaphysical concept, like certainty, and thus absolutism, I content myself, per our judicial system, with ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’

    So proponents (and exclusive purveyors) of TRUTH, are the nowadays absolutists, Torquemada comes to mind
    =
    Don Quixote merely tilted at windmills, and the author has perhaps made a pun,

    Don Quixote, (Don is an honorific, a variant of ‘Lord’ in English peerage usage),

    and so we have Don Trump, also ‘Teflon Don,’ NYC’s mafia boss Giotti, who defeated indictments until he didn’t

    and then there is donnybrook, or, melee
    =
    I hope Don Trump has ‘the right stuff’ (or IS the Right stuff); for this 72yo, DT (another pun), DT gives his enemies the DTs), DT is our last best and only hope

    to do what he said on his job application/ funding proposal

    MAGA, fits on a baseball hat
    =
    Don Quixote might have wrongly thought windmills were dragons: we know, (forced pun alert) that the Left’s environmental dementia, as metaphor for Lefto generalized Fascist dementia and absolutism, is indeed that windmills are (OUR) dragons, real enemies, because the Left sees windmills as salvation from the hysteria of CO2 toxosis, and thus IS a dragon,

    as well as a drag, on, US greatness, and of course, for the Left, getting all up in drag, is a sexual virtue

    ‘struth, Mr T, fight on sir, we need you

  • Bruceov

    Oh in another words the FBI needs someone loyal to trump.