BREAKING: What Happened back in 2016?

SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2018

We outline one possible novel:
What actually happened in 2016, during that year's White House campaign?

More specifically, what explains the conduct of James B. Comey, known then as "Comey the god" within the establishment press?

A person could imagine the story any number of ways. Today, we offer the incomparable outline of one possible novel.

This novel would turn on the idea that Comey is possibly just a bit "wack" in the general area of possible "moral vanity." As an example of what we mean, we offer this photo from Comey's Twitter account—a photo from Gettysburg, to which he appends this pensee:

"Little Round Top, Gettysburg. Good place to think about leadership and values."

(For background, just click here.)

You might expect a post like that from a college kid who's trying to form his identity. By way of contrast, Comey was almost 57 years old when he posted that photo last fall. This novel would suggest that there was some sort of "identity issue" which, even at that age, Comey was still working out.

That identity issue would involve a rather juvenile sense of moral greatness on Comey's part. Novelistically, it would be alleged that he saw himself as a successor to the Jedi, a guild defined as shown below by the leading authority:
The Jedi are...an ancient monastic, academic, meritocratic and paramilitary organization whose origin dates back to c. 25,000 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin; the destruction of the first Death Star).

The Jedi Order mostly consists of polymaths: teachers, philosophers, scientists, engineers, physicians, diplomats and warriors. The Jedi value knowledge and wisdom, and serve others through acts of charity, citizenship, and volunteerism...
Novelistically, Comey would believe, perhaps in somewhat juvenile fashion, that his own modern-day guild—the guild of executive law enforcement, especially male executive law enforcement—was, in effect, our society's equivalent to the Jedi. Within that modern-day guild, he would novelistically see himself as the greatest of the modern-day Jedi—as someone superior even to the other knights around him.

That would be the novel's framework. What Happened would be this:
July 5, 2016: Comey has long since decided that Loretta Lynch, his putative superior, doesn't exhibit the qualities of his "master class" guild. On that basis, he decides to override Justice Department lines of authority so he can denounce Candidate Clinton, who also falls short of the moral greatness on constant display within his fraternal order.

Beyond that, Comey knows that he'll be attacked by a powerful rival guild, The Luddi, for his decision not to charge Clinton with crimes. In Comey's view, the history of the human race depends on his ability to lessen damage to himself from such attacks. This is the second reason for his lusty attacks on Candidate Clinton, which violate DOJ policies but diminish the Luddi attacks.

Late October 2016: By now, Comey believes he's "making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president." Polling never established any such certainty, of course. But Comey has joined a long list of elites in making this faulty assessment.

Why did he break Justice Department policy by making another announcement about Candidate Clinton, this time late in the campaign? Again, he knew he'd be attacked by the Luddi if he played by DOJ rules—and in his view, the history of the human race depended on his escape from any such opprobrium.

Also this: major liberal "cable news" stars had thoroughly enabled his conduct back in July. Given their history of supine behavior, he assumed they'd do so again.
Within the pages of this particular novel, Comey is a superlative husband, father, neighbor and friend. But at the age of 57, something still hasn't fallen into place regarding his identity issues in the "moral exemplar" realm.

Even at age 57, there's something he hasn't worked out! As a result, Donald J. Trump, who may be stark raving mad, now holds the nuclear codes.

Who offers Twitter posts like that, except when they're maybe 19?

There's always room for one more: Is Comey the only real successor to the masterful Jedi of old?

In this morning's Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky describes the way he's now thrown his trusted assistant, Andrew McCabe, under the DOJ bus.

It's getting crowded under that bus! Loretta Lynch still seems to be there, according to some who've read Comey.

READING COMEY: Roads not taken, questions not asked!

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2018

Part 5—Once again, god gets a pass:
We haven't read James B. Comey's book, the lofty and deeply thoughtful "A Higher Loyalty."

In part for that reason, "reading Comey" in the colloquial sense isn't real easy for us.

He strikes us as a rather strange duck, in large part due to his obsession with hiw own moral standing. Reading Niebuhr in college was one thing. Obsessing on Niebuhr at age 57 strikes us as different and odd.

Some reviewers have shown true belief in Comey as they've reviewed his book. For many years, Comey was treated as a mainstream god—as the most upright person then living. In her review of the his book for the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani seemed to read Comey that same old way. The gent was still Comey the god.

Other critics have taken a different approach, saying that Comey comes across, in his new book, as a bit of a moral exhibitionist. But in our view, it's even been frustrating to follow the work of these critics.

Basic questions have gone unasked; basic issues have gone unstudied. It's the way our mainstream press corps has long played the game.

Consider one basic criticism of Comey's behavior during the 2016 campaign, when his actions may have changed the outcome of the election. We refer to the claim that Comey broke basic Justice Department policies as he attacked Candidate Clinton, first in July 2016, then again in late October.

Is that criticism accurate? Did Comey break clear-cut, basic Department policies when he savaged Clinton?

Did Comey really do such a thing? Consider the discussion which occurred on Monday evening's Last Word.

(MSNBC has posted the wrong transcript for Monday night's show, so we can't give you a link.)

As the discussion in question began, Lawrence threw to Matt Miller, a Justice Department spokesperson under Eric Holder. Miller said that Comey "still doesn't have a good reason to explain why he did what he did" during the 2016 campaign. According to Miller, "When you see his explanations of the Clinton investigation in particular, I think a lot of them just don't really add up."

We tend to agree with that. At this point, Lawrence turned to the New York Times' David Leonhardt. In a classic contradictory statement, Leonhardt brought the eternal note of scripted blather in:
O'DONNELL (4/16/18): David Leonhardt, your reaction to what we have been listening to?

LEONHARDT: I agree with that [with what Miller said]. I mean, I think, look, James Comey comes across as very honest in these interviews. He admits that his wife and his daughters attended the Women's March. Those are things that, if you were just trying to cultivate your image, you wouldn't say, but they are honest.

On the other hand, he is not persuasive about why he made a decision about Hillary Clinton. Department policy, as Matt knows better than I do, is very clear. You don't talk about active investigations that could disrupt campaigns the way he did it. And so this whole dichotomy he set up, "speak or conceal," just doesn't make any sense.

Justice Department policy is you don't go out and criticize people you are not going to charge and affect a presidential campaign in the final days.
And so, I understand that he still believes he did the right thing, but I don`t think the rest of us should believe that he did the right thing in 2016.
Alas, poor Leonhardt! As if in thrall to an ancient law of the guild, he started by saying that Comey has been "coming across as very honest" in his initial interviews in support of his book.

His one example, which he pluralized, made no earthly sense. When Comey "admits" that his wife and daughters attended the Women's March, he is, in fact, helping his image among the groups who will support him now that he's locked in combat with Donald J. Trump.

This is hardly an example of a "very honest" person making an admission against interest. Sadly, though, this is the way life forms like Leonhardt play.

Leonhardt started in the traditional manner, praising Comey's honesty. At this point, the real nonsense started, with Leonhardt agreeing that Comey's statements about 2016 don't make any sense.

Along the way, Leonhardt made the claim you've heard a million times by now. In summary, this is what Leonhardt said:
Justice Department policy is very clear. You don't talk about active investigations that could disrupt a campaign in its final days. Also, you don't go out and savage people you aren't going to charge.
By now, you've heard it a million times over the past two years. According to a million pundits, Justice Department policy was very clear on each of those ways, and Comey broke those policies—first in July 2016, then again late in October.

Justice Department policies were clear, and Comey broke those policies! Indeed, this is exactly what Rod Rosenstein said in his now-famous memo for Attorney General Sessions:
ROSENSTEIN (5/9/17): I cannot defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.

The director was wrong to usurp the Attorney General's authority on July 5, 2016, and announce his conclusion that the case should be closed without prosecution. It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement. At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors. The Director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department. There is a well-established process for other officials to step in when a conflict requires the recusal of the Attorney General. On July 5, however, the Director announced his own conclusions about the nation's most sensitive criminal investigation, without the authorization of duly appointed Justice Department leaders.

Compounding the error, the Director ignored another longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation. Derogatory information sometimes is disclosed in the course of criminal investigations and prosecutions, but we never release it gratuitously. The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.
Oof! Rosenstein said it way back when. He said "almost everyone" agrees that Comey broke "longstanding" principles and policies when he launched his unauthorized attacks on Candidate Clinton starting that July.

For perhaps the ten millionth time, Leonhardt said it again this Monday night. Comey violated "very clear" Justice Department policies, Leonhardt said, even as he that Comey "comes across as very honest" when he disputes these claims.

Now for our questions about the current treatment of Comey, who was once known as Comey the god:

Have you seen any major news organization present a serious report about this familiar claim? Have you seen any such news org establish the existence of the established policies Comey is said to have violated?

Also:

Have you seen any interviewer ask Comey if he did break clearly established policies, and if so, why he did?

We haven't seen anyone do these things. Simply put, we haven't seen the former god pushed about what he did. Comey, the once and future god, is still getting a major pass, just as he so plainly did in real time.

Understand what happened on Monday night. Leonhardt kept saying that Comey "comes across as very honest," even as he agreed with Miller's statement that Comey's explanations "just don't really add up."

Comey was getting a pass all over again as this nonsense occurred. With this, we come to the way the very honest Comey keeps throwing Loretta Lynch under the bus.

Let's give (some) credit where due! In his full, five-hour interview with Comey, George Stephanopoulos pushed Comey harder than you might have expected about his trashing of Lynch. He asked Comey many questions before he finally gave up.

How has Comey treated Lynch? Let's recall the record:

In July 2016, Loretta Lynch was James B. Comey's boss. Crazy as the statement may sound, she was his superior within the Justice Department!

As Rosenstein noted in his memo, Comey usurped his boss' authority when he launched by first attack on Candidate Clinton that month. He didn't even tell his boss that he planned to ignore Department policies in launching his surprise attack.

That's what the godlike Niebuhr reader did in July 2016. From that point on, he has repeatedly suggested that he did what he did because his superior was possibly dirty. Stephanopoulos pushed him on the extremely shaky "Russian email" part of that story, but finally gave up in despair.

Leonhardt would probably tell you that Comey "came across as very honest" as he stumbled his way through Stephanopoulos' questions. We'll only tell you this about this factually jumbled matter:

Comey's story concerning Lynch seems to have changed in the past two years. Today, he claims he never thought that Lynch was in the bag for Clinton.

He claims he never believed that stupid Russkie transmission. That doesn't seem to be what "Mr. Comey's defenders" were telling the New York Times at this time last year.

The story here is complicated, but uh-oh! People who have read Comey's book seem to say that he still seems to be sliming Lynch, if only perhaps by inference. Even a leading Comey-enabler like Rachel Maddow has now, ever so briefly, raised this point:
MADDOW (4/19/18): The thing that troubles me about that is it seems like even the way you talk about it in the book sort of casts aspersions on Loretta Lynch and whether or not she was doing anything wrong with regard to this investigation.
In the summer and fall of 2016, Maddow may have been the liberal world's most important Comey-enabler. Even she has now raised this point about Comey's book, if only as a brief afterthought. In July 2016, she bowed low to the Establishment God, permitting him to run roughshod over both Clinton and Lynch.

(Maddow did the same thing in the fall of 2012 when McCain and Schieffer began the sliming of Susan Rice in the course of inventing the Benghazi narrative. Benghazi and the emails defeated Candidate Clinton. As these damaging narratives were being invented, Rachel Maddow was totally MIA each time.)

Last night, even Maddow raised the Loretta Lynch question, if only briefly at the end of her hour with Comey. That said, no one has really challenged Comey on this point, and David Leonhardt is quick say that he still "comes across as very honest," even though "this whole dichotomy he set up...just doesn't make any sense."

Comey doesn't exactly "come across" that way to us. But especially now that he's anti-Trump, the children aren't going to tell you that, and the children aren't going to push him.

As far as we know, Matt Miller had it right this past Monday night. To our ear, Comey's statements about 2016 still don't seem to make sense.

That said, that was then and this is now—and Comey is now anti-Trump. No one, least of all Maddow, is going to push him about the way he managed to get Trump elected to office.
.
Comey threw Lynch under the bus, where she had plenty of company. People who have read his book, even including Maddow, say it still sounds like he's sliming that woman, his boss.

Would a reader of Niebuhr do such a thing? Leading stars of the mainstream press corps won't likely try to find out.

BREAKING: Arne Duncan on "learning standards!"

THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2018

What's the matter with standards:
Doggone it! The Naep Data Explorer is down. That means we can't gather data for the report we'd planned to offer today.

No sense in letting the day go to waste! Let's review what Arne Duncan recently said about higher "learning standards."

On April 2, Duncan published a shocking op-ed column in the Washington Post. Amazingly, he noted the fact that American kids have shown large score gains in reading and math over the past forty-plus years.

Why was Duncan's column shocking? Rather plainly, there has been some sort of long-running agreement in which elites agreed that we the people mustn't be told such things.

To all intents and purposes, major newspapers like the Post and the Times have never reported the basic facts about these large score gains. Instead, they have promulgated propaganda favored by "education reformers," according to which nothing has worked, and nothing is working, in our public schools.

Our public schools could be better, of course. That said, our major newspapers could be much better—though in fairness, promulgation of elite propaganda of this type is their one great skill.

At any rate, there was Duncan on April 2, suddenly breaking the news—"today's kids perform as much as 2 1/2 grades higher than their counterparts from [1971]." Luckily, no one reads op-ed columns by people like Duncan. Otherwise, citizens might have died of shock all across the land.

Why did Duncan wrote this column? We've already offered our best guess. Today, let's consider something else he said.

These score gains didn't happen by accident, Duncan said. He said the score gains have been achieved because of—what else?—education reform!

As we'll recall below, a fair amount of what Duncan wrote didn't make sense on a simple chronological basis. But for the record, here's part of what he said:
DUNCAN (4/2/18): None of our progress happened because we stood still. It happened because we confronted hard truths, raised the bar and tried new things. Beginning in 2002, federal law required annual assessments tied to transparency. The law forced educators to acknowledge achievement gaps, even if they didn't always have the courage or capacity to address them.

A decade ago, learning standards were all over the place. Today, almost every state has raised standards. The percentage of high school students taking college-level classes has tripled since 1990.
According to Duncan, the score gains happened because "we raised the bar."

Not long ago, something called "learning standards" were "all over the place," Duncan wrote. By now, he said, "almost every state has raised standards."

How about it! Did those score gains occur because almost every state "has raised standards?" Please! In his column, Duncan tracked the score gains to 1971. He also said the "higher standards" started ten years ago.

So it goes when you read the work of major liberal "intellectual leaders." That said, what does Duncan mean by the term "learning standards," and how have they supposedly been improved?

By "learning standards," he simply means the various learnings and skills a student is supposed to master by the end of some specific grade. When he says that learning standards "were all over the place" ten years ago, he means that the various states had a wide array of such curricular "standards"—that these grade-by-grade curricular standards were different for every state.

That's what he means when he says that standards were "all over the place." When he says that every state "has raised standards" in the past decade, he means that kids are now expected to master more challenging material by the end of the different grades than was the case in the past.

Already, you've noticed another non sequitur! If learning standards were all over the place; and if every state proceeded to raise its learning standards; then why wouldn't learning standards still be "all over the place," except at a higher level?

You're asking a very good question! Again, you see the kind of service we get from our "intellectual leaders."

That said, it always sounds good to say that every state has "raised its learning standards." What could possibly be wrong with having "higher standards?" The question seems to answer itself!

In fact, there may be plenty wrong with having higher / tougher / more challenging standards. It all depends on who the student is.

Beyond that, it isn't clear that it makes sense to have grade-by-grade "learning standards" at all. In fact, we'd say it rather plainly doesn't make sense.

Tomorrow, if the Naep Date Explorer is up, we'll explain what we mean. Through the use of some horrific data, we'll show you why it doesn't make sense to have grade-by-grade "learning standards" at all.

Duncan reported some highly important basic facts—basic facts which have always been kept from public view. Since no one actually cares about any of this, you've seen his information mentioned nowhere else in the seventeen days since his column appeared.

Beyond that, Duncan made some incoherent remarks about those "learning standards." His statements sounded extremely good.

In fact, his statements made very little sense. Obama! Thanks a lot!

Tomorrow: Strong logic, horrific data

READING COMEY: Narrative tics versus comforting look!

THURSDAY, APRIL 19, 2018

Part 4—Evoking the young Joni Mitchell:
Many mainstream press observers are trying to read James Comey.

Finally, this very morning, Vanessa Friedman weighs in.

Her piece appears on the front page of the New York Times' "Thursday Styles" section. According to the hard-copy headline, Comey is "The Model G-Man, Still Looking the Part:"
FRIEDMAN (4/19/18): Mr. Comey stares out from small screens and promotional pictures everywhere—trailers, social media and reviews. He is steely eyed, often glancing upward, as to a higher goal, or resolutely ahead; dark, brush-cut hair just beginning to be smudged with gray; the squareness of his jawline matched only by the squareness of his shoulders, his 6-foot-8 frame often draped in layers of true blue.

[...]

The look is in many ways the culmination of a cinematic romance with bureaucratic iconography that began in 1935 with James Cagney’s film “‘G’ Men,” and continued through Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables.” Mr. Comey fits neatly within this predetermined, easily read lens. It’s both comforting and slightly unnerving to see how closely he resembles the fictive embodiments of his role.
Comey's look is in many ways the culmination of a cinematic romance with bureaucratic iconography, at least according to Friedman. As they read her reading of the G-Man, our analysts nodded appreciatively over and over again:
FRIEDMAN: It’s a character Mr. Comey has been honing for years, since he took the oath of office as F.B.I. director in 2013, and immortalized in his testimony before Congress last June, when he appeared in a dark suit, pristine white shirt and dark red tie, caught forever in multiple cameras and the watching imagination.

Even when he takes off his tie, as he has for his recent TV appearances, or swaps the jacket for a collared shirt in a dark shade, as he did for his Twitter page and his author photograph, as if to acknowledge his role as a private citizen, his clothes still convey sincerity and sobriety. There’s nothing really casual about them.

On Mr. Colbert’s show, he wore a black shirt and matching trousers with a gray jacket finished in black buttons: Johnny Cash, the lawyer version. You can take the G-man out of the suit (and the job), but not the suit out of the former G-man.

This has the Pavlovian effect of giving his words a believability (at least for those who buy into the cultural stereotype).
It helps counteract the (understandable) perception that he is limelight seeking and self-promotional, because even as he stands out there on his own, he is connected to a much bigger tradition.
It's so obvious once you read it! According to Friedman, Comey "is increasingly casting himself...as the mission-driven antipode [sic] to the president." In this increasing act of self-casting, "his appearance acts as a kind of supporting argument."

Reading Friedman's analysis, we had to admit that we've missed a lot as we've tried to read Comey. We haven't focused on his suits, or on the way they help his casting as an antipode. Like Jack Oakie in The Great Dictator, we'd blown right past the Pavlovian effect triggered by his wardrobe selections.

For whatever reason, we've focused on other parts of Comey's performance in the past week. We've focused on behavioral tics which made us think that James B. Comey, while perhaps a thoroughly decent person, is also perhaps a slightly odd duck, in ways which may have changed a little thing called the history of the world.

We haven't read Comey's book. Plainly, we haven't attended enough to his suits.

We did read Carlos Lozada's review of Comey's book in Sunday's Washington Post. The review appeared on the Post's front page, and grabbed us in several ways.

Lozada, of course, is picking and choosing from Comey's book in ways which make sense to him. It may be that some of the material he cites will seem different when read in the book's full context.

That said, let's start with something which may seem trivial. In the passage shown below, Lozada describes a behavioral tic which comes to us straight outta Rachel Maddow.

"When Comey cops to petty misdeeds...the self-criticism—and self-regard—is almost comical," Lozada writes, offering several examples. "But when the stakes rise, self-examination diminishes," Lozada goes on to allege.

We've often noted this same pattern in Rachel Maddow's almost comical self-corrections regarding trivial errors, matched by her refusal to correct herself concerning larger, highly significant bungles. According to Lozada's fuller passage, Comey displays the same self-serving behavioral tic:
LOZADA (4/16/18): When Comey cops to petty misdeeds...the self-criticism—and self-regard—is almost comical. At 6-feet-8, he used to lie about having played basketball for William & Mary, and he still feels bad about it. (After finishing law school, he reached out to friends and fessed up.) He once regifted a necktie to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Because we considered ourselves people of integrity,” Comey explains solemnly, “I disclosed it was a regift as I handed him the tie.” And he congratulates himself for not exercising director’s prerogative and cutting in line at the FBI cafeteria. “Even when I was in a hurry. . . . I thought it was very important to show people that I’m not better than anyone else.”

But when the stakes rise, self-examination diminishes. On his decision to publicly denounce Clinton’s handling of classified information in her private emails in July 2016, Comey’s misgivings are cosmetic. He wishes he had organized the statement differently and explained early that no charges were warranted, and he wishes he had not characterized Clinton’s actions as “extremely careless”—even if “thoughtful lawyers” could understand what he meant. (Too bad thoughtful lawyers weren’t his only audience.)
Is Comey a alightly odd duck, especially with regard to his solemn self-regard in the moral sphere?

To us, it's strange to think that he would have lied to friends about playing basketball in college, though that would have happened long ago, when Comey was still in his twenties.

It seems extremely strange to think that this ancient, rather weird episode would be present in Comey's new book—a book about such serious topics as the possible end of the world. Perhaps it seems different in context.

When Lozada reads Comey, he finds a nearly obsessive focus on Comey's own moral status. "Consider the egotism of being preoccupied by your [own] egotism," Lozada writes at one point, taking a pot shot at Comey.

It's the kind of easy jibe to which Lozada is sometimes inclined. Still, this longer passage fleshes out what Lozada means:
LOZADA: Comey revisits his own big career moments—prosecuting mobsters, standing up to Vice President Dick Cheney and his consigliere David Addington over counterterrorism policies—with understandable pride. Yet he constantly worries he is too self-centered. “I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident, and driven by ego,” he admits. “I’ve struggled with those my whole life.”

That struggle continues in this book.
Comey isn’t just the kind of writer who quotes Shakespeare, but the kind who quotes himself quoting Shakespeare. He rejects the notion that “I am in love with my own righteousness” yet notes that “I have long worried about my ego.”
Lozada's examples continue from there. Is Comey's apology to Clinton in his book "a very Clintonian apology?" In our view, Lozada would be a better writer if he would avoid such easy, almost slick, jibes.

That said, James B. Comey is 57 years old, and he has long been a very important public official. To us, it's odd, and far from reassuring, to see a person of such years and such standing still debating his own moral standing in the tortured ways Lozada describes.

“I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident, and driven by ego?" Incomparably, we think of a brilliant lyric from Joni Mitchell, though you do have to hear it performed:
He tried hard to help me
You know, he put me at ease
And he loved me so naughty
Made me weak in the knees
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on

I'm so hard to handle
I'm selfish and I'm sad
Now I've gone and lost the best baby
That I ever had

Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
That beautiful lyric (especially as performed) constitutes a very unusual, very direct piece of moral self-flagellation. But it was written by a poet, not by a former head of the FBI, and the poet was 27 years old at the time. We don't think it's reassuring to hear its tone in that excerpt as Lozada reads Comey.

We'll note a third element which caught our ear as we read Lozada's review, and as we watched Comey interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. We refer to the psychiatric tone in Comey's prose, which may serve to make him an object of pity and to undermine judgment of his behavior:
LOZADA: [Trump] lurks in Comey’s schoolboy battles with bullies, for instance. “All bullies are largely the same,” he writes. “They threaten the weak to feed some insecurity that rages inside them.” Or in his days battling mafia families as U.S. attorney in Manhattan, a time that came back to him once he encountered team Trump. “As I found myself thrust into the Trump orbit, I once again was having 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.”
Please note: Comey wasn't just having flashbacks—he was having flashbacks once again. He seems to have them a lot. He referred to his flashbacks as she spoke with Stephanopoulos, and of course to his out-of-body experiences:
STEPHANOPOULOS (4/15/18): How weird was that ["pee tape"] briefing [with Trump]?

COMEY: Really weird. I mean, I don't know whether it was weird for President-elect Trump, but I— It was almost an out-of-body experience for me. I was floating above myself, looking down, saying, "You're sitting here, briefing the incoming president of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow." And of course, Jeh Johnson's voice is banging around in my head. President Obama's eyebrow raise is banging around in my head. I just wanted to get it done and get out of there.
Comey wanted to descend from the ceiling and hastily exit the room.

Later in the interview, Comey describes the meeting where Trump suggested that he should drop the investigation of Michael Flynn. Sure enough! It happens again:
STEPHANOPOULOS: What were you thinking as you left the Oval Office that day?

COMEY: That something really important just happened, and that I was a little—another one of those out-of-body experiences, like, "Really? The president just kicked out the attorney general to ask me to drop a criminal investigation." Wow, the world continues to go crazy.
Sung to the tune of "Back in the Saddle," he was up on the ceiling again.

For a guy who was running the FBI, Comey seems to have had a lot of flashbacks and out-of-body experiences. This doesn't seem reassuring wither. Nor does it strike us as true.

Does anyone really believe that Comey (presumably felt he) "was floating above myself, looking down" as he spoke with Trump that day, with Obama's eyebrow raise banging around in his head? It seems to us that his out-of-body experiences and flashbacks create a highly dramatic narrative structure which serve to excuse his perhaps peculiar, perhaps slightly craven behavior in these exchanges with Trump.

This is also true of the unconscious forces he says may have affected his judgment in October 2016, when he took Candidate Clinton down for the second of his three times. It seems to us that these narrative tics mainly serve to position Comey as a figure buffeted by forces of superhuman power. For ourselves, we'd prefer to have an FBI head who doesn't end up floating above the room when a figure like Donald J. Trump makes inappropriate suggestions.

Lozada is highly skeptical of Comey's super-moralistic stances and frameworks. He ends up suggesting that Comey isn't wholly unlike Donald Trump. Here's how his reading ends:
LOZADA: [Comey] laments Trump’s lack of self-reflection or self-awareness. “Listening to others who disagree with me and are willing to criticize me is essential to piercing the seduction of certainty,” Comey writes. “Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. . . . Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead.”

Trump is the most severe example of that tendency in this book. But he is not the only one.
Oof! For all his flamboyant self-reflection, is Comey really a bit like Trump is his foundational self-regard? Does he secretly lack the self-awareness gene? Is his moral self-flagellation really a form of cover?

Perhaps we'd have a better idea if we'd paid more attention to his clothes. That said, we don't believe in bad people here. We do believe in rather strange ducks, and that's how Comey tends to strike us.

Everybody's some kind of way; also, nobody's perfect. That said, Comey's behavior in 2016 may have changed the history of the world, in a rather unpleasant way.

This brings us back to Loretta Lynch, who we find under a bus, huddling there with Hillary Clinton and with several others. Why did Comey get such a pass when his amazingly well-intentioned blunders began?

Tomorrow: Big stars give Comey a pass