The Corner

White House

Democracy Dies in Subversion

The anonymous New York Times piece that has the political world aflutter is a deep national disgrace. It is a threat to our constitutional order, and, in any other circumstance, it would be broadly accepted as such. As David Frum correctly notes, that President Trump is erratic does not change that fact.

Overt defiance of presidential authority by the president’s own appointees—now that’s a constitutional crisis.

If the president’s closest advisers believe that he is morally and intellectually unfit for his high office, they have a duty to do their utmost to remove him from it, by the lawful means at hand. That duty may be risky to their careers in government or afterward. But on their first day at work, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution—and there were no “riskiness” exemptions in the text of that oath.

If we have reached the point at which the 25th Amendment must be invoked, then the 25th Amendment must be invoked. If Trump’s staff can no longer work for him, then they must resign, and explain why they resigned, with their own names attached to the justifications. But there is no room in our system for anonymous internal resistance, and it is peculiar that the people who like to posit wild conspiracy theories and to throw around the word “treason” cannot see that. We hear endless paens to “democracy” and “norms” these days, and yet it seems increasingly that those who shout them the loudest have the least respect for them in practice.

Imagine, if you will, that a well-connected figure within Barack Obama’s White House had considered the unilateral nature of the Iran Deal to be a clear violation of the Constitution’s treaty clause, and had taken to the New York Times to explain that they were, in consequence, working from within the executive branch to thwart it. The reaction to such an admission would have been explosive. It would have yielded uniform and vehement condemnation, without caveats or excuse. Again: It is not acceptable to claim that “extreme circumstances” justify this behavior — at least it’s not unless you would also justify an assassination or a military coup. That some people think that Trump is insane or unstable or unable to fulfill his duties in no way alters the fact that this, by the author’s own admission, is subversion. There are mechanisms in place to deal with an unfit president in the White House. This was not one of them.

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