Former FBI Director James Comey’s ultimate legacy will prove to be a deeply mixed bag. On one hand, he has become a frequent and outspoken critic of Trump since the president fired him in the hopes of undermining the Russia investigation. On the other, Comey himself bears responsibility for propelling the worst president into the Oval Office in the first place by botching the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. His refusal to grapple with his own historic mistakes makes it difficult to empathize with him completely. Even so, Trump’s attacks on him are disgraceful.
Over the weekend, Trump called Comey a “dirty cop” and “scum.”
A Dirty Cop at the highest level. Scum! https://t.co/9t2qETqgcL
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2019
Regardless of one’s opinion of the man, Comey’s firsthand insights into how Trump conducts himself are valuable. Today, the lifelong law enforcement officer took to Twitter to share his new op-ed in The Washington Post in which he addresses the “four stages of being attacked by Donald Trump.”
“It feels like a strange and slightly sad old guy yelling at you to get off his lawn, echoed by younger but no less sad people in red hats shouting, ‘Yeah, get off his lawn!’” https://t.co/64MrPEN9S9
— James Comey (@Comey) December 30, 2019
The piece starts off with Comey stating that like “many others in and out of government” he has “some experience” with being personally targeted by the President of the United State as do some of his close friends. According to Comey, these kinds of attacks and smears make it more difficult for the individuals in question to find work in the private sector after working for the government because employers worry that they themselves could become targets for Trump’s ire. More troubling still, Comey says that “truly disturbing Trump supporters” inevitably swarm the president’s targets on social media.
While such presidential harassment is difficult to weather at first, Comey says it gets easier as over time it leaks power. He explained the four stages as follows:
First, Comey says “the attack is stunning and rocks your world.” Being accused of “treason” or a similar crime proves to be “jarring and disorienting.” Luckily, this stage doesn’t last forever.
A “kind of numbness” is the second stage, during which things feel surreal and still “unsettling” but lack the sense of “vertigo” that one is hit with during the initial stage.
By the third stage, the impact has lessened. Comey writes:
“It no longer feels as though the most powerful human on the planet is after you. It feels as though a strange and slightly sad old guy is yelling at you to get off his lawn, echoed by younger but no less sad people in red hats shouting, ‘Yeah, get off his lawn!'”
When the third stage arrives, Trump seems “diminished, much as he has diminished the presidency itself,” writes Comey, who goes on to list the indignities plaguing our president from the mockery of foreign leaders to the manner in which his aides and advisors talk about him behind his back. Perhaps more tellingly given Trump’s habits, his “secret weapon” of using Twitter has weakened over time. He gets less engagement than he used to. People are either bored or inured to his social media antics.
Finally, the fourth stage arrives. Comey states that at this crucial point “we have to overcome the shock and numbness of earlier stages” in order to stand up for the values that this country is supposed to represent. We must stand up for our Republic and push back against the “shrunken, withered figure” that is President Donald J. Trump. He ends the Op-Ed by warning that the country is “headed into the storm our founders feared.” Stage four not only presents us with a historically difficult challenge it gives us “an opportunity to demonstrate American character.”
Comey believes that faith in our principles and our communal strength will be enough to survive Trumpism. Hopefully, he’s proven right.