This week I noted how Timothy Snyder and Anne Applebaum got me to thinking about my own experience with the eastern borderlands of Europe; followed that up with some cogent remarks about recent history from Mr. Snyder; and remembered one of the most significant political figures and moral exemplars of the late 20th century.
To end the week, I want to warn the Library of America to prepare for a rush on their Reinhold Niebuhr anthology. James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership hits bookstores next week; it’s already making headlines at CNN and prodding Donald Trump into a frothing rage. Today the New York Times posted Michiko Kakutani’s review of the book, in which she writes:
A Higher Loyalty is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been — how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Comey’s book fleshes out the testimony he gave before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 with considerable emotional detail, and it showcases its author’s gift for narrative — a skill he clearly honed during his days as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Kakutani notes that a major figure hovering over the book is Reinhold Niebuhr, the American theologian popular in the 1950s; Niebuhr is also featured in a sidebar interview that accompanies the review. Per Kakutani:
[Comey wrote] his college thesis on religion and politics, embracing Reinhold Niebuhr’s argument that “the Christian must enter the political realm in some way” in order to pursue justice, which keeps “the strong from consuming the weak.”
I paged through Niebuhr’s work a few years ago; clearly I’m in good company. His argument is duly noted, and I will ruminate further. And I lift a glass to his memory this afternoon.