Then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama disappointed some of his liberal supporters when he voted in 2008 to immunize our country’s giant telecommunications firms from any consequences of cooperating with the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping scheme. Now, he’s nominating a champion of that scheme to head the FBI.
James Comey, who served as John Ashcroft’s deputy in the Bush II justice department, is getting a lot of love from liberals for a 2004 episode in which he faced down senior Bush administration officials who attempted to bulldoze his hospitalized boss into extending his approval of an as-yet undisclosed National Security Agency assault on the Constitution. The administration scaled the program back from whatever so appalled the bed-ridden Ashcroft to the apparently less ambitious but still unconstitutional effort revealed by the New York Times in 2005 — after they politely sat on the story for a year at the administration’s behest — and approved by Ashcroft and Comey.
It was the telcoms’ cooperation with the scaled-down, Comey-approved program that gave Barack Obama the opportunity to earn their gratitude with his vote to immunize them from the criminal and financial liability for their actions. Despite some serious misgivings, Comey also signed on to the Bush administration’s authorization of torture. So the guy that the Democratic president wants to run the FBI, the guy that Charlie Pierce calls “a legitimate choice to head the FBI,” the guy Josh Marshall says “came down on the side of the rule of law,” is a guy who has a history of approving illegal government activities up to and including crimes against humanity.
More and more, the Obama administration brings to mind a political version of the famous Aristocrats joke.
“What do you call them?”