16 June 2022

Expectations Lower Than a Snake's Belly

I am immensely insulted by Chairman Thompson's rhetorical and philosophical surrender at today's hearing. After the Vice Chair yielded back to the Chair for remarks closing today's session, Chairman Thompson conceded the present and future nonviability of this democratic republic.

Judge Luttig and Mr Jacob, our nation owes you a great debt for your knowledge, your integrity, and your loyalty to our Constitution.

(CEP transcription from live video)

Shame on you, Mr Chairman. Doing the bare minimum required by the entirely voluntary oath of office does not create or validate a debt from the nation to those who did that minimum. That oath of office demands that

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

U.S. Const. Art VI. ¶ 3. The specific form of the oath is even more direct:

I, [officeholder's legal name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

5 U.S.C. § 3331 (bracketed explanation supplied).

The converse implication is disturbing: That doing less than upholding that oath — in its specific terms, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic — is still somehow acceptable, albeit not quite worthy of a "debt" from the nation. Of a f*cking participation trophy. If we don't expect that every officer of the United States (however inferior… and however they became such officers) places supporting and defending the Constitution ahead of personal advantage, policy preferences, religious doctrine, whatever else, we have no future and damned little present.

With all due respect (and precious little is due), Mr Chairman, perhaps you need to talk to a few more judges, a few more military or Foreign Service officers, before you so blithely assert that doing the minimum of one's duty somehow "entitles" anyone to anything more than is "due" from the nation to every officer of the United States (again, however inferior or, in the case of Judge Luttig, no longer active). Or, conversely, perhaps what you — and the Committee — really need to do is inquire into the truly frightening corollary: Why didn't we expect this of everyone involved who had taken that oath?1 We just had a demonstration, regarding Lt Col (P) Vindman, that our government officials — specifically including the House of Representatives of which you personally, Mr Chairman, were a sitting member — hadn't learned the lessons exposed to the public 35 years ago about precisely that kind of failure of duty. And Mr Chairman: You're supposed to be one of the "good guys" here, but you're failing to acknowledge or enforce the minimums. How this relates to the fitness to hold public office (or practice law) of some of the individuals implicated herein is for another time. A time not too far in the future; and, based on past evidence, to be evaded by those charged with such decisions if at all imaginable (and, too often, even when it is not).

In the end, I am not very surprised. I am insulted and disappointed. Nobody really wants a participation trophy; those minimums should be so automatic that nobody f*cking notices when they're met — only when they are not. Neither do I want to hear bagpipes all over the building, but I'm highly experienced with that particular problem.2 Fortunately, I can still manage to enjoy Yo-Yo Ma's rendition of Bach; this kind of disappointment, of cacophony, of dissonance far beyond the merely cognitive, not so much.

  1. Which, all by itself, explains why Mr Kushner characterized lawyers making the only threat consistent with their own ethical responsibilities — to quit rather than attempt to implement an unlawful course of action — as "whining." It wasn't just rhetoric, or even sociopathy or narcissism — this time; it was abject ignorance of their (and his) responsibilities.
  2. Experience is what one gets when doesn't get what one wanted. And nobody wants to write "I regret to inform you" letters…