Leadership is about strength under fire
In the first Hollywood film of the Gulf War, “Courage Under Fire,” the men on a dangerous rescue mission each had a very different story to tell about their commander, Capt. Karen Walden.
As the soldiers recalled events that led to her death during a horrific firefight, it became obvious the fog of war had blended with misdirection and outright lies to cover up action unbecoming.
The medic describes Walden’s leadership as nothing short of heroic. An entirely different version is recounted by the gunner who sees Walden as inept and cowardly. Other versions are confused and disjointed, lending no clarity to what actually happened.
And so it is with the much-anticipated testimony of former FBI director James Comey as delivered last week to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Interpretation of what was said, what was intended, what was legal or illegal, depended entirely upon the viewpoint of the interpreter.
For some, the testimony was a triumph for the White House and a vindication of President Trump: He never ordered the termination of the investigation into Russian election interference. Therefore, allegations of obstruction of justice are without merit.
Others, including some major media outlets, are taking a different viewpoint. They see the president’s request to Comey concerning the investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn (Trump “hoped he could let this go”) as more than a request, more than hope.
While Comey “took it as direction,” some analysts have classified it as “pressure” and “urging” — and are pressuring and urging that obstruction of justice charges be pursued.
Nonsense. According to Wikipedia, “The Rashomon effect is where the same event is given contradictory interpretations by different individuals involved.” This is my interpretation:
Though Comey would have us believe he was enveloped in his own fog of war — not understanding exactly what the president meant and not possessing the strength to ask for clarification — his testimony, taken in whole, marks him as the gunner in “Courage Under Fire,” the accuser who is found to be the one lacking courage.
According to him, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch directed him to call his investigation of Hillary Clinton a “matter.” She directed, but Comey did not feel compelled to bring that forward. Trump requested, and he felt the need to leak secret notes to the press to spur the appointment of a special counsel.
While Lynch’s direction “confused and concerned” him, Comey nonetheless complied, sending a false narrative to the national media on multiple occasions. Yet when the national media falsely and repeatedly reported that the president himself was under investigation, Comey remained silent and allowed the lies to continue.
Despite overwhelming evidence of Clinton’s illegal activities, Comey refused to recommend indictment. Yet while admitting there was no interference in FBI operations, Comey felt the need to launder his sour-grape notes about Trump “in the public square.”
The incident that played out before the Senate and was broadcast internationally could have been avoided entirely if only the former director had been stronger. If he had stood up to Lynch. If he had corrected false news accounts about the president. If he had clarified exactly what the president was asking. If only he’d had the courage.
Columnist Michael Raymond can be reached at email@example.com.