From REUBEN BRIGETY at FOREIGN POLICY:
The late U.S. Poet Laureate Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them!”
In other words, no one can hide his true nature. Never has this been more accurate for an American president than in the case of Donald Trump. Events in the aftermath of the violence in Charlottesville have made this abundantly clear. For the first time in our history, a Nazi sympathizer occupies the Oval Office.
As a former U.S. ambassador and senior State Department official, I know that there is a particular obligation by political appointees not only to represent the interests of the American people but also to ensure that the policies and perspectives of the elected government of the day are implemented.
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To their great credit, all four chiefs of the U.S. Armed Forces have explicitly issued comments via Twitter in recent days categorically denouncing racism and reaffirming the commitment of their respective organizations to values of respecting the fundamental equality and human dignity of all who serve. Yet such declarative statements loose their power when they are contradicted and undermined by the visceral racist utterances of the commander-in-chief.
While the uniformed military and civilian leaders in government must pull their punches when critiquing the chief executive, no such moral deus ex machina exists for political appointees, including Cabinet officers, ambassadors, assistant secretaries, and all such others who willingly joined the Trump administration to serve at the pleasure of the president. Either you challenge the president’s blatant racism, or you acquiesce to his repugnant views to the detriment of your credibility with those you lead and to your own sense of personal honor.
For those who occupy the highest offices of the land, I must reluctantly pose some difficult questions.
How, Chief of Staff John Kelly, can the parents of two African-American 82nd Airborne paratroopers killed in Iraq the day after the carnage in Charlottesville be assured that the deaths of their sons mean as much to the president as the tragic and heroic death of your own son in combat — when Trump defiantly and repeatedly equates white supremacists with those brave enough to confront their vile hatred?
How, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, can you convince the men and women serving in the greatest military the world has ever known, and who comprise virtually every creed and color of our great nation, that racism will not be tolerated in the ranks if you do not publicly and powerfully challenge the blatant racism of their commander-in-chief?
How, Gen. H.R. McMaster, can you convince the American people that you are using your position as national security advisor to protect them from the threat of terrorism abroad if the president you serve refuses to call the white supremacists the terrorists they are, rather than insisting that there must be some “very good people” among them?
How, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, can you convince the world that American values are a force for good in the world, and convince your own workforce who hail from every corner of our country to confidently project America’s image in the world, if you fail to publicly challenge a president who embraces the latter-day Nazi spawn of the greatest evil the world has ever seen?
How, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, can you have a shred of dignity when you look in the eye of your Senate colleagues (and the constituents they represent), who confirmed you for your post with the benefit of the doubt against decades-old charges of racial bias levied against you if you do not seize this moment to specifically and directly condemn the racism of the man who heads our government?
And how, gentlemen, can you continue to rationalize serving a man who so consistently tramples on the most basic values of our country that each of you, in your own way, has spent a lifetime serving? At what point does your duty to country lead you to confront the evil bigotry of the president, rather than trying to find a way to rationalize it so you are free to serve some greater good?
History sometimes presents us with unpalatable choices whose consequences forever mark our character as individuals and define our destiny as a nation. Without question, now is such a time. In light of the president’s exposed racist character, only three choices remain:
- Condemn the president’s words directly and categorically, and risk the professional wrath of a man who prides loyalty to himself above all other virtues.
- Resign in protest, thereby refusing to abet the unreconstructed racist in the Oval Office but preserving your own personal honor.
- Continue to serve this fundamentally flawed man, and have to explain to your personal progeny and our national posterity why you chose to silently serve America’s first Nazi-in-chief.
The choices are clear, and they are yours to make. And so I ask, what will you choose?
I hope you will click over and read the entire essay.