After an election, people and groups who have reason to hope for preferment from the victor are liable to interpret every appointment as a favor. They do not stop to consider that preferment is a two-edged sword, if preferring someone to a position of honor in some executive department removes him from a position of effective advocacy in the legislature. (Lessons Pertinent to the Present Transition)
During this holiday season, I’ve taken some time in the last waking hours of each day to go on a binge—watching every episode of NCIS- New Orleans. Forensic science fiction has been one of my favorite forms of entertainment since my early teens, when I first delved into Arthur Conan Doyle’s towering prefiguration of the forensic sciences, Sherlock Holmes. Among other things, it encourages intellectual self-discipline, such as respecting the rules of empirical reasoning, including the patience to avoid jumping to abysmal conclusions before systematically gathering, analyzing and pondering the facts.
During the late election, I frankly disagreed with self-professed conservatives who decided to put their faith in Donald Trump. The facts of his life, before the Presidency became his goal, decisively contradicted the words of his mouth which that goal dictated. It made no sense to believe in him. That deceitful evil is simply a better choice than evil frankly exhibited, makes no more sense to me than pretending that sugar-coated poison, which you are more likely to swallow, is less likely to kill you than poison with a nauseating smell that has you retching before you take it.
But human beings are not just objects in motion. When their circumstances change dramatically we must pay careful attention to subsequent events. We must systematically gather, analyze and ponder them in view of the change that has occurred. This is especially important because people have an interior life. It is rooted in something of a mystery. So, their response to change is not always consistent with what their past activity reasonably led us to believe were their characteristic properties.
Like Barack Obama before him, Donald Trump has promised change. Of course, without regard to some standard of assessment, that promise is an empty set. Superficially, the change may be as clear as the difference between black and white. But human beings are not superficial. They have an interior life, an ongoing history. It can undergo dramatic change before we know it. For most, this inner life is mercurial—like the proud heart of Pharaoh in the Bible—at turns softening to admit new possibilities, then hardening against that admission.
The quote at the beginning of this article comes from a piece I wrote not long ago to encourage conservatives to be cautious in their assessment of the choices Donald Trump is making for positions in his upcoming Administration. In it, I make the point that, when a new power thinks to establish itself, appearances are as likely to mask true intentions, as to reveal them. Actions that appear to be powerful opportunities may be intended to constrain and weaken the activities of those they seem to favor.
Once you read the article from which the opening quotation is drawn, you will not be surprised by the fact that I think Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General is just such a double-edged favor. As the Administration’s lawyer, Attorney General Sessions will be constrained to accept and defend the Administration in any case, unless and until he chooses to resign rather than do so. The outspoken voice of Senator Sessions will no longer speak for itself. People who applaud the appointment because of his record as the champion of their views may find that he remains so. But what Senator Sessions once did in view of all, Attorney General Sessions will have to do behind the scenes, under the discipline of a Presidential decision-making process that will not always go his way.
Whether this ends up diminishing the strength of the causes Senator Sessions championed also depends on who replaces him in the U.S. Senate. In this respect, I was encouraged by the recent report that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is considering his State’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore, for appointment to the U.S. Senate; to serve out the rest of Senator Sessions’ term. In a travesty of justice that violates both the U.S. Constitution, and the laws and Constitution of the State of Alabama, Chief Justice Moore has been suspended for the rest of his term as Chief Justice.
The suspension effectively keeps him from speaking out in defense of the powers and retained rights the U.S. Constitution reserves or protects for the people of Alabama. It also suspends his salary. But because he formally remains in office, the conflict-of interest constraints of his official position prohibit him from earning a living in the private sector. Roy Moore effectively represents all Americans who care about preserving the premises of God-endowed right rooted, as the American Declaration of Independence makes clear, in “the laws of nature and of Nature’s God.” From national security to immigration; from repealing Obamacare to preserving the free exercise of religion; from taxation to curtailing the Federal judiciary’s tyrannical disrespect for the Constitution of the United States, Roy Moore is a champion of all Americans who cherish the principles of God-endowed liberty and justice that are our nation’s strong foundation.
If Governor Bentley appoints Roy Moore to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate, the cause of principled conservatism in that body will go from strength to strength. What might otherwise be an ambiguous favor will become, instead, a true token of hope in the fight to renew Constitutional self-government in the United States.