Years ago, I had a boss who called me into his office one afternoon to “pick my brain.” As the big bosses in the company rarely acknowledged us bottom feeders, I was surprised and flattered. I shouldn’t have been.
Turns out “picking my brain” meant two hours of haranguing me over an incident involving my colleagues and our immediate superior in the hopes that I would knuckle under and take management’s side – which I didn’t. But the boss putting the squeeze on me left me shaken to my core.
I couldn’t help but think of this as former FBI Director James Comey riveted the nation with his testimony on his relationship with President Donald J. Trump, which was by turns folksy, candid, gutsy, self-deprecating and dramatic. I recognized a fellow traveler, someone caught between doing his job and serving the boss who threatened that job.
I recognized, too, the manipulative passive aggressiveness that often characterizes bosses. They don’t always come out and say what they want. But you know.
When Comey quoted Henry II of England (“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”), you know he got the message. Henry loved Thomas Becket, his chancellor and right-hand man, until he made him archbishop. Henry forgot the cardinal rule of work: The job makes the man. Becket as chancellor was willing to do the king’s bidding. Becket the archbishop reported to a bigger boss. Four of Henry’s knights took the hint from his musing and murdered Becket.
Comey didn’t act on the hint and got the metaphorical ax.
Like the theater critic and travel writer Nicole Serratore, I, too, found something almost feminine in Comey’s endgame with Trump in that Comey seemed vulnerable with the president. He didn’t want to be alone with Trump. A tall man, he tried to blend into the backdrop in Trump’s presence. He didn’t trust him. How many women have felt like that with a man?
Like the guy who has known too many one-night stands, Trump was oblivious the morning after. At the press conference with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, he talked about his unique, historic trip to the Middle East and Europe, how great the Saudis are, how he got everyone to shun terror-tolerating Qatar, how strong his leadership is, how Comey’s testimony proved their was no collusion between the Trumpettes and the Russkies. Oh, and, on the subject of Comey, that “he’s a leaker.” With that line, Trump has now become the parody that is Alec Baldwin’s impersonation of him.
We must remember that Trump’s attempts to control Comey and the FBI’s investigation into the Russian manipulation of the presidential election are only part of the broader investigation. In the end, special prosecutor Robert Mueller may find that Trump himself did nothing illegal. But then, what is legal isn’t necessarily moral or ethical.
In everything he has done thus far, Trump has rarely shown a moral or ethical backbone. All he’s proved is that Comey was right to be wary of him.