Cross-posted at Letters Blogatory.
The New York Times published a piece yesterday by an anonymous “senior official in the Trump administration.” The official declared himself or herself to be part of the “resistance,” a group of senior officials who “believe our first duty is to this country,” and who “have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.” What justifies this? The President, the senior official says, is amoral, with an “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” leadership style. “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
If this is true, then surely the Vice President and the members of the cabinet must immediately “transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” so that the Vice President can assume the office of acting president, as the Twenty-fifth Amendment provides?
Meh. The senior official writes:
Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until—one way or another—it’s over.
This is unpatriotic, craven, and highly alarming. Senior administration officials acknowledge privately or else anonymously that the President is neither morally nor intellectually fit for office, forcing them to block his more outrageous moves behind the scenes. That is the constitutional crisis. The Constitution provides a method for removal of the President. But these officials do nothing. Their abdication of responsibility is like the abdication of the responsibility of the Republican majority in both houses of Congress to exercise any oversight or even to criticize the President.
The result: we have a president who lacks the most basic moral and intellectual qualifications for the job. His party controls the Congress, but Congress does nothing, because, I think, Republican senators and representatives live in fear of the insanity they have unleashed among the Republican electorate over the last twenty to thirty years. His senior officials know that he is a danger to the country, but they do nothing, perhaps because they don’t want to jeopardize the President’s “wins” on issues such as tax cuts and judicial nominations. The lack of political courage in the GOP has led to the worst day in what I think has been the worst month in the worst two years of American government I can think of. The worst part is that the GOP’s public inaction, taken together with senior officials’ behind-the-scenes moves to thwart the President, are the equivalent of a soft coup d’état.
Unnamed senior official, you write that you are one of the “adults in the room.” But you will be remembered for your political cowardice. The public will not thank you for your service. You and others have it in your power to put and end to the danger Trump poses, as the Constitution provides, and what you’ll be remembered for is your failure to act.