- - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The rage of critics of Donald Trump has another target on Wednesday morning. They will be distracted from veneration of St. Sally by the opportunity to attempt the evisceration of the president’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sally Yates was sacked for the same reason President Truman sacked Douglas MacArthur, the most celebrated sacking in modern times, and for reasons why a half-dozen presidents have acted similarly since John F. Kennedy sacked Allen Dulles five decades ago. Cabinet officers and others sometimes get too big for their britches. It’s no crime for a Cabinet officer to think he’s wiser than the president he or she serves (most of them think that), but it’s a felony deserving of political termination with extreme prejudice when one does it for all to see.

St. Sally was not even a Cabinet officer, but a caretaker acting as attorney general until Sen. Jeff Sessions is confirmed as attorney general, which should be soon. Over the advice and protests of several senior lawyers at the Justice Department — Barack Obama’s Justice Department — she did what she did to establish herself as a martyr. Perhaps she looked to Joan of Arc for her inspiration (without the fire at her feet). The liberal media voices, of whom there is an ungracious plenty, are already raised in praise of her “courage” and “bravery.” History, writes one pundit who presumes familiarity with the Great Scorer who cares not who wins or loses but how the game is played, “will be kind to her.”

In Ms. Yates‘ letter announcing that she would not defend the president’s immigration order, she did not argue that the order was unlawful; as a lawyer herself she knows it was not. She said she had been unable to conclude that the order was “wise or just.” Whether the order was “wise or just” was not her decision to make. The president, any president, decides that. She was obliged, legally and morally, to defend the order or resign, to get out of the way, and allow the president to appoint someone else to do it.

Such a resignation for the sake of conscience would have been honorable, and worthy of respect and even praise. In the present circumstances, when so many Democrats and media notabilities are playing the game of who hates Donald Trump more — “you show me yours and I’ll show you mine” — she probably would have achieved sainthood, with its opportunities to make speeches and audition for other well-paying jobs, anyway.

“Instead,” as Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith (no great supporter of either Mr. Trump or his immigration order) pithily put it, “she wrote a letter that appears to depart sharply from the usual criteria that an attorney general would apply in deciding whether to defend an [executive order] in court. As such, the letter seems like an act of insubordination that invites the president to fire her. Which he did.”

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