The left’s smug arrogance is always their undoing. For our latest exhibit, meet former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who, in what should have been her resignation letter in response to her refusal to carry out President Trump’s executive order on immgration, wrote “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”
This is exactly the sort of lawless moral preening and grandstanding from the left that is so dangerous. Americans of all political stripes should condemn it. Nobody appointed this woman philosopher-Queen of the country. Nobody appointed her the judge of right and wrong. Would Sally Yates want a conservative in her place ignoring the ruling of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that an executive order was legal in order to “Take a stand for what is right” from his conservative perspective? Of course not.
Name aside, the DOJs job isn’t about seeking some left-wing (or right-wing) politico’s view of justice. It’s about making sure that the duly-passed laws of the United States are enforced. If Yates felt that what she were doing were fundamentally violative of the Constitution, then she should have explained why and resigned. Otherwise, her personal views are irrelevant. — she’s a functionary with a job to do. If she refuses to do the job, she should have the dignity to quit. Jonathan Adler, no particular fan of the original executive order, has an excellent takedown at the Washington Post as does Jack Goldsmith (who was critical of the original order) at Lawfare. Even more damning, so does Brookings’ Benjamin Wittes, who had been absolutely excoriating in his criticism of Trump’s original order, but is just as tough on Yates, accusing her, correctly, of insubordination and arguing that her position “amply justified, indeed necessitated, her removal”.
I will disagree with Wittes on one element of his critique. He argues that Yates had a bad hand and played it badly. I’d argue that from a leftist perspective she had a perfect hand– she was about to be out of a job imminently in any event and instead of sending in a resignation letter full of righteous indignation, and appearing to resign on principle, she showed a more reckless disregard for basic rule of law than anything done by this administration as judged by any remotely fair critic (assuming such a person exists these days). She was so confident in her own righteousness that, as Attorney General, she placed herself above the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, above the President of the United States, and above the most basic checks and balances in our system.
Don’t let the door hit you on your way out Sally– and thank you to conservatives everything we already knew about how far the left would go in defiance of the law to get their way on immigration.