While we wait on dithering politicians to make our world safer, and as we watch with horror while our president unravels both himself and the world, there are some patriots who could — and should — speak up to make a difference.
Those patriots — all refugees from Trump's impetuous Oval Office — include Daniel Coats, John F. Kelly, Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, Kirstjen Nielsen, Jeff Sessions, Patrick Shanahan, Gary Cohn and John Bolton.
These former Cabinet and national security officials owe it to the country and the American people to talk on the record about what it was like to work for President Donald Trump. They need to talk on the record to protect us — and him from himself.
We need to know the full of it.
America needs to know.
Voters need to know the whole story of Trump as the 2020 election looms.
U.S. senators need to know as they decide whether to abide by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's absurd assertion that the Senate will start Trump's impeachment trial and postpone a decision on witnesses. (Convenient isn't it that McConnell reached his decision just after it became apparent there may be just enough Republican senators who agree with Democrats that important witnesses need to be called, and just after former national security adviser Bolton said he would testify if subpoenaed?)
We're not the only advocates for a patriot speak-out. Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, recently wrote a similar open letter to the former security officials. He asked them to make it their New Year's resolution.
"The reasons for this are obvious but bear repeating," Drezner wrote in a Jan. 2 op-ed for The Washington Post. "An awful lot of reporting about the president suggests that he suffers from some serious decision-making defects: a short attention span, poor impulse control, knowledge deficits, oppositional behavior, addiction to screens and frequent temper tantrums. No one thinks these are good qualities in an adult, much less a commander in chief."
Likely all of these Trump refugees have a few good things as well as frightening things to say about Trump. Good. If there's more good than bad, please give us that reassurance.
But many of them have hinted, otherwise.
Mattis, former Defense Secretary and retired four-star Marine Corps general told The Wall Street Journal in December: "I quit on him. I think that says enough."
But it doesn't say enough. It says there's more — more that we should know.
Tillerson made a half start in December 2018, talking with CBS political contributor Bob Schieffer about how his relationship with Trump went off the rails: "We are starkly different in our styles. We did not have a common value system. I'll just be blunt about that. And so often the president would say, 'Well, here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it.' And I had to say to him, Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law. It violates the treaty. I told him I'm ready to go up there [to Congress] and fight the fight to change this law. I think he grew tired of me being the guy who had tell him he can't do that, let's talk about what we can do."
Kelly, another retired four-star Marine Corps general, spoke onstage in March at Duke University about what he once called his "least enjoyable job" — his nearly two-year stint in the Trump administration, first as Homeland Security secretary and then as Trump's chief of staff. Kelly said he saw the job as his civic duty to the country. (And he noted he'd have made the same choice had a President Hillary Clinton offered him the job.) At Duke, Kelly called the president's border wall a "waste of money," and rebuked Trump's claims that immigrants are dangerous.
"They're overwhelmingly not criminals," Kelly said of undocumented immigrants. "They're people coming up here for economic purposes. I don't blame them for that."
That's a start. But where is former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who found out onstage with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell in July 2018 — via a Trump tweet — that Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to the White House. The shock on Coats' face was clear. And he finally said, "Say that again? OK. That's going to be special."
There is more here to learn about working with a president described by Tillerson as "pretty undisciplined, doesn't like to read, doesn't read briefing reports, doesn't like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of said, 'Look this is what I believe and you can try to convince me otherwise. But most of the time you're not going to do that.'"
Bring it out, patriots. Each of you clearly believed you were helping the country as long as you could stay the course with Trump. But that gig is up, you didn't help enough and we still need your protection.
Perhaps you believe you still help the country by staying quiet and not scaring us more.
On the contrary, we've grown accustomed to being afraid and we see the fabric of our country fraying. What we really need is to be reassured that our country can be rescued from the mess that is Donald Trump. Speak up.