One of the moral issues all of us face from time to time is this: is it right to support a concept or action we may know is wrong or is without factual basis or do we reject it for those same reasons?
Here’s one I’m wrestling with at the moment. Members of the Trump family - and a few other conspiratorial minds - are screaming there’s a “deep state” cabal working against our president. On the one hand, that’s highly doubtful. On the other, I hope so, because, left unchecked, the man is just plain dangerous to our survival!
Let’s set a common definition for that term “deep state.” The words are most often used by conspiratorial types to describe a “deep rooted civil service - or other behind-the-scenes group - at work to undermine elected officials.” Including presidents.
The latest White House denizen to publically use the term is Trump’s second son who lumped Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres (?) together as “forces for evil.” Said it on Twitter. Just like Dad. Bannon and Faux Neus like it, too. And use it often.
It’s really too easy to poke sticks at anyone in the Trump family or others who think of him as our “political savior.” But, there is a serious bent to this as well. Which brings about my ambivalence.
Several weeks ago, I used this space to highlight a couple of Air Force generals publically stating they would not necessarily follow a presidential order to unleash the force and nuclear weapons. The qualifier used was the question of a “legal versus illegal” order. I’ve since discovered there are as many legal definitions of those words as there are generals. Or staff attorneys. Whom we don’t have time to consult when there are incoming warheads.
But more evidence is piling up - as in some ‘50's-‘60's movies about renegade generals - that the military and other agencies are going their own ways on things. Rogue, if you will.
Case-in-point: in November, Trump said “no transgender people in the military.” The Pentagon, however, now says, as of January 1, transgender enlistees are welcome.
Case-in-point: Trump made a big public issue of claiming our embassy in Tel Aviv will be moved to Jerusalem. But State Department professionals - not Trump-appointee Tillerson - are saying there are “no plans in the foreseeable future” for such action.
Case-in-point: Trump continues to berate and insult North Korea’s leader while State Department professionals - not Trump-appointee Tillerson - continue back-channel discussions with counterparts in both North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan.
Case-in-point: Trump pulls U.S. out of climate accords so individual states are now signing up directly with foreign governments.
Case-in-point: Trump’s own staff attorney did not tell him he had the authority to fire an F.B.I. director because his own staff attorney figured that’s just what Trump would do.
Case(s)-in-point: Trump continues demanding a stop to immigration - even legal immigration - but nine courts have overruled him.
Upper level civil service professionals have often walked different paths from political appointees. That’s not new. What IS different is it’s being done more openly - more “in-your-face” - than previously. Especially in military, State and DOJ issues.
Trump has repeatedly proven he cannot cooperate with - nor countenance - people who are experts in their fields holding any different view from his. He refuses to recognize his job is not to call every shot but to oversee departments of government while recognizing it’s the professionals who really know what ’s going on. And how to do it. They may - and should - bend to changing political guidance. But we’re starting to see open defiance in some quarters.
Which brings us back to “deep state.” Is institutional resistance to Trump and his authority real? And, if so, who’s in charge? Which decisions will be carried out and which ignored? Is someone - or many someone(s) - working deep underground to subvert the power of the Presidency or just Trump? And, if so, who? And, to what end?
For the first time in my life, I go to bed at night wondering (a) if I’ll wake up and (b) if I do, to what? I have no use for Trump. He scares me. I want him gone. Preferably today.
But, he IS the President. He DOES have certain constitutional powers at his disposal. He DOES have the legal right to exercise them. And, what scares me more than him, is the idea that others may actually be working to thwart the lawful exercise of that authority.
We live in a technological (read nuclear) environment requiring immediate decisions that can result in life-ending consequences. The evidence seems to indicate a “going-my-own-way” attitude in some portions of our government. Despite Trump, that’s not the way to run a country.