“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves,” Cassius counselled his friend and fellow republican Marcus Brutus. In Shakespeare’s telling of the tragedy of Julius Caesar, the triumphant general returns to Rome and is feared to be plotting to become an emperor capable of laying waste to the Roman republic.Donald Trump holds democratic traditions in deep contempt?
But Brutus takes to heart Cassius’ reminder that loyalties flow first to the republic and not to political friends. He acts on the warning, helps to kill Caesar and then dies a miserable death. Alas, no one lives happily ever after.
This week’s story line out of Washington is less grim but still of great concern. Despite daily reminders that President Donald Trump holds democratic traditions in deep contempt, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and his Republican caucus are allowing themselves to become co-conspirators in the President’s push to compromise US constitutional norms. While no one expects the GOP to take grisly cues from Shakespeare, is it too much to ask that Ryan place grave national security concerns from the Justice Department ahead of his political peonage to Trump?
Has Ryan noticed that the President is executing an erratic but effective plot to undermine the independence of America’s law-enforcement agencies?
Do Capitol Hill Republicans even care that Trump has taken on the nasty habit of demanding loyalty oaths from FBI agents and Justice Department officials who happen to be investigating his White House?
Is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell even slightly concerned that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, like former director James Comey before him, was driven from his job after being administered – and apparently failing – a loyalty test?
Whom did you vote for? That’s what the petulant President asked McCabe. The FBI officer told Trump he didn’t vote. But even asking the question was highly inappropriate. Retiring Republican House Oversight Committee chairman, Trey Gowdy, told CNN that McCabe should not have answered. “It’s nobody’s business,” Gowdy said.
This week we learnt the Commander-in-Chief’s loyalty demands even extended to the man overseeing Robert Mueller III’s investigation. At a White House meeting in December, Trump asked deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein whether he was on the President’s “team”. Rosenstein replied that “we’re all on your team, Mr President” – instead of rightly telling the President that his only loyalty is to the US constitution. But there is no doubt Trump would have considered that the wrong answer. For this President, loyalty to constitution and country is considered less important than loyalty to himself.