The Damnable Lie of Trump's Erstwhile Minders

When Donald Trump got the Republican nomination in 2016, despite the fact that he had not a day of public service experience, we were assured that he would surround himself with all the best advisors.

And when his temperament during the general election revealed a man unfit for the presidency, we were assured that he would surround himself with moderating influences who would provide a check on his vulgarity and impulsivity.

And when he proved to be precisely the erratic, dangerous, corrupt puppet as president that anyone with any sense anticipated he would be, we were assured that people were being put in place to control him.

This cadre of minders were sometimes referred to in terms deeply unflattering to their charge: They were the president's "keepers," as though he was a rabid ape constantly threatening to break free of his enclosure and wreak havoc on the local villagers.

Though insulting, it was probably more honest than the way of which they were spoken more frequently — as patriots, who were assuming a place in the sadistic regime of an odious man not for personal glory or reward, but because they were putting themselves on the line between the nation and its treasonous leader's worst excesses.

How noble.

Or so we are meant to believe. And there is certainly no shortage of obsequious commendation for Jim Mattis in the wake of the announcement of his imminent departure as Defense Secretary. It comes from every quarter, upholding the narrative that he has done his duty, with attendant hand-wringing about the danger Trump will present without Mattis standing guard.

Does no one see the flaw here?

Getting the hell out of Dodge at the very moment the powerful sociopath you're meant to be babysitting is at his most dangerous critically undermines the argument that you weren't there to put your stamp of credibility on his malice, but to serve as a moderating influence against his worst instincts.

If your argument for accepting a job with a detestable regime is patriotism, then you can't abandon ship when it gets uncomfortable for you personally.

And if you leave with a letter saying you must resign on principle, what are we to make of your tolerance for all the other things, all the despicable cruelties that were perpetrated during your tenure, which did not prompt your principled resignation?

Either you're a patriot who stands on the line no matter what, or you're an ideologue who was serving an agenda. You don't get to take the job on one premise, and justify staying on that premise, and then leave on another altogether. Not without losing all credibility, anyway.

That the (mostly) men who accepted roles in the Trump Regime did so out of some national loyalty, and not in a cynical bid to further their careers no matter the cost, is a damnable lie. It always has been.

Let that be apparent at long last in the reverberating splash of Mattis jumping ship. He is no patriot. He's just another opportunist who has calculated that the cost of his current opportunity now outweighs the benefits.

The actual patriotic move would have been to never lend one's reputation to a traitor in the first place.

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