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Horowitz: Comey Goes After Trump Where He is Most Vulnerable

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Rob Horowitz

In his new book and in the first of what promises to be a series of interviews that receive saturation-level media coverage, former FBI Director James A. Comey goes directly after President Trump on his character and his fitness to lead. Comey’s arguments are likely to strike a responsive chord with the overwhelming majority of the public because he is reinforcing their pre-existing views of President Trump. Most voters do not trust the president and believe his behavior falls far short of what the office demands. 

Additionally, whether or not people believe that James Comey made an ill-advised decision to publicly announce he was reopening the Hillary Clinton email investigation 11 days before the general election or made other big mistakes as FBI director, his credibility and reputation for telling the truth, despite the best efforts of the White House to undermine it, remain fairly high.  By a substantial 48% to 32% margin, Americans find him more believable than President Trump, in a recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll.  And in his interview with George Stephanopoulos that aired in prime time Sundaynight, he came across as believable and compelling as he has in interviews throughout his long public career where he forged a well-earned reputation for integrity and independence.

Comey paints a devastating picture of the president based on his up close observations.   In his book, which moved to number oup-closeazon before its’ official release today,  the former FBI director writes, This president is unethical, and untethered to the truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty.”

He elaborates by saying that the president triggered, “flashbacks to my earlier career as a prosecutor against the mob. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

Comey sounded the same themes in his interview with Stephanopoulos: “There is something more important that should unite all of us, and that is our president must embody respect and adhere to the values of the country. The most important thing being truth.  This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”

 In an artful tweet responding to President Trump calling him a ‘slime ball” among other choice insults, Comey continued along similar lines, comparing Trump unfavorably to the two other Presidents he served, Bush and Obama: “My book is about ethical leadership & draws on stories from my life & lessons I learned from others. 3 presidents are in my book: 2 help illustrate the values at the heart of ethical leadership; 1 serves as a counterpoint.”

There are damaging specific instances in the book as well, such as Comey’s observation that after being briefed about all the ways that the Russians meddled in the 2016 election by the heads of the major intelligence agencies, President Trump and his team had no questions about the substance and moved immediately into a conversation about how to best spin it.

But the lasting takeaway is a well-rounded portrait of the deficient character of President Trump and its potentially dangerous consequences for our democracy.  President Trump and his allies all-out assault on Comey, which so far has been dominated by repetitious name calling is likely to do little to dent the compelling picture the former FBI Director paints.. After all, it is a picture that for most Americans, now having watched President Trump in office for more than a year, rings all too true.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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