Speaking Truth to Power

By Susan Estrich

August 18, 2017 5 min read

Speaking truth to power: Nothing is more difficult, especially in politics.

In business, after all, people have contracts and stock options, and if nothing else, at least they can find similar jobs at other companies.

But there's no such thing in government. There's one treasury secretary, one head of the National Economic Council. There's no equivalent to being a top aide to the president of the United States, no equivalent to walking into the White House every day or flying around the world in Air Force One. At most, at best, for the lucky few, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — one to cherish, one to try to hold onto. Until. Unless.

One of the president's lawyers says he doesn't have an anti-Semitic bone in his body. Frankly, I don't believe it. In any event, I don't care. The president's refusal to condemn those who chanted anti-Semitic slogans, his repeated determination to equate those who are spreading hate with those who are fighting it, is anti-Semitic. I don't know about the bones in his body, but I know about the words coming out of his mouth.

No wonder that famous hater David Duke is so pleased. He got it; I got it; everybody got it. The president would rather sympathize with the haters than condemn them. When forced to read a statement drafted by someone else, he finally said the right thing. On his own at Trump Tower, he once again showed himself to be the divisive prophet of hate that he is.

Most presidents — every president in my lifetime — has sought to speak for the best America, for the better angels of our nature. Every president, from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama, has stood up not only as a political leader but also as a moral voice for America's principles.

Trump is not such a president. He is not a moral man. He has no moral authority, because he deserves none.

Over 60 percent of all Americans know that. They disapprove of the president's handling of the nightmare in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president's approval rating has sunk well below the number of voters who reliably vote Republican. Thirty-six percent does not a majority make.

But the Jews who work for Trump have been painfully silent.

When must loyalty give way to integrity?

When is it more important to stand up for what is right and condemn what is racist, anti-Semitic and wrong than to support your boss, keep your job and pretend that you're making a difference from the inside?

Because news flash: With this president, "working from the inside" doesn't work. The people on the inside released better statements all weekend. They tried to put out a better statement for Trump on Monday. The president then made fools of all of them on Tuesday, winning the affection of David Duke and making clear that the time to speak truth to power is now, and the way to do it is the only way the president will pay attention to: through media — on television, in the newspaper, in blogs and on Twitter.

My favorite museum in Washington is not far from the White House. It was the only thing I wanted when my friend Bill Clinton was elected. I wanted to be on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Council not only because it is critical that we should never forget what happened in the past but also because, even then, it was clear that hate was an issue that did not get resolved by World War II. One of my favorite programs at the museum is the training of law-enforcement officials in the delicate business of when to follow orders — and when morality dictates that you not do so.

At the time, I did not realize that it was equally important that those who work for the president see firsthand the consequences of silence and acquiescence to hate. It is.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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