14 February 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

National Security Adviser Flynn Quits after 24 Days

The Trump administration has had its first resignation just three-and-a-half weeks into its time in office. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn quit late last night. The cause of his departure were phone calls to the Russian ambassador to the United Stated in December, when General Flynn (US Army, ret.) was a private citizen. This might have violated the Logan Act, which forbids US citizens from engaging in freelance diplomacy. More to the point, it seems he wasn't entirely truthful about it when dealing with fellow members of the administration. The question now is just how dysfunctional is this administration?

Reuters explains, General Flynn "resigned late on Monday after revelations that he had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

"Flynn's resignation came hours after it was reported that the Justice Department had warned the White House weeks ago that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail for contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak before Trump took power on Jan. 20."

The general's resignation letter read in part, "Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador. I have sincerely apologized to the president and the vice president, and they have accepted my apology."

That is an entirely plausible explanation. However, the rule in politics is that the cover-up is worse than the crime. Here, given a charitable reading of the events, there is no crime, perhaps, an indiscretion or error in judgment at most. NPR reports, "A spokesman for Flynn told the [Washington] Post that he didn't remember all of what was discussed and that it's possible sanctions might have come up. But on Jan. 15 Pence said categorically'on CBS's Face the Nation that Flynn and Kislyak did not talk about sanctions." The vice president was repeating what he had heard from the general, and then, the general changed his story. A cover-up of an indiscretion is almost as bad as covering up a crime in politics.

Because the National Security Advisor is not a position requiring Senate approval, one cannot blame the Republican Senate for ignoring the problem of the general's ties to Russia, which are rather extensive. The blame lies with the administration and the president who appointed him. That, of course, raises a more troubling question. What else has yet to be revealed? Or to dredge up the Baker Question from the Watergate Era, what did the president know and when did he know it?

On the paranoid left, there is a mistaken belief that all of this chaos is actually deliberate. The presumption is that, if enough outrageous nonsense occurs, then outrageous nonsense will become the norm. That, in turn, creates space for the reactionaries and fascists around the president to have their way with the nation. That is plausible only if one ignores Robert Heinlein's dictum "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." The paranoid left must start from the premise that the administration is filled top to bottom with evil geniuses -- which pre-supposes that it is filled with geniuses. The data say otherwise.

Instead, the nation and the world are being treated to an experiment in which a man with no experience in managing a nation is given the power to try. Mr. Trump, as observed by CNBC's Dustin McKissen, values loyalty more than competence, prefers family to outsiders, loathes clear lines of authority, and likes infighting among his subordinates. The resignation of General Flynn is the first of many episodes that will stem from this team of amateurs being led badly.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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