James Comey and Robert Mueller
James Comey, left, and outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller at a ceremony announcing Comey’s nomination. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

If you think the federal government is populated by pols without principles and/or shame, then James Comey’s nomination for FBI will not surprise you. For those who harbor some faith in the morality of elected leaders, I hate to burst your bubble once again. Comey has made a career of feigning moral high-mindedness. But a brief reflection on his conduct over the years shows that, like an average pol, he operates in a world of back-scratching and disingenuous compliments.

In Dec. 2008, he authored a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Attorney General Eric Holder’s nomination to that post. On one hand, Comey advised the committee that he was the chief prosecutor in the Marc Rich and Pincus Green matter and the infamous pardons that were a key objection to Holder’s confirmation as attorney general. He wrote: “I have come to believe that Mr. Holder’s role in the Rich and Green pardons were a huge misjudgment, one for which he has, appropriately, paid dearly in reputation.” But wait. There is a back to be scratched: “Yet I very much hope he is confirmed.” Now mind you, he wasn’t “suggesting errors of judgment are qualifications for high office,” but he sure didn’t think they were disqualifying. He gilded the lily to be sure, arguing that Holder “is a smart, humble, decent man.”

Rather stomach-turning isn’t it? Now even liberals recognize Holder possesses none of those qualities.

Then five years later the favor is returned. Holder laid it on in a written statement:

As an extraordinarily dedicated public servant, a talented national security and law enforcement executive, and a principled leader with extensive experience in government and the private sector, Jim Comey is uniquely qualified to serve as the next Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. . . . He is a seasoned prosecutor – and former United States Attorney – whose impeccable judgment has set him apart from his peers. He is a proven leader – and former Deputy Attorney General – whose formidable intellect, indisputable integrity, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law will undoubtedly serve him well as FBI Director.

Comey demonstrated the same disingenuous behavior in his posturing on anti-terrorism tactics. He signed off on these during the George W. Bush presidency but then staged a moment of “conscience” in objecting to the extension of the programs. Again, he went from satisfying his then boss for the moment, to, at the expense of that president, making himself out to be heroic and not one of those “bad” Republican officials the liberals detest.

There is something perversely appropriate in Holder (who mislead Congress on his role in spying on reporters) vouching for the character of Comey. And Comey will get through most likely  — because Dems and libertarians will ignore his past approval of enhanced interrogation and other tactics they considered to be an abomination, and Republicans will blot out memory of his grandstanding at John Ashcroft’s bedside.

In a principled world, Democrats and libertarians would object based on Comey’s role in facilitating Bush era-policies while Republicans would object because of his opportunistic backing of Holder and his grandstanding at the expense of the president he was serving. But we live in political universe in which both sides will approve the pick. You never know when one of those senators will need a favor, huh?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.