The release of former FBI director James Comey’s book coaxed Michiko Kakutani, the New York Times’s former, famously influential chief book critic out of retirement and, unusually, into the news pages of Friday’s edition. The online headline praised Comey’s Trump-bashing tome: “James Comey Has a Story to Tell. It’s Very Persuasive.”
Kakutani was given over 2,000 words and a full page in the News section to offer praise for A Higher Loyalty -- Truth, Lies, And Leadership, though the book evidently has no bombshell news to offer.
Newsbusters Scott Whitlock noticed, surprisingly, that even the anti-Trump mainstream press finds Comey’s book distasteful in its personal insults against Trump’s appearance (his hands, height, and skin tone). Yet the only criticism Kakutani managed was about the damage Comey purportedly did to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
You know Kakutani likes a book when she just quotes it ad nauseum:
In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.
“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”
The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink -- repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.
She overegged her already distorted account of the two personalities:
Put the two men’s records, their reputations, even their respective books, side by side, and it’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Trump and Comey: They are as antipodean as the untethered, sybaritic Al Capone and the square, diligent G-man Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables”; or the vengeful outlaw Frank Miller and Gary Cooper’s stoic, duty-driven marshal Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic “High Noon.”
One is an avatar of chaos with autocratic instincts and a resentment of the so-called “deep state” who has waged an assault on the institutions that uphold the Constitution.
Strangely, the only flaws Kakutani finds involve Comey’s handling of Clinton’s classified document scandal, which sore liberals believe cost her the election. After noting Comey wrote his thesis on Christian theologian Richard Niebuhr and the sins of pride:
Those characteristics can sometimes be seen in Comey’s account of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, wherein he seems to have felt a moral imperative to address, in a July 2016 press conference, what he described as her “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” even though he went on to conclude that the bureau recommend no charges be filed against her....
Kakutani is not nearly so pleased with books that criticize Democratic presidents. In 2017 she called Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Garrow’s 1,460-page book that included unflattering depictions of the future president to be “a condescending diatribe unworthy of a serious historian.”
Kakutani is the author of the forthcoming book The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump, which certainly sounds like a moderate take.