Thursday, September 6, 2018

Mutiny, Treason, or Patriotism: The NYT Op-Ed, Considered

We are in the midst of one of those tsunamis that would once have seemed unthinkable, but which in the current circus atmosphere have become routine. It seems a "senior administration official" has written an op-ed in which he or she assures us of hard work on the inside trying to move forward the tenets of movement conservatism against the glandular lurches of an unfit President who not only hasn't a conservative bone in his body, but who would not understand the reasons behind a conservative idea if served in a Happy Meal. We are further assured that this person is not alone, and in one stroke, the "resistance" has its mole(s) on the inside publicly proclaiming their work. Forgive me if I don't cheer out loud.

Don't get me wrong. When I read the op-ed yesterday, there was a part of me that said "ah, at long last. Signs of hope" as if I were in the NASA control room waiting for communication from a distant satellite orbiting a far-away body. The word that came to mind was "remarkable", which the Google tells me means "worthy of attention; striking" without further value judgment. This was indeed a remarkable letter, if only because the New York Times does not regularly print anonymous op-eds. Adding to the the perception though, was the content and purported provenance of the essay. A "senior administration official" was sending signals in the clear to the "resistance" to the effect of "never fear, we are here and we are helping to restrain this monster." Those opposed to the President (me) are presumably to take great comfort from this person's activities and those of others of like mind. 

Some important thoughts up front. First, I have to assume that this person is either senior White House staff or a cabinet officer. The risk to the New York Times by printing this is so immense (reputationally) that to offer the space to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the Department of Commerce would be illogical. Second, I believe that this person exists and that he or she wrote this essay. This is not "fake news" or any of the other ridiculous mutterings emanating from the sausagey fingers of our unfortunate President. No--I truly believe this person exists and that they chose this moment to send their bat signal to the resistance. What I can't quite figure out is WHY? 

I've seen some elsewhere characterize this person's actions as "mutiny"; one person--familiar with my chosen career earlier in life--was incredulous that I did not see this action as mutinous. Putting aside for the moment that I had not rendered any opinion to that moment other than that it was "remarkable" (see above), and furthermore that mutiny is an actual charge and crime under the Uniform Code (which unless this person is uniformed, they would not come under), I do not see this as mutinous for a very important reason. This person's boss or bosses have not seen his or her actions and job performance as such. If this person were considered unloyal or mutinous, would there not be actual--you know--actions that would rise to this level? Actions that would be noted and questioned? Were there such actions--and having first hand knowledge of the depth of animus this crowd holds for those who oppose the President--do we really think this person would still be around to write such an essay? Of course not. 

So then, is this treason? No, at least not under any definition of the word with which I am familiar. Conveniently, we have such a definition close at hand, as the crime is defined in the U.S. Constitution, Article III Section 3 as "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court." I am no Obama-like Constitutional scholar, but writing this op-ed does not seem to rise to this.

Was what we read yesterday patriotic? This one is a little more difficult to arbitrate, as patriotism is a matter or personal taste. I am sure that the author of the piece thinks they are being patriotic. Many readers will see this as a patriotic act, as there is within both the resistance AND the lukewarm Trump supporter community this notion of men and women of good character and sound conservative principles toiling day by day to restrain the President's "...most reckless impulses..." (as Brit Hume put it). Calling it "God's work", Hume goes on to suggest that while the quiet, subversive activities carried out by this person are fine--laudable even--anonymously crowing about it in the New York Times is considerably less praiseworthy. Again--we must willfully suspend the disbelief of just why it is a President's reckless impulses must be restrained and whether that person remains fit for the office in order for this role to be meaningful. But I digress.

So, where exactly do I come down on all of this? After having a night to sleep on it, I come down thusly. The author of this op-ed is guilty of neither mutiny nor treason. That said, what the author has done is not in the least bit patriotic, nor is it worthy of praise or honor. It is self-serving. It is an attempt to get on the record a sterilized version of whatever impulses led this person to serve, and then remain serving in spite of the accumulating evidence that the President is unfit and should be removed from office. This is because this person's identity will one day be known to us, to all of us. Probably sooner, rather than later--as the value of having written something like this diminished greatly over time. No--this was not an honorable act. It was an act of great dishonor.

Which brings me to my final main point. The continuing hope and desire of the anti-Trump crowd and the lukewarm Trump crowd that men like Chief of Staff Kelly and Secretary Mattis are serving as great superhuman patriots constraining the President is a fiction and ought to be dispensed with. There was a time when this was an attractive notion, one from which many likely found comfort. But that time is long over, they are now complicit in the perfidy. That Bob Woodward's book recounts for us exactly the same kind of exasperated views of the President made by these men that others have reported makes their continuing and active denials not only ring hollow, but rise to the level of dishonesty. 

If Mattis and Kelly and Pompeo and the author of this op-ed truly believe that their roles are to constrain/restrain this President, in light of what we have seen now over 18 plus months in office, it seems that they are only being minimally successful. Whatever patriotic stirrings led them to accept these offices must now turn to the realistic understanding of the situation, and that is that whatever grand powers they believe they have, the President's are grander, and he is always a Tweet away from statements that have considerable consequences. Respect for the Republic and a desire to serve it require these people to "walk and talk". Resign en masse with letters addressed to the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Explain publicly the extent to which your efforts were required to restrain the "reckless impulses of the President". Then let the political process of impeachment--or not--play out.

I stand ready to accept the charge that I am advocating "undoing" the results of the last election. I'm happy to do so as I have the Constitutional process of impeachment to fall back upon to support my view that the Framers gave us the means so to undo, and specifically placed those means within the legislative branch rather than the judicial, recognizing the overtly political nature of the act. It is time for men and women of honor to stop the leaking and the anonymous bullshit. Act now, or forever be tarred with the dishonor of having aided and abetted this dark period in our history. 


Tom Comeau said...

Yes, you are suggesting undoing an election. Impeachment and removal does precisely that, and it is no small thing. We should approach it with substantial trepidation. But you do so openly, and as the Constitution prescribes.

The anonymous writer is also trying to undo an election. For better or worse (mostly worse) the President was legally elected. This is not the work of "adults in the room." This is the work of people undermining the lawful authority of the person the electorate chose. But they do it in secret.

pm said...

I have also wrestled with why. Sometimes I wonder if the author wrote the oped to serve as some sort of catylst for the President's implosion. It was not a bat call but more of a psychological trigger.

"The Hammer" said...

Perhaps you missed this, it’s one theory. However I tend to agree with a well known opinion leader who pointed out the media is in a panic. They’ve thrown everything they have at this President and nothing has stuck! They don’t control public opinion any longer and it’s making them crazy; therefore I think it’s a fabrication.
But let’s say this individual is legit, then s/he is a total dirtbag morally and seditious criminal legally.

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