WHO AM I TO TELL others what ethical leadership is? Anyone claiming to write a book about ethical leadership can come across as presumptuous, even sanctimonious. All the more so if that author happens to be someone who was quite memorably and publicly fired from his last job.
I understand the impulse to think that any book written about one's life experience can be an exercise in vanity, which is why I long resisted the idea of writing a book of my own. But I changed my mind for an important reason. We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded. This is not just happening in our nation's capital, and not just in the United States. It is a troubling trend that has touched institutions across America and around the world - boardrooms of major companies, newsrooms, university campuses, the entertainment industry, and professional and Olympic sports.
For some of the crooks, liars, and abusers, there has been a reckoning. For others, there remain excuses, justifications, and a stubborn willingness by those around them to look the other way or even enable the bad behavior.
James Comey, A Higher Loyalty - Truth, Lies, and Leadership
We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.
"We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded. "
Of course he's right. But no political party, ideology, or news station can address the truth bc they are steeped in what they do for what benefits them, and all the while they are the problem.
The standards are disappearing. You can't even get unbiased news reports on basic news. It's politically incorrect to hold anyone accountable bc that "judging", and is uncomfortable. Fortunately God set things up so that actions have consequences, for everyone. And that will always be at play, even when our laws fail.
Comey's book is about his personal experiences as a lawyer and leader in the government sector for over 25 years. It seems the appropriate time to continue the thread:
"Ethical leadership is also about understanding the truth about humans and our need for meaning. It is about building workplaces where standards are high and fear is low. Those are the kinds of cultures where people will feel comfortable speaking the truth to others as they seek excellence in themselves and the people around them.
Without a fundamental commitment to the truth-especially in our public institutions and those who lead them-we are lost. As a legal principle, if people don't tell the truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law begins to dissolve. As a leadership principle, if leaders don't tell the truth, or won't hear the truth from others, they cannot make good decisions, they cannot themselves improve, and they cannot inspire trust among those who follow them."
The criticism of Comey by the recent IG report is considered properly investigated by Comey. His accounts in the book very closely match the findings in the report.
IMO, this is an honest man accurately reporting his experience.
If you have no interest in the book, I encourage you to skip this thread.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about the title of this book. In one sense, it came out of a bizarre dinner meeting at the White House, where a new president of the United States demanded my loyalty-to him, personally-over my duties as FBI director to the American people. But in another, deeper sense, the title is the culmination of four decades in law, as a federal prosecutor, business lawyer, and working closely with three U.S. presidents.
In all those jobs, I learned from those around me and tried to pass on to those I worked with that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives-not to a person, not to a party, not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth. I hope this book is useful in stimulating all of us to think about the values that sustain us, and to search for leadership that embodies those values."
Comey comments on his love for testifying before congress:
THERE ARE TEN BLOCKS between FBI headquarters and Capitol Hill, and each of them is fixed in my memory from countless shuttle missions up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Riding past the National Archives, where tourists were lined up to see America's documents, the Newseum, with the words of the First Amendment carved into its stone front, and the T-shirt vendors and food trucks had become something of a ritual.
It was February 2017, and I was in the back row of a fully armored black FBI Suburban. The middle row of seats had been removed, so I sat in one of the two seats in the back. I had gotten used to watching the world pass by through the small dark bulletproof side windows. I was on the way to yet another classified congressional briefing on the 2016 Russian election interference.
Appearing in front of members of Congress was difficult on a good day, and usually disheartening. Nearly everyone appeared to take a side and seemed to listen only to find the nuggets that fit their desired spin. They would argue with each other through you: "Mr. Director, if someone said X, wouldn't that person be an idiot?" And the reply would come through you as well: "Mr. Director, if someone said that someone who said X was an idiot, wouldn't that person be the real idiot?"
As Assistant U.S. Attorney for New York, Comey prosecuted the Mafia. He outlines the rules of the road in Mafia families:
"The Life of Lies. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. Loyalty oaths. An us-versus-them worldview. Lying about things, large and small, in service to some warped code of loyalty. These rules and standards were hallmarks of the Mafia, but throughout my career I'd be surprised how often I'd find them applied outside of it."
This guy's tarnished the FBI's reputation to the extent it will take years to recoup and you still lend credibility to his book? The title alone is preposterous in light of the way he's handled his authority and responsibilities at the FBI. The IG's report blasted him for insubordination, dereliction and bias, among other charges.
Comey spends much verbiage describing an armed break-in at his house when he was a kid. No single paragraph or two adequately describe his terror. These are the last of the words:
My encounter with the Ramsey Rapist brought me years of pain. I thought about him every night for at least five years-not most nights, every night-and I slept with a knife at hand for far longer. I couldn't see it at the time, but the terrifying experience was, in its own way, also an incredible gift. Believing-knowing, in my mind-that I was going to die, and then surviving, made life seem like a precious, delicate miracle. As a high school senior, I started watching sunsets, looking at buds on trees, and noticing the beauty of our world. That feeling lasts to this day, though sometimes it expresses itself in ways that might seem corny to people who fortunately never had the experience of measuring their time on this earth in seconds.
The Ramsey Rapist taught me at an early age that many of the things we think are valuable have no value. Whenever I speak to young people, I suggest they do something that might seem a little odd: Close your eyes, I say. Sit there, and imagine you are at the end of your life. From that vantage point, the smoke of striving for recognition and wealth is cleared.
Houses, cars, awards on the wall? Who cares? You are about to die. Who do you want to have been? I tell them that I hope some of them decide to have been people who used their abilities to help those who needed it-the weak, the struggling, the frightened, the bullied. Standing for something. Making a difference. That is true wealth.
Comey comments on the influence of his second William and Mary major:
"The religion department introduced me to the philosopher and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, whose work resonated with me deeply. Niebuhr saw the evil in the world, understood that human limitations make it impossible for any of us to really love another as ourselves, but still painted a compelling picture of our obligation to try to seek justice in a flawed world.
He never heard country music artist Billy Currington sing, "God is great, beer is good, and people are crazy," but he would have appreciated the lyric and, although it wouldn't make the song a hit, he probably would have added, "And you still must try to achieve a measure of justice in our imperfect world." And justice, Niebuhr believed, could be best sought through the instruments of government power.
Slowly it dawned on me that I wasn't going to be a doctor after all. Lawyers participate much more directly in the search for justice. That route, I thought, might be the best way to make a difference."
Comey winds up in the southern district of New York, a prosecuting office ruled by Rudy Giuliani. This is a lighter moment:
"Prosecutors almost never saw the great man in person, so I was especially pumped when he stopped by my office early in my career, shortly after I had been assigned to an investigation that touched a prominent New York figure who dressed in shiny tracksuits and sported a Nobel-sized medallion around his neck.
The state of New York was investigating Al Sharpton for alleged embezzlement from his charity, and I was assigned to see if there was a federal angle to the case. I had never even seen Rudy on my floor, and now he was at my very door. He wanted me to know he was personally following the investigation and knew I would do a good job. My heart thumped with anxiety and excitement as he gave me this pep talk standing in the doorway. He was counting on me. He turned to leave, then stopped. "Oh, and I want the f***ing medal", he said, then walked away. But we never made a federal case."
The state authorities charged Sharpton, and he was acquitted after a trial. The medal stayed with its owner.
There were several leadership influences in Comey's formative years, both in childhood and the adult, professional world. He gives a lot of credit in this tribute:
"But the person who taught me the most about leadership is my wife, Patrice.
All of us have encounters with death in our lives. It's inevitable. I've had my share, even after the Ramsey Rapist receded into my nightmares.
There was, for example, the time I visited Patrice, who at this time was just my girlfriend, while she was in the Peace Corps in a remote village in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and I nearly died from contracting malaria. If she had not driven me in the middle of the night on the back of her motorcycle and literally dragged me into a remote hospital, I would not have made it. But sometimes it isn't when we face death ourselves, but rather when death takes away those we love the most, that we really learn about just how short our time on earth is and why what we do with that time matters."
"Patrice's quest-to try to make things right for others-undoubtedly influenced my own views on the purpose of the law and the justice system to which I've devoted most of my adult life. In the years that followed Collin's death, I have seen a lot of bad things happen to good people, and I have been asked to help explain it and give those losses some sense of meaning.
In 2002, when I went back to serve as the United States Attorney in Manhattan, I stood in the freshly excavated pit at Ground Zero, a place where thousands died, including hundreds of whom no trace was found. I had invited the country's ninety-two chief federal prosecutors to that spot. I explained that those lost innocents were all around us, even though we couldn't see them. This was a place of suffocating loss. It was holy ground.
Channeling Patrice, I told them that I didn't know why bad things happen to good people. I recalled that, for those of us from a Judeo-Christian tradition, the Book of Job rebukes us for even asking the question. The voice from the whirlwind replied, in essence, "How dare you?" The truth is, I can't explain God's role in human history.
To do that would require an understanding far beyond the loss of my son, and sweep in the suffering and loss of countless innocent sons and daughters. I just don't know, and I have little patience for those who claim to know. What I do know is what Patrice taught me: There is meaning and purpose in not surrendering in the face of loss, but instead working to bind up wounds, ease pain, and spare others what you have seen. Our obligation, our duty, is to ensure that something good comes from suffering, that we find some kind of gift in good-bye. Not to somehow, perversely, make the loss "worth it."
Nothing will ever justify some losses, but we can survive, even thrive, if we channel grief into purpose and never allow evil to hold the field. In that mission lie the beauty and genius of our justice system."
Comey gets the call. His humanness shows in these words:
"The man said he was calling from the White House because the president would like to know if I would be willing to return to Manhattan as the United States Attorney, the chief federal prosecutor. I assumed it was one of my hilarious friends, so I began to say, "Yeah, why don't you kiss my a**" when the man cut me off, saying this was not a joke. President George W. Bush needed to appoint a new United States Attorney, there was something of a political logjam in New York over the pick, and they had decided I was the right person: I had worked in that office, I had done terrorism cases, and I would be acceptable to Democrats and Republicans. Would I do it?
It is difficult at this distance to capture the feeling of the fall of 2001, a time of unity and purpose and anxiety in the country. "Of course I will do it," I replied, "but my wife's not home right now. I will call you back if she has a problem." I hung up the phone, abandoned my caregiving responsibilities, and went out to stand in the driveway to wait for Patrice, my heart pounding."
Preparing the office for the future. The concept of the "reservoir":
"It was now my responsibility to build my own culture within the U.S. Attorney's office, one that would get the best out of our team and drawing, in different ways, on the lessons of Giuliani and Fahey. I tried to attend to this task from the very first day.
I hired about fifty new prosecutors during my time as U.S. Attorney and sat with each of them as they took the oath of office. I invited them to bring their families. I told them that something remarkable was going to happen when they stood up and said they represented the United States of America,total strangers were going to believe what they said next. I explained to them that, although I didn't want to burst their bubbles, this would not happen because of them.
It would happen because of those who had gone before them and, through hundreds of promises made and kept, and hundreds of truths told and errors instantly corrected, built something for them. I called it a reservoir. I told them it was a reservoir of trust and credibility built for you and filled for you by people you never knew, by those who are long gone. A reservoir that makes possible so much of the good that is done by the institution you serve. A remarkable gift.
I would explain to these bright young lawyers that, like all great gifts, this one comes with a responsibility, a solemn obligation to guard and protect that reservoir and pass it on to those who follow as full as you received it, or maybe even fuller. I would explain that the problem with reservoirs is that they take a very long time to fill but they can be drained by one hole in the dam. The actions of one person can destroy what it took hundreds of people years to build."
In the middle of all these massive cases that we were working so hard to make, why did I want to have anything to do with Martha Stewart? It was a marginal case about a lie by a rich person who sold some stock because her friend did. We had some evidence that might add up to insider trading, if we took an aggressive view of the law, and we had a willful obstruction of justice, but it was far from an open-and-shut case, particularly if it involved a jury and a sympathetic character in America's most beloved TV hostess. Everyone had learned something from her. I once had personally pushed basil leaves under the skin of a Thanksgiving turkey, at Martha Stewart's suggestion. Why go to the trouble? Who cared?
The final piece to the case had come, unexpectedly, from Martha Stewart's best friend, Mariana Pasternak. Just days after the allegedly coincidental stock sale, the two were sitting on a hotel balcony in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, enjoying a New Year's vacation drink. As they chatted, gazing out at the jewel-like Pacific, Pasternak told investigators, Stewart said she was worried about Sam Waksal. Stewart explained that she had sold all her stock in ImClone because she learned through her broker that Waksal had. She added, "Isn't it nice to have brokers who tell you such things?"
In other words, Martha Stewart had told us a whopper, and now we could prove it well beyond any reasonable doubt. Ugh. The lie she had told was so unnecessary. She could have offered to repay the fifty thousand dollars she had saved, chump change to her, expressed remorse, and vowed never to trade on insider information again. Instead she engaged in an elaborate deception and then involved others to try to cover her tracks.
Charging Martha Stewart was my first experience with getting a lot of hate and heat for a decision that had been carefully and thoughtfully made. People just could not, for the life of them, understand how I could make a mountain out of a molehill in an effort to ruin Martha Stewart. I was obviously out of control, making decisions that no reasonable person could support. The onslaught was bracing, but I was comfortable we had made the right decision, and in the right way. It would also prove to be good practice for a future I couldn't have imagined back then.
Stewart was convicted and sentenced to five months at the federal prison in Alderson, West Virginia.
The Stewart experience reminded me that the justice system is an honor system. We really can't always tell when people are lying or hiding documents, so when we are able to prove it, we simply must do so as a message to everyone. People must fear the consequences of lying in the justice system or the system can't work.
No stranger to the White House. This, in then President Bush's White House:
I had also been to the West Wing in the spring of 2001. As an Assistant United States Attorney in Richmond, I was handling a terrorism case and expected the indictment in the case to accuse Iran of funding and directing the devastating 1996 attack on a United States Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed nineteen Americans and wounded hundreds.
Such an accusation would have foreign policy implications, and the new Bush administration gathered its senior national security team to hear Attorney General John Ashcroft's explanation as to why the accusation against Iran was well founded. Ashcroft's staff decided I would accompany him to the White House but sit outside the Situation Room meeting, just in case he needed me as a resource for details. I was relaxed and enjoying my first visit to the Situation Room, because I had no speaking role and wasn't even in the meeting. I could just look around and soak it in. The soaking didn't last long. Soon I was underwater.
Minutes after the door to the secure meeting room closed, it opened again and there stood the secretary of state, Colin Powell.
"Who"s the prosecutor? You the prosecutor?" he barked, fixing his gaze on me.
"Yes, sir," I stammered.
"Get in here," he ordered. Apparently, the start of the meeting had not gone well.
General Powell ushered me into the small conference room and directed me to a seat at the table, directly across from him and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld. The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, sat at the head of the table. I sat between the slightly flushed-looking attorney general and FBI Director Louis Freeh. For the next twenty minutes, the two strong-willed cabinet secretaries grilled me about my case and my evidence as I sweated through my suit. When they ran out of questions, they asked me to leave. I walked out, numb, while the meeting continued.
Several weeks later, I got the approval to include the accusation that Iran was behind the Khobar Towers attack.
The job of deputy attorney general came with a staff of about twenty lawyers to help with the heavy workload and the various demands of a hundred others who reported directly to me. Although I had been in federal law enforcement for fifteen years, the DAG position was my first chance to work on a near-daily basis with cabinet members.
My immediate boss, of course, was John Ashcroft, who, despite Gonzales's implication, I found to be warm, decent, and committed to his job over his own ambitions. We were cordial with each other but never close, something I attributed to the eighteen-year gap in our ages and our very different styles.
Although he laughed easily and enjoyed team sports-I had once played a rough game of basketball against him and failed, despite great effort, to knock him down-Ashcroft was formal in many respects. A deeply religious man, he didn't dance or drink or curse, and he disdained some of the more colorful turns of phrase I liked to use.
One day he held me back after a meeting in his office to gently chastise me for the language I used in a meeting that had just ended. He explained that he viewed the office in which he sat as something he held in trust for the American people. I said I very much agreed. He went on, "Given that, I would ask that you be attentive to your language."
I gave him a blank look, because I couldn't recall using any epithets in the meeting that had just ended. I didn't curse much, but I did on occasion, for emphasis and effect.
"What did I say?" I asked, mystified.
He looked visibly uncomfortable at the prospect of repeating what I had said. It must have been an F-bomb, I reasoned. How could I not remember that?
"It rhymes with 'word,'" Ashcroft finally said.
I racked my brain for four-letter words that fit his description. Then I remembered. At some point during our discussion about a case, I used the word "turd," as in the phrase 'turd in the punch bowl'"
Trying not to smile, I apologized and said I would be more careful in the future.
"We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded. "
HAHAHAHAHAHA This has been going on forever. Its call the liberal media and democrat party. Slave owning, mind controlled and they're still drinking the Kool aid. Nothing has changed in 300 years.
My position also occasionally afforded me the privilege of visiting the Oval Office. My first visit was in late 2003 when I substituted for Attorney General Ashcroft at President Bush's daily terrorism threat briefing. For years after 9/11, every morning President Bush was in town, he met with the leaders of the counterterrorism agencies-which included the FBI and the Department of Justice. I was nervous about these meetings for a couple of reasons. Obviously, I didn't want to embarrass myself or my department by saying anything stupid. But I was also going to a meeting with the president of the United States in an office that is hallowed ground in the life of my country. And in 2003, two years after the 9/11 attacks, there was no higher-priority agenda item than what we were discussing.
This was my first meeting with the leader of the free world. As I sat there, I couldn't get over how brightly lit the place was. There was a ring of lights in the recessed ceiling that lit the place like the noonday sun. I didn't have to speak in this meeting unless called upon, so I let my eyes sweep over the faces that were familiar from TV-the president, Vice President Dick Cheney, FBI Director Bob Mueller, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge.
In that moment, something hit me: It's just us. I always thought that in this place there would be somebody better, but it's just this group of people-including me-trying to figure stuff out. I didn't mean that as an insult to any of the participants, who were talented people. But we were just people, ordinary people in extraordinary roles in challenging times. I'm not sure what I had expected, but I met the top of the pyramid and it was just us, which was both comforting and a bit frightening.
Suddenly Bob Dylan was in my head, singing, "What looks large from a distance, close up ain't never that big."
It seems that the importance of the investigation depends on who is being investigated:
"It took Fitzgerald three years of litigation to get to a place where he charged, tried, and convicted Libby of making false statements in a federal investigation, perjury, and obstruction of justice.
Republican loyalists howled that he was persecuting Libby because prosecutors could never prove the underlying crime-the intentional leaking of a covert agent's name with prior knowledge of its illegality. Of course, these were the same Republicans who passionately believed that President Bill Clinton's lies under oath over an affair with an intern simply had to be pursued, because obstruction of justice and perjury strike at the core of our system.
Meanwhile, Democrats, who six years earlier attacked the case against Bill Clinton as a silly lie about sex, had discovered in the Libby case that they cared deeply about obstruction of justice crimes, when the obstructers were Republicans.
I would discover in the coming months that the pressures to bend the rules and to make convenient exceptions to laws when they got in the way of the president's agenda were tempting. And it was a temptation fed by the urgency of the topic and the nature of the people around the president, people who couldn't take the long view or understand the importance to the country of doing things the right way, no matter the inconvenience.
They would be painful, exhausting lessons in the importance of institutional loyalty over expediency and politics. And more preparation for the future I couldn't yet see."
"I saw the devilish side of President Bush one cold winter morning, with the city covered by a freshly fallen snow. This frigid morning, Bush was seated in his normal armchair, with his back to the fireplace and close to the grandfather clock. The president was apparently about to head somewhere on Marine One, so, as was the custom, reporters were bundled in their winter coats and huddled outside near the Rose Garden to record his departure.
As I began briefing the president on a terrorism case, I could hear the sound of his approaching helicopter. The sound grew louder. Stone-faced, the president held up his hand. "Hold on a minute, Jim," he said.
He kept his hand aloft to pause me, turned slightly in his chair, and looked out onto the South Lawn, where the press corps was gathered. I turned to follow his gaze and watched as the descent of the helicopter swept up the snow on the ground, creating a whiteout blizzard that coated all of the reporters in snow. Some of them looked like snowmen. Embarrassed snowmen.
Without any expression on his face at all, Bush turned back to me, dropping his hand. "Okay, go," he said.
Bush may have had a slight mean streak-he clearly enjoyed watching that scene-but he understood that humor was essential to the high-stress, high-stakes business we were in."
There is a large section devoted to an NSA program called Stellar Wind. It's a testament to honor in the DOJ's AG department, but is far too complicated to review here. I count it as one of the most important foundation moments in the book.
This from Comey's confirmation hearing says it best, I think:
"I don't care about politics. I don't care about expediency. I don't care about friendship. I care about doing the right thing. And I would never be part of something that I believe to be fundamentally wrong. I mean, obviously we all make policy judgments where people disagree, but I will do the right thing."
Stellar Wind proved to be the harbinger of significant changes to governmental policy. Treatment of prisoners at "black sites" came under scrutiny as well. The definition of torture was a matter of great concern.
This about decision making at high levels:
"In fairness to the president and vice president, our modern culture makes this incredibly hard for leaders-especially those in government-even if they possess enough confidence to be humble. Admitting doubt or mistakes is career suicide. And that's the way we want it, right? We want strong, certain leaders.
Imagine supporting a leader who, as he finished his time at the helm, told us that, although he didn't do anything intentionally wrong, he is sure he made many mistakes, prays his mistakes haven't hurt people, and hopes we will forgive and forget the times when he was incompetent. That weakling would be run out of town on a rail. But America's first president said exactly that in his farewell to the country in 1796:
'Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.'
In the Bush administration, Dick Cheney, David Addington, and others had decided that "enhanced interrogations"-acts that fit any normal person's definition of torture-worked. They simply couldn't admit that evidence contradicting their conclusion was valid, maybe most of all to themselves. And so, in their view, people standing in the way of allowing these activities-lawyers like me-were needlessly putting lives at risk."