Unity of Party or Person?

Friday, June 9, 2017

JAMES COMEY’S INTELLECTUAL HISTORY

The former F.B.I. director’s detractors have debated his actions and decisions on normative grounds. But there has been little focus on James Comey’s moral and intellectual leanings.
The former F.B.I. director’s detractors have debated his actions and decisions on normative grounds. But there has been little focus on James Comey’s moral and intellectual leanings.PHOTOGRAPH BY MELISSA GOLDEN / REDUX

JAMES COMEY’S INTELLECTUAL HISTORY

The New Yorker | 7 June 2017
[excerpts]

Despite Comey’s protestations that he has no interest in politics, he has signalled some abiding concerns over the years. His college thesis, “The Christian in Politics,” is about power and integrity, and is anchored in a comparison of the political philosophies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Jerry Falwell. Comey concluded that Falwell was a huckster who was inclined to “violate the constitutional separation of Church and State as well as the tax-exempt status of his church.” He was repelled by what he saw as Falwell’s false projection of virtue. Comey considered Niebuhr, however, to be an intellectual giant, one of “the world’s greatest moral and political theologians.” He concurred with Niebuhr that Christians were “essential to the political order,” and that a life led in emulation of Jesus was one “guided by the impossible norm of love,” and that such an existence placed “political institutions under greater possibilities.”  

At the same time, Comey noted, Niebuhr recognized that it could be dangerous for a politician to see himself as a moral beacon. “The pretensions of virtue are as offensive to God as the pretensions of power,” Niebuhr said. Earlier this year, Comey, speaking at the University of Texas, echoed Niebuhr’s warning, saying, “John Adams once said to Thomas Jefferson, in one of the great letter exchanges, ‘Power always thinks it has a great soul.’ There’s great danger that I will fall in love with my own virtue.”
[Related]

What Donald Trump Needs to Know About Bob Mueller and Jim Comey

The Theology Beneath the Trump-Comey Conflict

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