Why Does President Obama Keep Giving Good Jobs to Republicans?

James Comey will be FBI director. A Democrat could do that job.

So President Obama is going to appoint a Republican to a high-profile national security position. Again.

This time the Republican is James Comey, and the position is director of the FBI. This, just a few months after appointing Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense. And like Hagel, Comey isn’t exactly a bad guy—in fact he’ll probably never have a high-ranking job in a GOP presidency ever again. Why? Because as deputy attorney general during the Bush Administration, he threatened to resign rather than allow a “warrantless wiretapping”program continue without changes to make it Constitutional.

The man’s a genuine hero of civil liberties, then, one of the few from that era. So it’s no surprise that the pick is being hailed by a number of Democrats. But as with Hagel, I think Obama’s nomination of Comey does a disservice to his own party.


The spoils of war. When you vote for president, you’re voting for who controls the machinery of government. If I’d wanted Republicans in charge of so many government agencies, I would’ve voted Republican.That’s what Republicans do. Elections should matter a little more to this president than they seem to.

It sends the wrong message. Obama has had three defense secretaries, and two have been Republican. This will be his second FBI director. Both were Republican. At some point, you’re telling the public more than “I’m a bipartisan dude who reaches across party lines.” Instead you’re saying, “Democrats should leave the tough job of protecting the country exclusively to the GOP.”

• It doesn’t actually build good will with Republicans. It’s not like the GOP is going to stop obstructing in Congress just because the President made a nice gesture. Remember, Hagel served as a Republican in the Senate before taking the defense secretary job. Republicans went after him—accusing him of hating Israel, giving speeches to terrorists, hating gays, and generally being a bad person. Being a Republican didn’t get Hagel through.

The end result? Obama’s barely been able to get his Democratic nominees approved. The overall impression is that he’s fighting harder for his Republican nominees than for his Democratic allies.

There’s a chance, I suppose, that Obama’s bipartisanship will buy goodwill with a public that likes cross-party efforts more than anybody who actually holds party leadership. But it’s not like Obama will be running for election again anytime soon. What does he have to gain?

Again, Comey seems perfectly capable. But there’s no upside to Obama or Democrats in trading away a perfectly good executive position in for nothing. C’mon, Mr. President: Let Democrats be Democrats. And let them have the FBI once in awhile.