Step back and calmly contemplate the state of our divided nation. Does anyone see anything beyond the confusion, disillusionment, and ambiguity that slowly erode our democratic values? All that integrity crumbling away was evident in last week’s firing of the FBI director, James Comey. Now the American people, some intrigued and others haunted by what took place 43 years ago—the Saturday Night Massacre—see in President Trump’s misdeeds those of the president from that dark era. It was President Nixon who ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, a special prosecutor appointed by the attorney general to investigate the Watergate scandal. But we can’t compare the firing of Mr. Comey to that of Mr. Cox. Comey was not appointed specifically to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Even if the American people believe President Trump’s stated reason for firing Mr. Comey, the fact remains that the firing contradicts a longstanding tradition within the American system and thereby undermines our democratic values. Our American president is no monarch who can do as he wishes, but rather a public servant subject to our laws and accountable to the American people. If President Trump thinks he is above the law, he is mistaken. It is a forgone conclusion that Comey’s firing results from the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and whether any associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign coordinated with Moscow.
Given the paralysis of governance in Washington, one is hardly surprised that public discontent and confusion grow stronger: Congress’ negative approval rating, the White House’s lack of credibility, political squabbling between the parties, and chaotic, regressive policies. Meanwhile, problems go unsolved—a dysfunctional education system, broken Social Security, an unfair tax code, swelling national debt, and ballooning student loan debt, to name but a few.
Not so long ago ― Americans, regardless of their political stripes ― rallied around their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a Republican or a Democrat, but as the president of the United States. The president took the oath of office, the nation circled its wagons along the country’s borders, and America stood against the rest of the world, with the president of all the people in command. Instead, we are witnessing the opposite: an erratic, impulsive president; conflicting, garbled messages—if not outright evasion—from his senior advisers and press secretary; a cabinet staffed with self-interested billionaires; and inconsistent, hastily enacted domestic policies.
This came on the heels of President Trump’s disclosure ― from ignorance or indifference ― of highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergey I. Kislyak during their recent visit to the White House. Members of the U.S. intelligence community do not question President Trump’s authority to declassify information, but they certainly question his judgment. The reason is that expensive, painstaking efforts go into collecting intelligence ― efforts that endanger the lives of individuals involved in that collection. The president’s indiscreetly sharing information leads our partners to distrust us, giving them second thoughts about sharing sensitive information with the U.S.. A high-ranking European intelligence officer stated that his country will reconsider its intelligence sharing arrangements with the U.S. President Trump’s loose lips not only put US.. lives at risk, but also jeopardize cooperation from important allies, increasing the odds of a terrorist attack.
Like many Americans, I can’t help but wonder if the timing of Comey’s firing means that President Trump is covering up something. Make no mistake: The FBI should move forward with the investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Many in the United States might be too preoccupied with incidental, even trivial, issues to notice what’s happened in our country. Even so, many of us ― whatever our political or religious leanings ― know the state of affairs in America: How Republicans and Democrats have reached an unprecedented disdain for each other. How did we reach this state? Is it the beginning of the end of our democracy?
Where does America go from here? We must ask ourselves whether we are willing to fight to save our great democracy or just stand idly on the sidelines. Perhaps, many citizens have lost faith in America. Whatever the answer, it is becoming evident that we, as a society, quickly blame others for our ills and refrain from self-criticism. President Trump was the result of our own making ― from our voting ― and we got what we deserved.
One thing’s certain: Russia used to devote enormous resources just to try to gain insights into the strategic thinking of the US, the kinds of deals it cut with other nations. Today, Russia need not spend vast fortunes to learn intelligence secrets: a careless Oval Office blurts them out on a whim.