If Donald Trump had been asked to serve in any other administration he wouldn’t have been granted security clearance. He’d have been barred from public service 20 times over. But presidents don’t need security clearance, and elected officials in general aren’t vetted.
By virtue of being elected (even under grossly dubious circumstances) this president moved instantly from being unemployable by the Federal government, to acquiring supreme power to decide what’s classified and what’s not. That’s the core element of cognitive dissonance we’re struggling under: there’s no way to rationalize such absurdity, and as such it can only breed more absurdities. Trump’s offenses go way, way, way beyond those of his serial resigners (terrible as they are) — but he himself is immune to formal reproach. Presumably to preserve the civilian nature of our government, we bar intelligence vetting of our chosen presidents, however poorly they’re chosen. So Donald Trump has never been formally vetted by the intelligence community.
Because Trump thinks as other criminals do, his first concern was to insulate himself against removal for cause, by immediately claiming his own law enforcement community was “plotting” to ruin him. His obvious goal: to ensure that anything the agencies do manage to report about him will be dismissed under the umbrella of lowercase “treason”.
We’re caught in an ethical inversion: having “elected” him to run the government, we put a lifelong criminal in charge of law enforcement. If he’d been vetted, he’d surely have been stamped by the FBI as a huge security risk — a potential foreign agent at risk of blackmail, a serial sexual harasser — for so many reasons. His presence would be a stain on any administration except his own and would not be possible. Most certainly, he wouldn’t be trusted to handle classified material under any circumstances except the present ones.
Our political system waives all security vetting for elected officials. I suspect this is the generative absurdity at the heart of today’s political mayhem: government officials keep struggling to reconcile that absurdity with their role in vetting Trump’s appointees. How could that ever make sense?
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.