Press: The lawmaker vs. the lawbreaker

Press: The lawmaker vs. the lawbreaker
© Hill photo illustration/Nicole Vas

If Donald Trump were smart — how many times have we started a sentence like that? — if Donald Trump were smart, he would have said nothing about James ComeyJames Brien ComeyGrassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report The media just can't stop lying about Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines – First lady makes surprise visit to migrant children at border MORE’s book. He would have simply ignored it.

But Donald Trump can’t help himself. So, of course, he overreacted, accusing his former FBI director of lying and leaking, boasting about firing him, claiming he belongs in jail, and calling him an “untruthful slime ball.”

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So now we have to choose: Which one do we believe? The lawmaker or the lawbreaker? The straight arrow and career law enforcement official? Or the flim-flam career developer and failed casino operator who brags about grabbing women by their genitals and is now accused by two women of having an extramarital affair with them at the same time?

Granted, Comey’s no angel. He’s clearly driven by a big ego himself. He bungled both the Clinton and Trump investigations, and in so doing got the FBI mixed up in politics. By needlessly and carelessly reopening the email probe on Oct. 28, 2016, he probably cost Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance Melania Trump puzzles with 'I really don't care' jacket Grassley wants to subpoena Comey, Lynch after critical IG report MORE the election.

But, when it comes to trust and credibility, James Comey wins hands down over Donald Trump.

One’s an experienced, dedicated public servant. The other’s an inexperienced, unqualified, accidental president who’s dedicated to nothing but stroking his own ego. One weighs his words carefully. The other spouts off whatever pops into his head, using language not fit for a locker room, let alone the Oval Office.

One’s calm and thoughtful, who seems at least to try to speak the truth. The other’s a misguided, uninformed hothead who has no regard for the truth and, according to Politifact, lies 70 percent of the time.

Comey doesn’t get everything right in his book. He didn’t do himself any favors by smearing former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, for example, or dwelling on Donald Trump’s small hands and orange complexion — comments which come across as almost Trumpian.

But, based on his up-close dealings with Trump, Comey makes three chilling observations about President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN analyst Kirsten Powers: Melania's jacket should read 'Let them eat cake' CNN's Cuomo confronts Lewandowski over 'womp womp' remark Sessions says FBI agent Peter Strzok no longer has his security clearance MORE.

First, he’s struck by how his first visit to the president-elect in Trump Tower reminded him of what he’d seen as a young prosecutor, dealing with the New York Mafia. He describes: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.”

Second is his assessment of the man himself and whether he can be trusted. Comey’s answer is an unqualified no: “This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Third, Comey sums up why it matters to have a president who’s so unhinged: his lack of regard for the truth undermines the very faith in our democratic institutions on which this nation is built. “We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey warns, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.”

Whatever his own shortcomings, James Comey has done a great public service by proving that Emperor Donald Trump wears no clothes. His candid observations on the man who now sits in the Oval Office should strike fear in the heart of every American, whether they voted for Trump or not.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: Life in the Crossfire.”