Judging from his tumultuous time in office, Donald Trump does not care much about facts, objective judgment, or tradition – and let’s not get started on Baltimore. But the thing he really can’t stand is disloyalty.
So is anyone surprised Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, is out? Coats has finally resigned after months of reports that he was increasingly irritating Trump by disputing the President’s frequently unfounded claims. Trump suggested maybe the Russians were not involved in hacking the election; Coats said, no, they really were. Trump had his ideas about how we should cozy up to North Korea and others; Coats disagreed. Trump believed his own instincts about national security were the best guide; Coats relied on the hard work of agents, analysts, and the facts they generated. In Trump world, too much of that seemed to count as Coats being disloyal.
So now Coats is out, and Trump is nominating a Republican Congressman from Texas, John Ratcliffe, to take his place. And shocker, Ratcliffe is a loyalist.
Trump does have a deep affection for personal loyalty. Admittance to his inner-circle demands it. He has come perilously close to suggesting a lack of it is tantamount to treason. And while knowing how to say the Pledge of Allegiance would probably help any White House job applicant, promising allegiance to Trump appears to count for even more.
I get it. Many of us would enjoy being surrounded by sycophants eager to tell us how smart, good-looking, and right we are. Being able to unequivocally trust your team in high stakes matters is important. And if your fawning followers dedicate their lives to your well-being even above even their own, what’s not to like?
But the blind loyalty Trump craves – the endless, mindless affirmation — may not be so good for the country. Because everyone (including Trump) gets things wrong. Everyone (including Trump) makes mistakes. Everyone (including Trump) shows bad judgment. And at those times with the interests of the country — not just Trump — on the line, the most loyal ally is the one who will say you are wrong.