Presidential Folly and The Cabinet of Cowards

By: Rexhinaldo Nazarko

Impeachment has taken center stage in Washington the past few days. While democratic committee staffers and leadership scramble to strategize and prepare the most robust case for impeachment, the White House and Co. strike counterpunches through a trick relatively popular in their arsenal: Institutional discredit. From the failure to comply with recent Congressional subpoenas, to instructing staffers and appointees not to testify, to the fairly recent Alabama Hurricane Dorian marker fiasco, many are used to Trump’s childish behavior, unusual narcissism, and myriad of lies. Pundits, critics and others conclude that such behavior is damaging the country’s reputation abroad, and is paving the way for institutional demise within high level US agencies. His “gloves off” rhetoric based on speculation as opposed to facts, has reformed the approach and beliefs of the modern Republican, established a solid base of followers, and made any opposition from within the ranks political suicide. The rhetoric has also been heavily focused on casting doubt on institutions when the latter do not suit his personal aspirations. The personalized style of attacks against critics, be  they right or left, automatically ostracizes them in the eyes of the ardent Trumpers.

Undoubtingly, President Trump has created a rift between Federal institutions and the general public. His critiques of agencies and individuals who perform their jobs with integrity, at times exposing the harsh truth against the President’s agenda, has inspired fear and blind obedience in the hearts of bureaucrats, and brought about an inner circle of cowardly opportunistic federal officials. The previous independent integrity of American Federal agencies has been jeopardized and ridiculed. Not only have such agencies lost credibility in the eyes of the American public, they are no longer seen as impeccable examples abroad either. In the Trump era, when such officials attempt to do their job properly in order to preserve checks and balances, and the American tradition of accountability, they are immediately targeted, discredited and vilified. Most recently, the whistleblower who reported the Ukraine call, has been presented as a class “A” villain and rogue bureaucrat with partisan intentions. James Comey and Robert Muller were targeted for similar reasons, under a smear campaign intended to disparage their work, and paint them as usurpers. One of America’s greatest weapons, has been its rule of law, and institutional independency which operated on the basis of truth and national interest, not personal benefit and executive “privilege”. And while Trump has certainly played a role in this gradual demise, the greatest fault falls to the Cabinet of Cowards and beyond.

The United States has always prided itself in robust institutions, Trump has changed that.  An array of questionable decisions which stand in stark contrast with Presidential virtue  have plagued the highest office in the land for the past two years. Let us briefly outline some of the major fiascos and irresponsible approaches of the President:

The recognition of international dictators as personal “friends” of the President.

The casting of doubts on the work of National Intelligence with regard to election interference,

The lodging of US Airforce members and planes in private Trump resorts,

The lodging of high level US officials in private luxurious Trump hotels,

The altering of an official NOAA Hurricane map for personal credence,

The refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas,

The urging of Foreign government such as Ukraine and China to intervene in domestic elections,

and the list goes on. The mechanisms to prevent presidential abuse stood on the shoulders of congress and executive agencies. While Congress attempts to provide a barricade to Trump’s insanity, it cannot properly do so without the cooperation of the executive agencies they themselves legislated, not only for executive use, but also as an executive check. There are built in structures within such agencies whose goal is to oversee work and determine the legality or possible threats and concerns for the rule of law and democracy. Offices such as those of the Inspector Generals, and legal means of complaint provided by each agency in order to prevent executive overreach, are a clear indication of the duties bureaucrats hold. Their oath is to the American people and constitution, not the President of the United States. Yet recent cowardice to execute this oath indicates their loyalty lies with the President, not the people.

A hallmark of American exceptionalism has always been high quality, nation-oriented bureaucrats, hardened by experience, and well aware of their constitutional duties. We cannot find such officials today, and those who possessed some integrity were cut from the ranks early on: John Kelly, James Mattis, H.R. McMaster, James Comey, etc. The amount of turnover in the Trump White House, is itself proof that integrity is not respected by the President. Their attempts to restore common sense and caution to the White House put them in the presidential line of fire. The replacements have been spineless, loyal individuals seeking personal fame and glory. This has brought about an array of irresponsible decisions from among the agencies, and a lack of oversight on the President. Not only do the agencies not stand up to presidential abuse, they often rally to burry or justify it. This institutional incompetence presents one of the greater threats to American democracy, and the principles of law and order the United States seeks to export on the global stage. A country cannot operate efficiently, especially as a superpower, with rogue individuals masquerading as experienced officials. Many such posts have been filled on the basis of political loyalty, not experience, and the consequences are very clear. Climate change deniers now lead the nation’s top environmental agencies, corporate executives and Trump donors hold ambassadorial posts without any diplomatic expertise, etc. Not only have these appointments lead to a gross embarrassment of the United States on the world stage, they have gravely impacted the trust our allies have in us, and emboldened our enemies to act against us. And while one can fail to recognize direct impacts of such approach, it cannot be denied that disagreement and debate is healthy for an administration. Advisers are not friends, their job is to provide expert opinion and when necessary, strongly disagree with the President. Debate and disagreement are discouraged in this White House, and that makes for an unhealthy recipe to policy. It is self-evident that a corrupt patronage system, based on reward rather than merit has emerged under this administration more so than others.

The current bureaucratic fabric of the United States is composed of the same material that we seek to eradicate in other countries, corruption, nepotism, and personal loyalty. And while it is true that Trump has left the country on auto-pilot the past two years, with rampant political incompetence on the world stage, and a lack of knowledge with regard to how the executive branch operates, he is not the only one to blame. The breaks on executive power have not done their job properly. Those who were appointed to teach him the ropes, and restrict his madness, have been nothing more than vassals to a king. A cabinet of cowards has very evidently exchanged the principles of our constitution, for greed and self-interest.

 

Image Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

 

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