The New York Times is reporting that President Obama is going to nominate James Comey, a former Bush official, to head the F.B.I.
Comey’s claim to fame was a remarkable exchange that seemed to be straight out of a political thriller:
In the 2004 hospital drama that defined Mr. Comey’s time in the Bush administration, the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, and Mr. Bush’s chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., sought to persuade Attorney General John Ashcroft — who was ill and disoriented — to reauthorize the administration’s controversial eavesdropping program.
Mr. Comey, who was serving as the acting attorney general and had been tipped off that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card were trying to go around him, rushed to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to thwart them. With Mr. Comey as well as Mr. Mueller in the room, Mr. Ashcroft refused to reauthorize the program. After the episode, Mr. Bush agreed to make changes in the program, and Mr. Comey was widely praised for putting the law over politics.
According to testimony Mr. Comey provided to Congress in 2007, Mr. Ashcroft rose weakly from his hospital bed when Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card approached and refused to approve the program.
“I was angry,” Mr. Comey said in his testimony. “I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general because they had been transferred to me. I thought he had conducted himself in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before, but still I thought it was improper.”
One can’t help but to be curious about the timing of the nomination and decision to nominate Comey. President Obama has never been under more fire than he is now. The nomination of a Republican to such a prominent position could indeed be an effort to draw attention away from his troubles as well as reinforce the myth that he is a bipartisan champion. More to come.