WASHINGTON — I shall not beat around the bush. As readers of this column perhaps suspect, I have admired former FBI Director James Comey for most of his public career, beginning in 2013. That he is a friend of former FBI Director Robert Mueller makes me admire him even more. Mueller is a man of integrity and discretion. He would not befriend a man of dubious character.
Yet since July 2016 I have begun to wonder about Comey. His public actions have become increasingly erratic, to the point that he is becoming unhinged. I do not believe he has become duplicitous, and I do not think he is a liar. But it seems that I am one of the few in Comey's corner to believe that he is unraveling in plain public view. In a word, he has had some sort of breakdown, and no one in official Washington dares to say it. It is a curious development. Already there are Democrats claiming President Trump is unhinged. Yet time and again, Trump's judgments have only been validated — which is not so with Comey.
In public, Comey appears calm — preternaturally calm. In fact, the other day, when he appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee, he seemed sedated. He was lucid but spoke in a monotone. It was disconcerting. I would not be surprised if he were on marijuana — medical marijuana, that is. Did he leave the Senate chamber only to burst into uncontrollable sobs in private? Was he overcome by a sudden nervous tick? Where did he go after delivering his famous and often self-incriminating near-three-hour testimony? Was he quietly taken away to his former offices in the FBI building to fall into paroxysms of mad blinking, frantic clutching of the hands, and, perhaps, howls and gurglings? It has happened before. You followers of the arts will perhaps remember the sad downfall of Commissioner Dreyfus in those famous scenes from "The Pink Panther" series of yesteryear.
During Comey's testimony to the Senate, he was surprisingly petulant in his language — in the way that a millennial is petulant when Mommy or Daddy tells him it is time to go to bed. Rather than sounding like a former director of the world's foremost law enforcement agency, he seemed distraught. At one point, he said that something former Attorney General Loretta Lynch had said to him gave him a "queasy feeling." At another point, he said of a conversation that he and President Trump had, "I took it as a very disturbing thing, very concerning." There were other troubling moments in his remarkable testimony. In "The Pink Panther," Commissioner Dreyfus became visibly deranged when the name of Inspector Clouseau was mentioned. Is this to be the fate of former Director Comey?
He has been acting odd ever since the summer of 2016. Remember his long catalogue of obvious felonies Hillary Clinton had committed? And then came his about-face: He said no prosecutor would prosecute her. But he was not authorized to comment publicly on the case he had amassed. All he had to do was hand over his findings to then-Attorney General Lynch. Then, in October, just before the election, he opened his investigation once again. Then he closed it. Again he was not authorized to speak out, but he did, and Clinton has been blaming him for her defeat ever since — along with the Russians, misogyny and now, the Democratic Party, and, who knows, maybe Bill Clinton.
It is erratic behavior like this that suggests to me that former Director Comey is en route to a crackup. In his testimony, he said he had told President Trump three times in private that the FBI was not investigating him. Yet he refused to say this in public. Elsewhere in his testimony, he said that President Trump's discussion with him regarding Gen. Michael Flynn's firing made him uncomfortable. But Comey did not report the discussion to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as was required by law. Rather, he leaked the information in a memo criticizing the president to The New York Times — not the Washington Times, The New York Times. Somehow one of his senatorial questioners got him to admit that he had leaked the memo to a Columbia Law School friend.
Following the behavior of James Comey is not easy. But, at this point in our inquiry, I think we can arrive at two judgments. First, Comey is in need of medication, and possibly therapy. And second, no one can find any crime that President Trump has committed. It is as the president says: a witch hunt.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator. He is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and the author most recently of "The Death of Liberalism," published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.