Friday, June 15, 2018

What the rules do for us

Josh Marshall is actually reading and absorbing this new Justice Department Inspector General's report that condemns former FBI director James Comey's self-referential and consequential misbehavior in reference to the investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails. (No surprise that Comey screwed up there.) Marshall pulls a long quote from career DOJ Prosecutor, George Toscas:

One of the things that I tell people all the time, after having been in the Department for almost 24 years now, is I stress to people and people who work at all levels, the institution has principles and there’s always an urge when something important or different pops up to say, we should do it differently or those principles or those protocols you know we should—we might want to deviate because this is so different. But the comfort that we get as people, as lawyers, as representatives, as employees and as an institution, the comfort we get from those institutional policies, protocols, has, is an unbelievable thing through whatever storm, you know whatever storm hits us, when you are within the norm of the way the institution behaves, you can weather any of it because you stand on the principle.

And once you deviate, even in a minor way, and you’re always going to want to deviate. It’s always going to be something important and some big deal that makes you think, oh let’s do this a little differently. But once you do that, you have removed yourself from the comfort of saying this institution has a way of doing things and then every decision is another ad hoc decision that may be informed by our policy and our protocol and principles, but it’s never going to be squarely within them.

This is the same lesson that Trump administration abuses remind us of. Decent institutions require rules. Those rules may feel as if they constrain unnecessarily; they may seem inadequate to some emergency. But in longstanding institutions that have survived and improved over time (like, say, our imperfect democracy), rules should constrain us.

That's true, even if a President doesn't think he needs or must abide by any rules or laws. Bulldozing through norms may work for awhile, but that kind of success doesn't endure. The norm breaker may not personally pay the price, but those around him and his enablers will. And so will the country he is betraying.

2 comments:

Rain Trueax said...

The irony of what you say here is how it all depends on whose ox is being gored (old saying). When Obama was doing something outside the 'rules', I heard zero complaints from the left. Then it was how great that is because a higher cause is involved. Two examples follow:

lol I wrote what I thought on only those two issues but ran over the blogger, 4,096 word limit, of course. So, I am taking those words to my issues blog and if you are interested in them, come and give me your take on whether they are fair thoughts or not. I could not cut from them what I wanted there without losing the point. Heck, I could write a book on what I am thinking right now regarding the IG report *s*

Rain Trueax said...

character limit, not words although I get I could go that many words too on it...

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