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The Comey Rule: a story without a proper ending….yet

October 8, 2020

It might not be to everyone’s taste. After all, there are no murders, drug busts, zombies or eye-scratching marital differences. But The Comey Rule was pretty good TV.

The story of James Comey’s journey from respected FBI boss to national hate figure and ultimately one of Donald Trump’s early purge victims would easily have passed for made-for-TV fiction has we not known that it was based on real characters and events. Perhaps some of it was fiction. Trumpites would certainly make that case, since the four-part series was based on Comey’s book.

The events described are recent enough to be fresh in the memories of most people who watch the series. Comey finding himself in an impossible position after finding that Hillary’s dumb insistence on using her personal email account for State Department business didn’t warrant a prosecution, only for the sexually incontinent husband of one of her aides to be revealed as having a huge stash of her emails on his computer. Since the latest revelation was only a couple of weeks before the presidential election, should Comey announce a new investigation, knowing that it could affect the result of the election, or should he stay schtum in deference to the long-established principle that the FBI should steer clear of politically explosive announcements so close to polling day?

We know the answer, and we know that Hillary blames him for her losing the election. Though I have much sympathy for her, the fact remains that she was pretty stupid to bypass the State Department email system, clunky as it might have been. Whether she made an error in judgement in hiring the spouse of a congressman who was fond of sending pictures of his genitalia to other women via the social media is another matter. Either way, she was hardly an innocent victim of circumstances, let alone of a self-righteous head of the FBI.

But the series wasn’t really about Hillary and her stupid emails. Naturally, since he wrote the book, it was about Comey, and ultimately about how he lost his job. Hillary and Russia were supporting players in the central drama of Comey’s interactions with Trump. And here was where the main characters really came into their own.

Jeff Daniels did a cracking job as the upright man of principle struggling to plot his way through the political minefield, though he was more corpulent and, I sense, more amiable than the real Comey. But that impression was perhaps inevitable. After all, Daniels is second only to Tom Hanks in his portrayal of characters with an old-fashioned sense of decency in the grand Jimmy Stewart tradition.

Comey’s nemesis, Brendan Gleeson’s Trump, is a joy. Not just because Gleeson captures the president’s appearance, tone of voice and mannerisms par excellence, but because of the way he radiated menace. As has been claimed so often of the real Trump, Gleeson’s character is a magnificent addition to the gallery of mob bosses, the equal of Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano.

Other characters brought an almost comic edge to the proceedings. A whey-faced Jared Kushner dismissed from a meeting much as a father might eject a ten-year-old son when it was time to discuss “men’s business”. Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney-General, beaming like a schoolboy when being sworn in, and weeping tears of remorse after being conned by Trump into writing the letter recommending Comey’s dismissal. Jeff Sessions, the slippery Attorney-General who recused himself from the Russia investigation and thereby earned Trump’s undying enmity, is an arse-covering courtier. Reince Priebus, the president’s first chief of staff, comes over as an amiable but slightly hysterical stooge.

There were plenty of sympathetic characters to offset Trump’s mob. They include the FBI investigating team, who are constantly exhorted to do the right thing, Rosenstein’s predecessor (played by Holly Hunter), and the hero’s wife (Jennifer Ehle) and kids, who suffer the whole saga alongside him.

My only regret is that we don’t get to see the real ending, which is where the villain gets his just deserts. Though Comey’s part in the drama ended in 2017, I would give anything to see Brendan Gleeson reprise his Trump in a portrayal of the orange monster’s ultimate downfall.

But, as we all know, that might take a while.

From → Books, Film, Politics, USA

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