Political junkies have had a veritable feast this past week, as Former Director of the FBI James Comey gave testimony before the Senate on various issues surrounding his removal from the role and the investigation into President Trump’s Russian connections. And, if we get down to it, his refusal to declare a personal loyalty to Trump over the independence of his role during a one-on-one meeting. Meanwhile, Trump has announced the job has been filled by a new man – Christopher Wray.
Here’s a quick thought experiment: imagine your predecessor is on international television, telling the world he was stood down from his position for refusing a direct order to have sex with a dog. How does that make you look as you rearrange the furniture in your new office and update your LinkedIn profile? Even if he’s lying about the puppy love, you won’t be doing any pet shop meet-and-greets for a while.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying: it’s not an amazing thing for your reputation to be the candidate Trump found acceptable under these circumstances, is it? Yes, you have a great deal of power in your new job, but everyone knows what you had to say and do to get it. There might not have been a canine involved, but this will dog Wray for his entire tenure. I can’t imagine J Edgar Hoover bending the knee to some White House seat-warmer.
It comes down to whether you believe your actions have a resonance beyond short-term strategies towards personal advancement, or you think it’s more important to forego potentially easy wins because of the dent to your future reputation. All the experience, skill and manoeuvring required to rise to the top of an elite organisation can be washed away in a moment like this, which becomes an albatross for the rest of your career. It’d be like, say, the Australian Democrats voting with the Liberals to introduce a GST, or the UK Liberal Democrats forming government in alliance with the Tories.
All the experience, skill and manoeuvring required to rise to the top of an elite organisation can be washed away in a moment like this, which becomes an albatross for the rest of your career.
For all I know, Wray may shine in the role, becoming a bright beacon of even-handed law-enforcement heroism that inspires future generations to become white-hat G-men after a childhood spent saluting autographed bedroom-wall posters of him bringing down cartels. Maybe the ends will justify the means. But at least for the moment, everyone knows the President has him on a short leash.