To ‘re­sis­tance:’ Serve hon­or­ably or re­sign

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

The “deep state” ex­ists af­ter all. But it turns out that deep state is not made up of the per­ma­nent bu­reau­cracy, shad­owy in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, or even Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion holdovers; rather it is made up of Pres­i­dent Trump’s own se­nior ap­pointees.

In a New York Times op-ed, an un­named “se­nior of­fi­cial in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion” ad­mits that he and oth­ers “in and around the White House” are “work­ing dili­gently from within to frus­trate parts of his agenda” and thwart “Mr. Trump’s more mis­guided im­pulses un­til he is out of of­fice.”

Pres­i­dent Trump asked on Twit­ter whether the writer had com­mit­ted “TREA­SON?” No, he (or she) has not. But the writer and the other mem­bers of this “quiet re­sis­tance within the ad­min­is­tra­tion” have be­trayed the solemn oath they took when they raised their right hands and pledged to “bear true faith and al­le­giance” to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Any au­thor­ity th­ese ap­pointees have comes from the pres­i­dent, at whose plea­sure they serve. For an un­elected ap­pointee to hide doc­u­ments or refuse to carry out the law­ful or­ders of the elected pres­i­dent is not no­ble. It is not pa­tri­otic. It is an as­sault on democ­racy.

If you are a pres­i­den­tial ap­pointee who strongly dis­agrees with some­thing the pres­i­dent is about to do, you have a moral obli­ga­tion to try to con­vince the pres­i­dent that he is wrong. If you can’t do so, and the mat­ter is suf­fi­ciently se­ri­ous, then you have an obli­ga­tion to re­sign — and ex­plain to the Amer­i­can peo­ple why you did so. But there is no con­sti­tu­tional op­tion of stay­ing on the job and pre­tend­ing to be a loyal ad­viser, while se­cretly un­der­min­ing the pres­i­dent by fail­ing to carry out his de­ci­sions — no mat­ter how bad you think those de­ci­sions are.

Yet, ac­cord­ing to the au­thor, that is pre­cisely what he (or she) and many se­nior of­fi­cials are do­ing. And the con­duct the au­thor de­scribes matches named se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials’ ac­tions de­scribed in Bob Wood­ward’s new book, “Fear.” Ac­cord­ing to Wood­ward, theneco­nomic ad­viser Gary Cohn “stole a let­ter off Trump’s desk” to avoid for­mally with­draw­ing from a U.S-South Korea trade agree­ment — and later bragged to a col­league that the pres­i­dent never even re­al­ized it was miss­ing. Wood­ward fur­ther re­ports that Cohn did the same with a doc­u­ment to with­draw from the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment, telling then-staff sec­re­tary Rob Porter “I can stop this. I’ll just take the pa­per off his desk.”

It would be a hor­ri­ble de­ci­sion to with­draw from those trade agree­ments. And it would be per­fectly le­git­i­mate to cam­paign in­ter­nally to dis­suade the pres­i­dent from do­ing so. But for the head of the Na­tional Eco­nomic Coun­cil to con­spire with the White House staff sec­re­tary to hide doc­u­ments from the pres­i­dent is rank in­sub­or­di­na­tion. No one elected the eco­nomic ad­viser or the staff sec­re­tary. They elected Don­ald Trump.

It is im­por­tant that good peo­ple serve in the ad­min­is­tra­tion and try their best to per­suade the pres­i­dent to make good de­ci­sions and dis­suade him from bad ones. But when you go from ad­vis­ing to sub­vert­ing the pres­i­dent, you cross a moral and con­sti­tu­tional line. You are no longer de­fend­ing democ­racy; you are sub­vert­ing it. And to boast about your du­plic­i­tous be­hav­ior in the me­dia is shame­ful.

In our sys­tem of checks and bal­ances, there are a num­ber of op­tions at the dis­posal of of­fi­cials con­cerned about the pres­i­dent’s fit­ness for of­fice. If the pres­i­dent is as un­sta­ble as the writer sug­gests, and if many within the ad­min­is­tra­tion share that view, then a mass res­ig­na­tion would be ap­pro­pri­ate. That could cer­tainly make an im­pact on the midterm elec­tions and flip con­trol of the House and Se­nate to the Democrats, pro­vid­ing a check on the pres­i­dent’s power. If Trump is truly in­com­pe­tent, then mem­bers of the Cab­i­net can agree to no­tify Congress that they do not be­lieve the pres­i­dent can carry out his du­ties un­der the 25th Amend­ment. If he has com­mit­ted high crimes and mis­de­meanors, Congress can im­peach him. But seek­ing to thwart the pres­i­dent from within by ex­tra-con­sti­tu­tional means is un-Amer­i­can.

There is no shame in not serv­ing a pres­i­dent you don’t re­spect. Many con­ser­va­tives have made that de­ci­sion. But if you feel you can’t serve the pres­i­dent hon­or­ably, then there is only one hon­or­able thing to do: Don’t serve at all.

Marc A. Thiessen Colum­nist

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