James Comey Visits His Shrink: a Play in One Act

PSYCHIATRIST: So, Mr. Comey, tell me why you’re here today.

COMEY: I’m way wired, I can hardly sleep, when I do manage to fall asleep my dreams are intense and scary. I’m getting by on coffee and junk food. My wife is worried for me and demanded that I seek immediate help.

PSY: It seems like a good place to start might be the stressful situation you now find yourself in as the FBI’s director. Would you agree?

COM: You bet. It all started last summer when I decided — in what I now recognize was a bad mistake in judgement — to publicly talk about Hillary Clinton’s emails investigation. I need to stop here to clarify something: I feel I can talk about this with you only under the strictest rules of confidentiality.

PSY: Please know that I am prohibited by the law and by custom and by the ethics of the psychiatric profession from divulging anything you relate to me. Nothing you say leaves this room. In fact, I will put down my notepad and pen, so that no record will exist of our conversation. Will this suffice in alleviating your concerns?

COM: Yes, thank you. I’m placing this sound disrupter on the table — just in case anybody is sweeping for conversation. It breaks up words into shredder-like noise-chaff.

PSY: I hope you will talk more about who might want to listen in on this session. But, regardless, If this makes you feel more secure, it’s fine with me. Please proceed.

COM: So what I was about to say has to do with the political snake pit that is the FBI. There are partisan and ideological factions so entrenched in the Bureau that it makes the Justice Department ’s political culture seem like a Sunday School picnic.

PSY: Are you suggesting that these factions are actually warring with each other?

COM: Exactly. And because these tribes at the Bureau leak like a sieve to the media — it seems that every senior agent has direct access to favorite journalists at the Times, Post, Fox News, BuzzFeed, Wall Street Journal, all of them — and, since my staff memos on this subject had little to no effect, I had to quickly learn how to keep everybody happy.

PSY: What does that mean, “to keep everybody happy”?

COM: On hyper-controversial matters, I’d have to throw red meat to one faction — say the more rightwing extremists — and placate with a similar gesture to, say, the more moderate faction.

PSY: I’m guessing that you felt put upon by this situation — under constant tension.

COM: You got it. For example, last July, when I summed up our non-case with regard to Hillary Clinton’s email investigation, I felt that I had to include some harsh quotes about her sloppy security procedures — which would provide ammunition to Trump — as a balancer for not recommending a criminal indictment.

PSY: I have to ask a simple question here, one voiced by many in the days after: Why did you feel you had to say anything? It’s my understanding that the FBI does not issue public statements about ongoing cases that do not result in charges being filed.

COM: On that July matter, and the more recent statement with regard to the emails found on Anthony Weiner’s computer, I knew for a certainty that the Trump-supporting faction would leak to the press. I decided to try to dilute the impact of those leaks by issuing my own release. It was a risky strategy, I grant you, one that blew up in my face.

PSY: Why do you think it exploded that way?

COM: This is going to sound a bit strange, but I thought my reputation as a honest broker, a straight-shooter, a lawman of integrity would work its magic and—

PSY: But you issued your most recent statement with only 11 days to go before the election, something, as I understand it, that is against the FBI’s own protocols. You injected yourself into a partisan fight. Your DOJ superiors advised against your plan, but you went ahead anyway. Why?

COM: Because I was stupid, because I was exhausted, because I wanted to head off the extremists’ language, because I wanted the limelight, because in this instance, I elevated my competence-factor way beyond reality. The result is that I appeared incompetent, way too hasty and ambitious, out of my depth. And, worst of all, that I was a partisan for Trump, whereas the truth is I have few positive feelings for either of them. Both are morally suspect, both politicians carrying a lot of legal baggage. I despise her and he’s a lying demagogue who scares the piss out of me.

PSY: Given all that’s gone down, can you imagine any steps you can take to resurrect your estimable reputation?

COM: Maybe, if the facts warrant it, announce ASAP that the Clinton emails situation hasn’t changed since July and that’s the end of the matter. But there will be push-back or leak-back from rightist agents. And there may not be enough time to make it right in the first place. And/or move the Trump-and-Russia investigation front-and-center, to balance out the Clinton damage somewhat. Or maybe just resign, with a mea culpa and let time do its thing and try for a political comeback in a year or two after the dust has settled.

PSY: We have just a bit of time left. Do you want to take a look at one of the troublesome dreams you mentioned?

COM: Sure. In this one, I’m at the FBI gun range, taking target practice. I’m aiming at the red-and-black bullseye, which suddenly turns orange. Then I aim at a white suit; my gun turns into an arced bow and the arrow is now coming straight at me. I wake up in fright. You know what, doc? I get what’s being alluded to here. I think I do need another line of work.#

More articles by:

BERNARD WEINER, Ph.D., is co-editor of The Crisis Papers, has taught at various universities, and was a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years.

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South