Getting in Deeper...
Another week reveals more lapses in judgment by the Bush team
Such actions have made Comey something of a bete noire in the Bush administration-even though Comey believes that Bush respected him and wanted him to do the right thing. Indeed, now some Democrats, including Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, say they will even back Comey for attorney general if Gonzales resigns. "The only thing worse than being vilified by the left," says Comey with a laugh, "is being idolized by the left."
Likable and 6 foot 8, the 46-year-old Comey invariably invites comparisons to James Stewart in his portrayal of an idealistic congressman in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. A graduate of William and Mary and the University of Chicago law school, Comey was beloved by prosecutors for his legal acumen and his easy management style, which he describes as obtaining results by eliciting equal parts affection and guilt. He continually urged prosecutors to protect their integrity, the credibility that the court instantly conferred on them, he says, simply by virtue of their office. Comey has likened that goodwill to a vast reservoir: It takes enormous time and effort to fill, but it can be irreparably damaged with just "one hole in the dam."
Comey told U.S. News he was prepared to testify about the Ashcroft incident for more than three years but never did. Why? "Nobody ever asked," he said. "I've never been in a forum where I was obligated to answer the question. Short of that, it was not something I was going to volunteer."
His actions at the hospital, he testified, earned him Card's wrath. Soon after Gonzales became attorney general, his then chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told Comey that Gonzales's "vision" was to merge the deputy's office with Gonzales's own office. That meant that Comey would have lost some of his autonomy, becoming less of a leader and more of a senior staff member. A source close to Sampson says he merely wanted Gonzales and Comey to operate as a "seamless leadership team," with "harmony rather than conflict," and never meant to "degrade the status or authority" of the deputy. Comey didn't buy it. "You may want to try that with the next deputy attorney general," Comey is said to have responded to Sampson. "But it's not going to work with me."