Stop me if you’ve heard this story before: Someone high up in the Trump administration “resigns,” stories come out in the mainstream press about that person’s constant disagreements with Trump within the halls of power—disagreements that led to past near-resignations or near-firings, followed by reconciliation—but as much at that same press wants to paint the person as some kind of hidden resistance close to the throne, and as much as that press wants to bemoan the inevitable lackey replacement, the resigning figure won’t say anything negative on the way out, and ultimately has zero impact on a disastrous presidency.
That’s where we are, yet again, with national intelligence director Dan Coats, who is resigning after sticking around long enough to make it seem like he wasn’t forced out. As the Times reports, Coats got on Trump’s nerves for four specific viewpoints that didn’t jibe with the official line:
1. North Korea was never intending to get rid of its nuclear arsenal.
2. Iran is not an imminent nuclear threat.
3. ISIS is still active in Syria.
4. Russia absolutely tried to juke our last two national elections, and will do so again in 2020.
You do not have to be an intelligence wizard to know that these positions are all completely credible, and you do not have to be a political wizard to know that all of them would piss Trump off because he wants to believe the opposite. After Coats testified to the above points before the Senate in January, Trump went off:
So it was only a matter of time before Coats was out. And when he went, what did he say in his resignation letter
“Thanks for everything, it was a privilege, and the intelligence community is doing great!”
In turn, Trump said “nice job” on Twitter and then replaced him with a human toady who will do everything and anything he says.
So that’s Dan Coats—a man who calls his service to Trump a “privilege” when it was clearly anything but, who has deep doubts about the president’s capability (or even his willingness) to engage in sensible foreign policy, and who quit in part because none of his superiors, least of all Trump, will lift a finger to stop Russian election interference.
That’s all well and good, and it means that, who knows, he might be competent at his job. But he’s assuredly not competent at being a good American, because that would entail showing an ounce of courage and telling the world, in the most unvarnished way, exactly what’s happening in the White House. Like everyone else who has experienced this exact career trajectory, though, he’s ultimately a coward whose silence enables Donald Trump.
Coats is not some secret resistance cell whose absence we should mourn. He was never a real check on the president, who does what he wants anyway. He’s just another feckless failure being cast out of the White House, and the sum of his legacy is disservice to a country that needs people like him to make a stand. Shed no tears for the company man who knew better.