President Trump’s unexpected decision to ignore his advisors from both the State and Defense Departments and announce the withdrawal of American forces fighting ISIS in Syria has been reverberating through the government — or at least the parts of it that are still open — and resulted in at least two significant resignations from his administration.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis sent a letter to the president that clearly showed that deep differences in policy motivated his upcoming departure in what Maggie Haberman, The New York Times’ White House correspondent, called an ”astonishing rebuke of Trumpism.”
“My views on treating allies with respect and also being cleareyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held. Because you have the right to a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position,” Mattis wrote to Trump in an act of self-sacrifice over his deeply-held convictions on the proper manner to defend our nation.
The other official who has left the administration over the president’s foolish strategic gift to the Kremlin is the chief American envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, who also strongly disagreed with Trump’s assessment that ISIS has been defeated.
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Former FBI Director James Comey — another ex-senior administration member who left the government because of serious disagreements with Trump over his ethical stance on the proper relationship between the FBI and the Justice Department to which it reports and a president who believed that every agency in the executive branch existed purely to protect his own interests — took to Twitter today to speculate on President Trump’s reaction to the high-profile resignations that implicated his exceptionally poor judgment.
To a president without any external ethical framework, folks who resign on principle must be confusing.
— James Comey (@Comey) December 22, 2018
Comey’s choice of phrasing is quite interesting to parse.
Most people operate with an internal ethical framework, developed through morals or religious beliefs, that helps them manage their behavior in ways that allow them to navigate the world around them according to a moral compass that steers them away from the most egregiously evil acts.
Comey’s reference to Trump’s lack of an “external” ethical framework, however, implies that the ex-FBI chief is quite aware that the president lacks any internal values of morality or ethics to prevent him from acting as he has continued to behave throughout his presidency and requires the rule of law to hem him in and hold him accountable.
As one of Trump’s most outspoken critics, Comey realizes how alien and, yes, “confusing” it must be for the president to try to understand the very concept of anyone believing in moral principles so strongly that they would sacrifice personal gain to stay true to them.
Since President Trump’s severely damaged psyche only sees the world in transactional terms, with every interaction a deal that has winners and losers, his response to encountering individuals with ethical spines is much like that of a member of an isolated Amazonian tribe encountering modern technology for the first time.
He is faced with something so foreign and inconceivable from the framework of his limited consciousness and experience that it is literally incomprehensible to him, as James Comey so rightly points out.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.