And it isn’t just that Comey violated FBI protocols. The former director has followed that decision up by embarking on a self-serving mission to cast himself as one of the president’s most prominent ethics-based critics, going after Trump with a stern “Mr. President, we won’t stand for this” frown. But if Comey actually hoped to help any anti-Trump cause, he’d have been much better off setting a good example by keeping his mouth shut and fading quietly into the background. If, on the other hand, he mostly just wanted to burnish his personal brand—well, then it becomes clearer why he’s behaved like he has.

A certain strain of thinking among Trump’s political opponents goes like this: He’s tossed out the rulebook and operates according to a sheer will to power, and we’re naïfs and fools if we won’t willingly do the same to beat him. If nothing else, Comey should serve as an example of the dangers of this thinking. Those who pretend to be motivated only by high principle while actually grubbing around for personal power may find themselves left with neither principle nor power, only their own hypocrisy.