In his bestselling book “A Higher Loyalty,” and in interviews for the book, former FBI Director James Comey has laid out why he believes Donald Trump “is a liar and morally unfit for office.”
In an interview with NBC News for its “Think” series, Comey explains why he considers Republicans as the most important audience for his book.
As he explained last week, for most of his life Comey was a registered Republican, even as he served in the administrations of both Republicans and Democrats.
This week, Comey said in an interview with the ABC News podcast “Start Here,” that it is not so much he has left the Republican party but “the Republican Party has left me and many others.”
“I see the Republican Party,” he added on the ABC podcast, “as near as I can tell, reflects now entirely Donald Trump’s values. It doesn’t reflect values at all. It’s transactional, it’s ego-driven, it’s in service to his ego.”
In his new NBC News interview, Comey drives that point home, based on his own observations of the president.
“Trump’s only reference point appeared to be internal,” explains Comey; “He is driven by what decision, what course of action will get him the affirmation he so craves. In fact, I’ve never actually seen in an adult more craving for affirmation.”
The president’s relentless need for external affirmation – which he usually gets by surrounding himself with yes men (and women) – means he is not driven by what is obviously right or wrong, suggests Comey, but by what feeds his ego.
The problem is that ignores the core values of decency and civility that have traditionally been at the heart of the best leaders.
Brushing aside the idea Trump can or will be impeached, Comey is calling on those who agree with him about the need for leaders who still have those basic values to act now.
“Americans need to stand up and realize that a group of things are much more important than our policy positions,” Comey tells NBC News.
“We can have ferocious disagreements about all kinds of issues,” he continues, “but we shouldn’t have any disagreement about what is at the core of America, which is a common set of values.”
That brings him back to what it means – or has meant in the past – to be a Republican and a conservative.
“I thought that at the heart of the definition of a conservative was the notion that character matters, and that values matter,” says Comey.
“I thought that’s what it meant to be a conservative.”
That is why, says Comey, in some ways “Republicans are the most important audience for my book because I’m ashamed of the way the Republican Party has conducted itself. Republicans know better.”
“If Republicans do believe that values matter,” adds Comey, “it’s time for them to stand up and put an ethical fence around him in a way that will protect the country.”
Those who work for and with Trump, and even those who support his every decision, take a chance on harming themselves as well as the country, Comey believes.
“Those still working in Washington and in Trump’s Cabinet have hard choices to make,” explains Comey. “Each person has to weigh their commitment to the country against the damage that will come to them.”
“I believe that working for Donald Trump, especially closely, damages everybody,” adds Comey. “And all of us have to decide individually: How much stain can I tolerate in service to my country?”
Comey says that he wrote the book to say that the truth does matter, that it will always matter, and those good people know that and must act on it.
He concludes his NBC interview by saying he doubts Trump will ever read his book but if he does, “I would hope that he would recognize…The truth still matters in America and that as the leader of this nation he should be always working to hold himself accountable to this idea.
“Of course, there’s almost no chance that he will read it,” laments Comey. “And I would be stunned if he takes a lesson from it.”
Even as Trump attacks Comey, it is clear in the fired FBI Director’s book, interviews and comments that he presents a contrast to a president who treats facts and reality as malleable bits and pieces designed solely to serve his purpose.
For Comey, whether you believe what he says or not, it is almost impossible not to realize that he is telling the truth as he understands it, and that sets him apart from his critic-in-chief in the most important way.