Good morning, everybody!
A few weeks ago, I finished reading Hillary Clinton’s book and shared her thoughts about why Republicans were more to blame than Democrats for the polarization that is undermining American democracy. Well now I have finished reading a book by the person whose actions many people (including Hillary) believe cost her the election. I mean, of course, James Comey, the former head of the FBI who was fired by Donald Trump. Comey ends his book, called A Higher Loyalty, with an Epilogue which reads in part as follows:
“Donald Trump’s presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election, and our country is paying a high price: this president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty. We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all of the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it.
I see many so-called conservative commentators, including some faith leaders, focusing on favorable policy initiatives or court appointments to justify their acceptance of this damage, while deemphasizing the impact of this president on basic norms and ethics. That strikes me as both hypocritical and morally wrong. The hypocrisy is evident if you simply switch the names and imagine that a President Hillary Clinton had conducted herself in a similar fashion in office. I’ve said this earlier but it’s worth repeating: close your eyes and imagine these same voices if President Hillary Clinton had told the FBI director, “I hope&you will let it go,” about the investigation of a senior aide, or told casual, easily disprovable lies nearly every day and then demanded we believe them. The hypocrisy is so thick as to almost be darkly funny. I say this as someone who has worked in law enforcement for most of my life, and served presidents of both parties. What is happening now is not normal. It is not fake news. It is not okay.
Whatever your politics, it is wrong to dismiss the damage to the norms and traditions that have guided the presidency and our public life for decades or, in many cases, since the republic was founded. It is also wrong to stand idly by, or worse, to stay silent when you know better, while a president brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement institutions that were established to keep our leaders in check. Every organization has its flaws, but the career prosecutors and agents at the Justice Department and the FBI are there for a reason—to rise above partisanship and do what’s right for the country, regardless of their own political views. Without these checks on our leaders, without those institutions vigorously standing against abuses of power, our country cannot sustain itself as a functioning democracy. I know there are men and women of good conscience in the United States Congress on both sides of the aisle who understand this. But not enough of them are speaking out. They must ask themselves to what, or to whom, they hold a higher loyalty: to partisan interests or to the pillars of democracy? Their silence is complicity—it is a choice—and somewhere deep down they must know that.
Policies come and go. Supreme Court justices come and go. But the core of our nation is our commitment to a set of shared values that began with George Washington—to restraint and integrity and balance and transparency and truth. If that slides away from us, only a fool would be consoled by a tax cut or a different immigration policy.
Thoughtful people are staring at the vicious partisanship that has grown all around us. Far from creating a new norm where lying is widely accepted, the Trump presidency has ignited a focus on truth and ethics. Parents are talking to their children about truth-telling, about respect for all people, about rejecting prejudice and hate. Schools and religious institutions are talking about values-driven leadership.
The next president, no matter the party, will surely emphasize values—truth, integrity, respect, and tolerance—in ways an American leader hasn’t needed to for more than forty years.
Comey may have given us a President Donald Trump, but you can see from his comments how much he regrets it. If you want to help make sure that the next President emphasizes Americans’ shared values of truth, integrity, respect, and tolerance, then you have to stop procrastinating and get involved now. The election is only one year from now and we don’t have a minute to waste.
Here’s how you can help:
If you would like to help at the West Regional Courthouse on Thursdays, please text Lonnie Supnick at 954-895-3192 or email him at email@example.com.
If you would like to help at the West Regional Library for a 2-hour shift on Saturdays, please contact John Ziegler at 954-232-3918 or firstname.lastname@example.org.