Comey's big interview was a masterclass in civics

The former FBI director's sit-down with George Stephanopoulos probably disappointed news junkies. But it might have had a huge impact on casual readers.

George Stephanopoulos and James Comey.
(Image credit: ABC/ Ralph Alswang)

Former FBI Director James Comey's talk with George Stephanopoulos — his first televised interview after being fired by President Trump — was disappointing on the merits. For those of us who follow politics closely, he didn't say much that was new. But as television events go, it was pedagogically brilliant. And at this delicate juncture in American history, that may matter more.

In the interview, Comey comes across as a Forrest Gump figure with brains; he's careful to portray himself as someone who's worked with several administrations, and investigated everyone from the mafia and Martha Stewart to Whitewater and Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich and Pincus Green. He engagingly describes a showdown with Dick Cheney et al over the legality of surveillance techniques that culminates in multiple figures (including then-FBI Director Bob Mueller) rushing to John Ashcroft's hospital bed. It's a complicated story, but he tells it well, slightly decentering himself. The interview weaves parts of Comey's biography into a much larger story about how America is supposed to work, how it's failed in the past and righted itself, and how dangerously it's listing now.

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Lili Loofbourow

Lili Loofbourow is the culture critic at She's also a special correspondent for the Los Angeles Review of Books and an editor for Beyond Criticism, a Bloomsbury Academic series dedicated to formally experimental criticism. Her writing has appeared in a variety of venues including The Guardian, Salon, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and Slate.