Guilt is a powerful emotion. It destroyed Nathaniel Hawthorne’s character, Arthur Dimmesdale, in The Scarlet Letter. In the same way, guilt left FBI director James Comey, a man known for his moral rectitude, grappling for redemption last week. His letter to Congress, which divulged the reopening of Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, was his attempt to make up for his failure to recommend her indictment this summer.
Speculative? Sure. But it makes sense. Comey, the head of the FBI, did something bizarre. His letter this close to an election stepped out of the bounds of tradition and procedure. Even critics of Clinton, like Rep. Jim Jordan and Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro, have noted Comey’s letter was out of bounds.
The question is, why did he do it? Surely he knew that backlash would ensue. Likewise, he couldn’t have had political motivations. If he actually wanted to damage Clinton, he would have recommended an indictment in July.
I think guilt provides the best explanation. His recent decision to send the letter was a form of penance to rectify his decision in July.
The fact is, Comey messed up last time. He should have recommended an indictment, but he didn’t because of the cases’ politically sensitive nature. Like Dimmesdale’s guilt-ridden sermons, Comey’s press conference resonated with the wrong people. On the campaign trail, Clinton proudly sold his announcement as a full-blown exoneration.
Yet each passing day only aggravated the guilt. Since then, reports have come out of Clinton’s loss of trust within the Intelligence Community, low morale at the FBI, and that some FBI officials have resigned over Comey’s decision. For a man renowned in Washington for his moral fiber, this could not possibly have sat well.
So, Comey saw and took his chance for redemption. His vague letter did the trick. Now the tables have flipped, and the Democratic party’s praise of him has turned to renunciation.
Some pundits have mistakenly framed this as a Comey Scandal. The reality is, this is just a rekindling of Hillary’s email scandal, which continues to push the seams of credulity with every Wikileaks revelation. Now reports are surfacing that the FBI might indict her over the Clinton Foundation. No wonder longtime Democratic advisor, Douglas Schoen, reneged his support for her in recent days.
By all accounts, Comey’s chest is fine and he has not resorted to self-flagellation. Nonetheless, this dance of deception has made a Hester Prynne of us all. It is ultimately the American people who will bear the brunt of these machinations, as the rest of the world watches to our shame.