President Obama very likely hopes that choosing James Comey, a Republican and former top official in the Bush/Cheney Justice Department, to lead the FBI will give him some bipartisan credibility on the Hill. But it’s also easy to imagine the pushback from the right: sure Comey is a Republican, but is he really a Republican?
After all, Comey rose to national prominence when he balked at the legality of the Bush/Cheney warrantless wiretap program, which the GOP widely supported. He also endorsed marriage equality, announced his support for trying terrorist suspects in America’s criminal-justice system, and backed Eric Holder’s Attorney General nomination in 2009.
So is Comey some sort of center-left RINO? It’s a subjective question, but my colleague Michael Yarvitz flagged this report from David Steinbach that highlighted a relevant detail about Comey’s political contributions.
…Comey’s own donations to federal candidates over the last several years also went to Republicans.
In fact, the apparent nominee-to-be has contributed to Obama’s opponents in each of the past two elections. In August 2008, Comey sent $2,300 to the GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.). A few years later, Comey did his part to try to prevent Obama’s re-election, maxing out to Republican Mitt Romney with $5,000 in donations.
In other words, President Obama has chosen as his FBI director a Republican donor who opened his wallet and donated generously to beat President Obama.
Comey has a sterling reputation, and has credibility as an official who doesn’t let politics trump the law, but his status as a member of the Republican Party shouldn’t be in doubt.
Will this matter on Capitol Hill? Almost certainly yes.
Roll Call reported overnight that congressional Republicans effectively see Comey as “about the best pick the Republicans are likely to get out of the Obama White House, and he will face an easier time than if the administration had gone with an Obama insider.”
Makan Delrahim, former Republican staff director and chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, was chairman, called the pick “a brilliant move” that would help tamp down partisan attacks against Obama.
Comey “provides the president with political cover with regard to highly sensitive national security issues, which are critical in today’s world,” he said.
Even I’m not naive enough to believe Comey will “help tamp down partisan attacks against Obama,” but comments like these at least suggest confirmation shouldn’t be too challenging.