In the Absence of Honor

What now, after the Mueller report?

Contributed by Deb Kline.

Honor is simply the morality of superior men – H.L. Mencken

In the hours since the redacted Mueller Report has been made public, many – if not most – on the resistance side believe that the attempts to obstruct justice by the president are stunningly clear. We cannot believe Attorney General William Barr’s claim that there were none.

Some of us had already moderated our hopes that we would finally get to the truth of what led to this horror show of an administration and subsequent actions to block its discovery. Nevertheless, whether we had already steeled ourselves or not, there was a strangely, familiar sense that we were suddenly thrust back to the day after the election in November 2016.

Listening to the myriad analysts postulating in the media, to congressional legislators calling for the full report as well as in-person appearances by Barr and Mueller, it became known that while Trump certainly tried to block the investigation, in the end (oh, please don’t let this be the end) he was unwittingly successful because: a) – people around him knew he was ordering them to break the law and didn’t follow through; b) they lied or dissembled enough to make it impossible to uncover the truth, c) destroyed evidence.

This alone is a profound perversion of the Oath of Office every president takes upon entering. Is this how one “preserves, protects and defends the Constitution of the United States”? The lie has been there since Day One.

In March 2017, Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic wrote “What Happens When We Don’t Believe the President’s Oath?” in Lawfare:

“It is that the presidential oath is actually the glue that holds together many of our system’s functional assumptions about the presidency and the institutional reactions to it among actors from judges to bureaucrats to the press. When large enough numbers of people within these systems doubt a president’s oath, those assumptions cease operating. They do so without anyone’s ever announcing, let alone ruling from the bench, that the President didn’t satisfy the Presidential Oath Clause and thus is not really president. They just stop working—or they work a lot less well.”

We expect that those who occupy the highest offices in government will be people of honor. That whatever their failings, we expect that they have the good of the country and its people at heart. In Robert Mueller, we have a superior model of a man with honor, who follows the letter of the law to the extent that he declines to make a legal judgement on obstruction because people surrounding the president repeatedly lied or destroyed evidence.

Up until a point, some of the those close to the president had a sense of honor and duty,  whether we agreed with them or not. However, most have left, only to be replaced by those who look at the government and ability to set policy as a means of enriching themselves.    

Now, we see the decay happening before our eyes, and wonder, will we survive?

Here’s my answer: Yes. One way or the other we will survive. We are still a democracy, we still have a voice and a vote. We have been through difficult times – many of us remember if not participated in the Civil Rights protests of the ‘60s, the anti-war protests and the Nixon-Watergate trial and resignation of the ‘70s. We survived 9/11. We will survive this president and our despair at what our government has become.

Individually and collectively, we are compelled to survive. The work may get hard and ugly, but in this community there is strength. We hold each other, lean on each other, give each other courage. We honor you for all that you do, and demand that those who would govern, do so as well.

Our country deserves no less.

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