All Hail, Public Servants with Honor!

Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre

New Orleans   There can’t be a question that the President was going to fire Sally Yates as the Acting Attorney General of the United States as soon as she ordered the Justice Department to not defend Trump’s refugee and Muslim ban as not only likely illegal, but also simply not right. One could be cynical and say, she knew she might only have one or two days more at most as AG, as former Alabama Senator Sessions nears confirmation despite his tragic record on civil and human rights, so she was trying to just go out in a blaze of glory, because she was on her way out anyway.

The fact that Yates has been a career employee of the Department pokes a hole in that story though. If you can suspend disbelief for a second, imagine that someone who has worked their entire career at the Justice Department and risen from the ranks to being confirmed by a bipartisan Senate to a position where both the outgoing and incoming Presidents would have confidence that she would be a straight shooter during the transition, would really believe in the department, its values, and traditions so much that she felt she had to stand up for the law and the country against the bans, no matter what the price. I hate to sound corny, but she likely believed in the American myth that we are a country ruled by laws, rather than the rich and privileged, and that honor and integrity, as well as her oath to uphold the laws was a bigger weight to carry than the likely scalding abuse from the President and his people.

We’ve seen this before in the Saturday Night Massacre at the Justice Department under President Nixon. The President in power will always find someone to work his will, but that doesn’t mean that power should not pay a price.

One hundred State Department civil servants have signed a so-called “dissent” memorandum for the incoming Secretary of State about what they believe will be horrifying consequences, especially in the Middle East, affecting America’s reputation and the security of all Americans, because of this order. The White House says they should just shut up and quit, but this has been a time-honored way in which such mild protest has been constructively channeled at the State Department in both Democratic and Republican Administrations. Why is the White House getting all uptight about this? They need to walk outside and stand for a minute on Pennsylvania Avenue and look around. This isn’t the Kremlin or Red Square, fellas. Take a breath!

In other countries, ministers regularly resign in protest when they cannot abide or represent the policy of their country. We saw this recently in the back and forth in Britain over Brexit, pro and con.

Someone needs to get a message to the Tweeter-in-Chief that he and his gang need to take a chill pill or something. This is America. People not only have the right to disagree, but they are going to do so. Protest will come in many forms from mass marches to airport rallies to whatever it takes, and sometimes there will be public officials and government employees who protest as well in their own way.

I find it comforting in this time of turmoil to find that we have public servants with a code of honor and some who will be willing to take the risks and act with integrity to prove good faith between the government and its people. Remember, its government of the people and by the people, not just government for the people.

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