IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, THE SPOOKS AND SOLDIERS ARE NOW OUR CIVIC GUIDES
“I should hope so,” said Cat said, even though he seemed near death, splayed out under a deckchair, exhausted by the relentless high temperatures. “They are, after all, America’s Good Guys. They spy on, arrest. and, when need be, kill the Bad Guys.”
This isn’t what I expected to hear from Cat, whom I’d sought out after spending most of the day hiding from the sun on my couch on the front porch, growing gloomier and gloomier about what it means that the spooks and the soldiers are now our most articulate ethical voices.
“Not always the Good Guys,” I said. “The FBI in the ‘60s played dirty with Dr. Martin Luther King – bugging his hotel rooms that he allegedly shared with others not his wife – and working to undermine the civil rights and anti-war movements. The CIA notoriously has mucked around in the politics and governments of other countries. As for the military, well, there’s no nice way to do war.”
“And you know all of this, how?” Cat wheezed painfully as a cloud moved, allowing the sun to train the full force of its heat gun onto the deck, and somehow find Cat under his chair. “You often say that you’re just a dog, Phoebe, and if I might add, not wily and mean enough to be the top dog.”
Ignoring the insults, which I attributed mainly to Cat’s by now sun-fried micro brain, I said, here’s a roundup of what the spooks and the soldiers have been saying:
“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds.”
“Our president must embody respect and adhere to the values that are at the core of this country, the most important being the truth. This president is not able to do that. He is morally unfit to be president.”
Cat said: “Isn’t Comey the guy who probably more than the Russians steered the election to Trump by his stupid timing in saying the FBI was still looking into Hillary Clinton’s emails, just before the vote?”
"That would be him," I said.
HERE'S A FORMER SPOOK tweeting about Trump, right after the “summit” with Vladimir Putin, at which the commander-in-chief kowtowed to the Russian president:
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
Cat said: “That would be the tweet John Brennan, former CIA director, sent out right after the meeting. Brennan’s been on Trump’s case, and now there’s a big fuss about Trump taking away Brennan’s security clearance. You can sort of see why Trump might be just a tiny, tiny bit ticked off….”
One of the more devastating of these comments came from the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the takedown of Osama bin Laden eight years ago, William H. McRaven, who told Trump:
“I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency…. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.
"If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be."
“Just so you don’t think I don’t know a little be about American Government 101,” Cat said. “Isn’t civilian control of the military, and the spy and police agencies one of the tenets of democracy? Do we really want these kinds of guys going after the civilian, elected president? Aren’t these the kind of guys who in other countries undermine democracy?”
“You’re absolutely right on all counts, Cat,” I said. “In a perfect world, the FBI, the CIA and the SEAL alumni should keep their traps shut and show some deference.”
“And, yes, Cat, I prefer to get my moral instructions from the folk singers, the poets and the philosophers, and maybe in an emergency, from the politicians,” I said.
“But in Trump World, these are the people who are speaking out the loudest and most clearly, when the Republican quislings in Congress are cozying up to Trump, the Democrats can’t seem to find their voice and the rest of us just aren’t doing enough.”
“In the last century, we had King to tell us about his dream, and Dylan to say what was blowin’ in the wind, and Wiesel to warn of genocide, and Spock to diagnose war as bad for kids.
“But in the Age of Trump, it’s fallen on the spooks and the soldiers – the likes of a Comey, a Brennan and a McRaven – to teach us civics, political values and the responsibilities of citizens in a democracy - to speak truth to power.”
"Here’s what Brennan wrote months before Trump moved against his security clearance:
“Many have condemned my public criticism of Mr. Trump, arguing that as a former CIA director, I should bite my tongue …. I speak out for the simple reason that Mr. Trump is failing to live up to the standards that we should all expect of a president.
“As someone who had the rare privilege of directly serving four presidents, I will continue to speak out loudly and critically until integrity, decency, wisdom – and maybe even some humility – return to the White House.”
Cat shifted his carcass, hunting for shadow against the relentless sun and the burning earth.
"Like you said,” Cat whispered, "it’s come to this."