A playful joke Obama told James Comey's family shows why he was 'a compelling leader'

  • James Comey’s memoirs detail examples of leadership which show why he thinks Barack Obama is a good leader, and Donald Trump is not.
  • Comey recalled a funny quip Obama made to his daughters at an event while Comey sworn in as Obama’s FBI director.
  • He said the joke showed that Obama is attentive, and also humble enough to laugh.
  • By contrast, he says Trump’s reluctance to laugh is a sign of insecurity.

A joke Barack Obama told James Comey’s family showed why he was such a “compelling leader,” the ex-FBI Director has said.

The former president playfully offered to take photos with Comey’s daughters with their boyfriends, and then a second without them “just in case” they broke up, Comey said.

The encounter came in 2013, when Comey was being sworn in as director of the FBI under Obama. He shared the anecdote in his new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership.”

Business Insider acquired a copy ahead of its publication date on Tuesday April 17.

Comey wrote:

“My two older girls had brought their serious boyfriends along, and we all joined the president for a commemorative photo of the occasion.

“Remembering what he had learned about our group during the introductions, President Obama smiled for the first photo and then, gesturing toward the boyfriends, said ‘Hey, why don’t we take another without the guys. You know, just in case.’

“He was playful as he said it, and he did it in a way that no one was offended.

“But I could tell he was also being thoughtful in a way few leaders are. What if things didn’t work out with one of the other of these guys? Would having them in a picture with the president ruin it for the Comeys forever?

“So Obama gestured the boyfriends out of the shot, to our great amusement.”

This episode displayed in Obama “a sense of humour, insight, and an ability to connect with an audience” that was “indispensable in good leaders,” Comey said. It was, to Comey, “an early glimpse at what made him a compelling leader.”

George W. Bush also had a “good sense of humour,” but it was often at the expense of other people and “in a slightly edgy way, which seemed to betray some insecurity in his personality.”

Comey worked as Bush’s Deputy Attorney General from 2003 to 2005.

Elsewhere in the book, Comey comments that he could not think of a single time he had seen Donald Trump laugh.

He said that his apparent inability to lighten up is “rooted in deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humour of others.”

This trait, Comey said, “is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”

He told ABC earlier this week that Trump was “morally unfit to be president.”

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