First Past Presidents Forum: Part 2

Welcome back to the First Past Presidents Forum on the State American Politics. 

Since the panelists have already been introduced, we will get right into the questions.

It you missed the opening session, I think you would be well advised to review the discussion at:  http://www.timeparables.blogspot.com/2012/05/first-past-presidents-forum-on-american.html

 John P.“Good Morning, President Washington, President Lincoln, President Jefferson and President Adams.  I hope you are all well rested after your (longer than planned) break.  I understand you used the weekend to visit some of your old stomping grounds and to take a look at some of the developments that have occurred in this country since you last trod its earth”

John P.“I would like to start the first question off with President Washington.  My first question seems particularly apropos since you turned down the chance to be President for life and even a third term. What is your opinion of “term limits” and what would you suggest we do today in respect to such an idea?”

President Washington:  “I think elections have become an absurdity in your country today. It is more about being reelected than doing the right thing. Your politicians have made a career out of being re-elected and you have created marketing firms, public relations firms and a myriad of sycophants and boot-lickers who exist solely for the purpose of helping your candidates get re-elected for life.  I was very much against this idea for office and I felt that no man no matter how great, or woman by the way, should be elected for more than two terms for any office in the nation.”

John P.:  “President Adams, I understand you had some views about this as well?”

President Adams:  “I have repeatedly said that I was in favor of term limits. I will repeat my advice again as no time in American history do I think you have more need of this advice than now.  I am for making of terms annual, and for sending an entire new set of politicians to congress every year or at least every term.”

President Jefferson:  “And I have said, perhaps more eloquently than John that:   ‘My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget.’  I think two terms is enough for anyone who is elected to any office in the country.”

John P.:  “Let us move on to the next question.  This question has to do with bi-partisanship and working together across party lines. There are many who think that we have never been more polarized than ever before and that it has become impossible for Democrats and Republicans to work together or to compromise. President Lincoln, can I start with you on this subject?  What is your opinion about partisanship and what do we need to do?”

President Lincoln:  “Thank you John.  I have very strong feelings about this issue.  You may think you have polarization today but you forget that I presided over a country and congress that went to war with each other. In point of fact, the war was as much between parties as it was between states.  I tried to tell the people that ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.’  It turned out to be a fruitless plea as you know. However, that does not dismiss the necessity of compromise and collaboration for the public good.”

President Jefferson:  “I think an evil that you have instituted today lies in the taking of oaths to support certain positions. Any requiring of any person to take an oath other than an oath of office is an abomination. To take an oath to support an amendment, regardless of the nature of the amendment fixes forever the opinion and position of the oath taker and prevents them from compromise or seeing other possibilities.”

President Adams:  “I warned this country that there is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.  Many have said since then that I am wrong. If so, it has only been because of great leadership which has managed to reconcile the differences between the two parties and find that middle ground which follows the truth more closely.”

President Washington:  “I strongly concurred with Mr. Adams on this issue and said the following at my commencement speech.”  ‘There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose.’

John P.“I have one more question for the panel today before we open it up to the audience.  All of you have endorsed the importance of knowledge and education for a free society.  What do you think of the state of education in America today and what would you recommend we do about improving it?”

President Jefferson:  “I do not see that your education system today is fostering the open minded ability to critique and question the important issues that you must address. I have said that ‘The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’  However, your politicians seem bent on politicizing issues of marriage, race, religion and many other private matters that are not the province of government.”

President Adams:  “I believe: ‘There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.’  Your education system today has seemed to forgotten this important point.  One can be smart and intelligent but that is only one kind of knowledge.  The role of education and the role of a school are not the same thing.  When I was president there was a great deal more illiteracy and ignorance than there is today. However, your education system has not evolved with the times.  It now seems unable to either show people how to make a living or how to live.  I would suggest you revisit Socrates and Plato and ask how they would teach today.”

President Lincoln:  “My views on this subject are well known:  ‘Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least, a moderate education, and thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance, even on this account alone, to say nothing of the advantages and satisfaction to be derived from all being able to read the scriptures and other works, both of a religious and moral nature, for themselves. For my part, I desire to see the time when education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more general than at present, and should be gratified to have it in my power to contribute something to the advancement of any measure which might have a tendency to accelerate the happy period.’

It is evident that this esteemed objective has now become the general good to which your entire populace aspires to but nevertheless, it has lost some vitality that was essential to the original mission and purpose of education.  Thomas mentioned that you are not creating “critical thinkers” and John Adams mentioned that your present system seems to ignore helping people to make a life.  I think it is important to realize that all systems must change, evolve and adapt to the new times and circumstances they find themselves in.  It was the changes in the world that really brought about the end of slavery as an institution.

The War Between the States was just the final gasp of an evil institution that had outlived any purpose, if any good purpose ever indeed existed for it. Your school system today has outlived its original purpose, at least in its original form and needs to evolve. Education remains essential for any democratic government, but schools are not necessarily where education must take place. And if you want to keep a democratic government, education must be as accessible for the poor as for the rich.”

John P.:  Thank you all for your great insights and comments. I now want to invite the audience again to post questions or comments or send them to me via text at 612-310-3803. 

Time for Questions:

How would you address these questions? What are your opinions on the State of American Politics?  What would you change if you had a magic wand and could simply wave it and change our political system?

Life is just beginning.

“The grandest work that a mortal can accomplish is to get people talking, and thereby stir people up to do something.”  —  Susan B. Anthony 

 

The First Past Presidents Forum on American Politics: Part 1

I summon them!  I summon them! I summon them! 
Let it be the quick or the dead.
So long as they are American Presidents, born and bred.
I summon them!  I summon them!                                                                                                               
You are called to the first ever Past Presidents Forum on the State of American Politics.                                                                                                                                                        

I have repeatedly cited the famous quote by Santayana that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”  What better way to discuss current events than by calling upon these esteemed and worthy (Dare I Say) experts from the past.  What better way to review the State of American Politics than through the eyes of our past presidents and leaders.  Would there be any who would say that Adams or Jefferson despite their somewhat opposing viewpoints would not be able to sit down together to discuss politics and perhaps even reach a compromise?  Note the comments of Jefferson in a letter to a friend and then ask yourself whether this seems to be characteristic of today’s politicians:

“Differing on a particular question from those whom I knew to be of the same political principles with myself, and with whom I generally thought and acted, a consciousness of the fallibility of the human mind and of my own in particular, with a respect for the accumulated judgment of my friends, has induced me to suspect erroneous impressions in myself, to suppose my own opinion wrong, and to act with them on theirs.

The want of this spirit of compromise, or of self-distrust, proudly but falsely called independence, is what gives [some opponents] victories which they could never obtain if these brethren could learn to respect the opinions of their friends more than of their enemies, and prevents many able and honest men from doing all the good they otherwise might do. These considerations… have often quieted my own conscience in voting and acting on the judgment of others against my own… All honest and prudent men [should] sacrifice a little of self-confidence, and… go with their friends, although they may sometimes think they are going wrong.” –Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 1811. ME 13:50

 

John Persico:  Moderator for this discussion.  Blogger, writer, teacher and consultant.  It is my privilege to host this panel discussion on the following topic and issue:

What do you think of the state of American Government today?  

Panel Members are:  George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

John Persico:  I would like to introduce each of our panelists though I am sure most of you are very familiar with their backgrounds.

George Washington:  The first President of the United States of America.  You turned down the chance to become president for life or a monarch of the newly emerging federation of colonies.  You abhorred party politics and saw politics as an evil to be avoided.  You freed your slaves when you died and made no money from your role of president of the USA.  Many consider you as the greatest of American Presidents for your leadership, courage and compassion.  Your position on government can be characterized by the following quotes:

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is a force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
 
“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”
 
John Adams:  The second President of the United States of America.  You were highly educated and you represented enlightenment values promoting freedom and democracy. You advocated for a strong centralized government that would help to create uniform trade and culture between the 13 colonies.  Your position became known as Federalism.  You were a strong advocate for eliminating slavery in the new Republic.  Despite your many contributions to the new government of the United States you were defeated by your major adversary and also best friend Thomas Jefferson.  Your position on Government was summarized very succinctly in your book:

Thoughts on Government:                                                                                                                            
“There is no good government but what is republican. That the only valuable part of the British constitution is so; because the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men.”
 
Thomas Jefferson:  The third President of the United States of America.  You are famous for being the principle author of the Declaration in Independence.  You served two terms as president after defeating your best friend John Adams for the presidency. You organized the Democratic-Republican Party to help get you elected.  You tended towards states’ rights and were afraid of the Federalists since they advocated a strong centralized government which would take supremacy over the individual colonies.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
You were a strong advocate for freeing all the slaves but you nevertheless neglected to do so in your own estate.  It was also claimed that you fathered several children with one of your own slaves named Sally Hemings.  You were considered one of the leading and most influential intellectuals (along with John Adams) of your times.  You have made the following statements which somewhat reflect your thoughts on government:
 
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
 
“The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind.”
 
“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.”
 
Abraham Lincoln:  The sixteenth President of the United States of America.  You have been named (along with George Washington) as one of the two greatest Presidents in American history.  You ran for the presidency as a Republican. You were elected during one of the most turbulent times in American history as the conflict over slavery and states’ rights reached a boiling point. Your election led to a Civil War between the states over these issues.                                                                                                                                      
Your strong leadership and bold actions led to a reunion of the country and the abolishment of slavery as a legal institution.  Many of your critics say you cared more about keeping the country together than you did freeing the slaves.  Your presidency was characterized by many actions that gave the Federal government considerable power over the states and military.  Some who say you as a new Caesar assassinated you on April 15, 1865 as you began your second term in office. You have held the following beliefs about the role of government during your life:
 
“It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service.”
 
“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves – in their separate, and individual capacities.”                                                                                   

Due to the lengthy nature of their travels, we will reconvene and begin our discussion after the panelists (fresh from trips of over 200 years for some) have had a chance for some rest and sustenance.

Time for Questions:

In keeping with our modern technology, I would invite any of you who have questions for the panelists to either put them in the comments section today, send them to me by email or text message me at 612-310-3803.  Tom and John were particularly curious about our new technology and would love to see it in action.

Life is just beginning.

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”   —  Issac Asimov

Where Can You Find Beauty?

Of course the answer to this question is that beauty is all around us.  However, some things seem more beautiful than others and they are either worth being noted or worth being found.  (And yes, I realize Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that is a cliché.  Some things are indeed universally beautiful.)  If noted, they are somehow singled out for special attention.  They may become landmarks or tourist attractions like: Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon or Carlsbad Caverns.  If you have ever visited any of these places, you know that you can stare and stare and stare at them for days.  You want to somehow drink or absorb their beauty.  You can walk around them and from different vantage points they provide a different panorama of beauty.  I am sure you can add many places or items to the list that I call “Noted” beauty.  By the way, “noted” beauty may include people, place, things or even ideas.  Someone noted that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was beautiful in its simplicity.  Matthew R. Crawford in his blog “Albert Einstein on Beauty, Science and God” believes that:

“what drove Einstein to his scientific conclusions was a conviction that nature displayed a beauty that was discernible, and that a characteristic feature of this beauty was simplicity.”

There are many lists of “beautiful men and women.  Every few years, the list of notable women beauties includes such familiar celebrities as:  Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, Amanda Seyfried and Halle Berry.  These are just a few of the many notable beauties who get nominated each year for the “most beautiful woman in the world list.”  I keep waiting to get nominated for most beautiful man in the world but alas to date, my name has not appeared on any lists.  They keep picking guys that would be low on my list like:  Matthew McConaughey, Brad Kroenig and Josh Harnett.  So there is no accounting for taste which is why some people say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”   However, I have already stated that this is a lie.  Some beauty is universal.  The beauty of a rose or a humming bird or a newborn baby can be put on a list of things that are universally admired.

Then there are the items that I will put in the “unnoted” beauty list.  Unnoted beauty is beauty that surrounds us or that is often hidden to our eyes either because we take it for granted or because for some reason it has not become popular.  Many “beautiful” items become fashionable and then are assumed to be beautiful.  The “notable” beauty list is full of such items.  These items have the weight of public opinion on their side.  For instance, the Mona Lisa is considered to be one of the most beautiful pictures in the world and no trip to Paris is said to be complete without a visit to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa.  Right?  Well, sorry but I don’t agree.  Not only would I say it was not worth the effort, (Go to the Louvre anyway, you will not be disappointed) but I did not think it was such a great picture and NO, the eyes did not follow me.  I am not sure where that bit about the eyes comes from but I think many viewers must have been sucked up into a form of mass hysteria if they really believe the eyes followed them anywhere.

“Unnoted” beauty surrounds us as well and unlike notable beauty, unnoted beauty is most often free.  You have only to open your eyes and you can find unnoted in everything that encompasses you. Sometimes unnoted beauty is found in the least likely places.  On our trip back to Wisconsin from Arizona, Karen and I stopped for two days in Bisbee, Arizona to see some sights.  We went to the art shops, clothes shops, and antique stores and spend a day in Tombstone watching reenactments of the “Old West.”  One night we went out for a walk (We stayed at the Bisbee Grand Hotel which I highly recommend).  Prices, food, service, rooms were all incredible.  For $65 dollars a night we had a wonderful room and a great hot full breakfast each morning.  The view from the balcony which we ate out on was spectacular and in the saloon next door on a Tuesday night we were able to hear a great live Klezmer band called the The Underscore Orkestra which played for three hours a variety of jazz, Balkan and swing music.  They were staying in our hotel and traveling around the world performing.  You can find their schedule at their website.  If you enjoy some eclectic music you will really enjoy the Underscore Orkestra.  If you see them say hi to Jorge and Joshua and Willo for me.  They were fun to listen to and talk to as well.

To return to our walk, we decided to journey up hill, Bisbee seems to have two parts, uphill and downhill.  We had already toured downhill so we decided to visit uphill.  As we walked by a number of shops we came to an area where there was a large town hall and some municipal buildings.  Right behind the buildings was a large church.   We always enjoy looking in churches to see how they are decorated.  Most churches would not be on any list of notable beauty but you can often find some very beautiful artifacts in them that are not on any tourist list or brochure.  Unfortunately, today most churches now are locked except during service hours.  Since it was nearly 7 PM, we did not expect the church to be open.

stpat6Remaining an optimist, I walked up the steps to the church and pulled on the door.  Sadly, it was locked. As I started to walk down the steps, I heard a voice call out “Would you like to go inside.”

I saw a young man in a pickup truck starting to climb out and approach me.  I did not want to importune him but since he offered, I said “sure, thanks,” He told us his name was Jesus and then opened the doors and turned the lights on for Karen and I.  When he did, we were astonished.  As the Millennium generation like to say, it was awesome.  Before us, were the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen in my life!   I don’t want to brag, but I have been in many churches and cathedrals including the Vatican, Notre Dame and St. Patrick’s in New York.  Never in any place in my entire life, have I seen a more beautiful set of stained glass windows.  There were two large ones at the front and two at the back of the church, a ceiling window and stained glass windows along each side of the church.  Karen and I just looked and looked. We did not have our camera.  Finally, while we did not want to leave, we decided we should probably let Jesus go home.  I had introduced myself to the man that let us in and he told us a little about the church and we exchanged names and thanked him profusely for letting us in.

On this special evening in Bisbee, Arizona “unnoted beauty” was displayed before us in two ways.  The first is obvious. We saw some beautiful art that was not on any tourist list I have yet seen.  I should mention, we went back the next day and the church was open so we went in again and this time we took some pictures.  I was also so impressed that on the morning we left, I rose early and went to a 7:30 AM mass they held at the church.   Jesus was there as were about 7 or 8 other parishioners.  I found out that the name of the church was St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.  A subsequent web search revealed the following facts about the church.  I should note that none of these facts were evident at the church or in any local tourist literature that I saw while in Bisbee.  Hence, I still proclaim this to be an “unnoted” treasure and beauty.

Perched 200 feet above the floor of Tombstone Canyon in historic Bisbee, Arizona, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church stands as a monument to the exuberant determination of the town’s early residents to transform a primitive mining camp into one of the largest commercial centers in early Arizona.

bisbee

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Gothic Revival church is a copy of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in the Irish district of Whitehaven, England.

St. Patrick’s 41 stained glass windows were designed and produced by Emil Frei, whose work is recognized as an unsurpassed example of Victorian-style stained glass.

The Bavarian-born Frei (1869-1942) studied at the Munich Academy of Art before immigrating to the United States in the late 1800s. In 1900 he opened the Emil Frei Art Glass Company in St. Louis, Missouri.

Now for the second example of beauty that day, it is not as obvious as the windows but it is even more beautiful than the wonders of the church.  Think about this for a minute.  It is 7 PM at night, you have been doing construction work all day and it is time to return home to your family and a hot meal.  Just as you are getting ready to start your car and head home, two yahoo tourists walk up to your church and appear to be trying to gain entry.  You are not a tour guide or the pastor and you do not earn one cent by abandoning your original plans to go home and letting them in.  Furthermore, you have no idea how long they will remain or whether or not other tourists will suddenly emerge who want to come in.  What would the average store clerk do? What would the average store owner do? And bear in mind, store clerks are potentially making some money off of visitors.

Jesus had nothing to gain and yet he took the time to let us in, talk to us and tell us some brief facts about the church.  So what was this “unnoted” beauty of which I speak?  I am talking about “beauty of the spirit” and that night in Bisbee, Jesus showed us what a beautiful spirit really was and how it gave to others with no thought of reward or privilege gained.   Jesus was not the parish priest and he had no responsibility at all in the area of perhaps talking to potential parishioners.  What Jesus did was done simply out of the beauty of the man’s heart.

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle.”  – Albert Einstein.

“Of life’s two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer’s hand.” – Kahil Gibran

Time for Questions:

Do you look for beauty in unexpected places?  Do you find that beauty can lie in ideas and spirit and not just in things and glamour?  Do you raise your children to see the beauty of life and not just accomplishments or rewards?  How do you find beauty?  Do you have enough beauty in your life?  Can you still find beauty despite growing old and more infirm?  Can you help others by sharing your beauty with them?

Life is just beginning.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” — Ashley Smith

 

Now that the Indians Gone – You Don’t Have to Feel Guilty Anymore.   

Please, it is my birthday today, so read my favorite and most self-deprecating blog. Mea Culpa should be its real title. Let me know what you think.

Aging Capriciously

(Please listen to Buffy Sainte-Marie’sNow that the Buffaloes Gone”)

war protests1964.  A time of increased social consciousness:  Civil Rights marches.  Women’s Rights marches.  Free Speech marches.  Protests in the grape fields.  The Indian Movement.  The Free Love Movement.  The Whole Earth Movement.  Anti-war marches.  Lots of social commentary and inspiring folk songs written during this period by musicians such as Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Buffy St. Marie, Sixto Rodriguez, Richie Havens, Leonard Cohen, Country Joe McDonald, Peter, Paul and Mary, not to mention hundreds of others.   (Many others came before these, like Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie.)

Can you remember the times
That you have held your head high
And told all your friends of your Indian claim
Proud good lady and proud good man
Your great great grandfather from Indian blood came
And you feel in your heart for these ones

hippies1The Baby Boomers (I…

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Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?”

drug abuse

I wrote this blog four years ago about our ignorant policy and attitudes towards drugs and drug users.  I started it with a satire comparing obese people to drug addicts. You may not like the satire but the problem and analogy is spot on. We have an arbitrary drug policy in this country which hurts millions of people. Witness the incarceration rates for drugs. This article is about the reasons for this stupidity and why we need to change our thinking.

Just this week, I heard two candidates for sheriff in my county talk about the need for stronger drug enforcement and more SWOT teams. The answer is always more police and more arrests. When will we wake up and address the real problems of drug addiction and drug abuse?

Oct-13-Is-Drug-Legalization-the-Answer-Section-2-730x1146

Aging Capriciously

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes  —- (From the Beatles)(Click here to listen)

lucy_in_sky_with_diamonds_by_weirdplushie-d5r2kziHave you ever wondered why we do not arrest obese people?  What if we treated people who abused food like we treated people who abused drugs?  We could argue “Why don’t we arrest obese people since we arrest drug addicts?”  Do not both of them abuse their bodies?  If you look at the five most common reasons given for drug control policy:  Morality, Health, Profit, Discrimination and Social Control, it could be argued that obesity violates at least four of these principles.  As yet, we do not see too many obese people running amok, but who knows, maybe cases of “Crazed” obese people are just being under-reported.

It seems unfair to me that obese people are…

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New Revelations from a Senior Trump Aide: The Man has no Morality!

This is an op-ed piece from the NY Times written by an anonymous senior aide inside the White House.  Never before has anyone written anything about a President like this.  This clearly shows the incompetence of the man who is President of the United States of America. 

Please share, post, retweet this to everyone you can.  We need to show the world that there are millions of us who do not support this man or his policies.  We need to either impeach him or indict him.  He can and has done real damage to the United States of America.  The longer he remains in office, the more damage he will do.

I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration

I work for the president, but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

President Trump is facing a test to his presidency unlike any faced by a modern American leader.

It’s not just that the special counsel looms large. Or that the country is bitterly divided over Mr. Trump’s leadership. Or even that his party might well lose the House to an opposition hellbent on his downfall.

The dilemma — which he does not fully grasp — is that many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

I would know. I am one of them.

To be clear, ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous.

But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.

That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.

The root of the problem is the president’s amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision making.

Although he was elected as a Republican, the president shows little affinity for ideals long espoused by conservatives: free minds, free markets and free people. At best, he has invoked these ideals in scripted settings. At worst, he has attacked them outright.

In addition to his mass-marketing of the notion that the press is the “enemy of the people,” President Trump’s impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic.

Don’t get me wrong. There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

But these successes have come despite — not because of — the president’s leadership style, which is impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.

From the White House to executive branch departments and agencies, senior officials will privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions. Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.

Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.

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“There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next,” a top official complained to me recently, exasperated by an Oval Office meeting at which the president flip-flopped on a major policy decision he’d made only a week earlier.

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House. Some of his aides have been cast as villains by the media. But in private, they have gone to great lengths to keep bad decisions contained to the West Wing, though they are clearly not always successful.

It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t.

The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap, with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.

The writer is a senior official in the Trump administration.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion).

 

Four Remarkable People on a Quest

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Part 1 – The Meeting

Once upon a time, there were four remarkable men.  Well, actually there were two remarkable men and two remarkable women.  A confluence of circumstances brought them together in perhaps one of the strangest coincidences in history.

Jamal was from the north.  He was one of the highest scorers to ever take the Mensa Genius Examination.  When he was only four years old, he developed a program to block credit card companies from calling his parents on their cell phones.  When he was seven years old, he developed a new form of cryptocurrency which was impossible to hack, easily transferred, had high usability and presented a respectable means of acquisition.  The currency was so popular that Jamal became a billionaire when he was 15 years old.

Isabella was from the south.  She graduated when she was 12 years old from the University of São Paulo with a Ph.D. degree in Physics and Philosophy.  She burned through required credits like a hot knife going through butter.  She had no problem paying for her tuition since she was hired by the University of São Paulo physics department to help with a particle research project they were undertaking, while she was earning her degree.  When she graduated, half of the physics departments in the world tried to hire her.

Li Na was from the east.  She was born in Chengdu, a sub-provincial city which serves as the capital of China’s Sichuan province.  She was the only child of an older couple who really wanted a boy.  Li Na learned to play soccer, baseball, table tennis and hockey at a young age.  She wanted to please her parents.  She was an excellent athlete who competed in all four sports in the Olympics.  However, her athletic abilities were far overshadowed by her intellect.  Li Na had mathematical abilities that rivaled any mathematician in history.  She could take any number and give you the square root of the number down to 1000 roots without a calculator or even an abacus.

When Li Na was fourteen years old, she decided to tackle all six of the remaining Millennium Prize Problems set by the Clay Mathematics Institute in 2000.  Li Na was able to solve all six of them within a month, but she decided it would be unfair to accept the prize money as the solutions were so easy.  She therefore rejected the prize and kept the solutions to herself.  Corporations all over the world engaged her with solving problems that defied normal mathematical solutions.  She gave her money back to her parents to help support them and to put into savings.  No one knew what she was worth, but it was assumed that she was a mega millionaire.

Elijah was from the west. He was born in California in a commune that practiced a form of communal marriage.  Elijah was never sure of who his father was, and he seemed to grow up with several mothers.  At an early age, Elijah showed a talent for music.  When he was three years old, he taught himself to play a violin.  At four, he learned to play an oboe and at five, he learned to play a harp.  When he was six, he took first place in the Menuhin Competition beating out every other contestant regardless of age.

As remarkable as his talent for playing music was, Elijah’s skills and abilities in the area of composing music were even more incredible.  He had written six operas, twenty movie scores and five symphonies before he was 16 years old.  Orchestras all over the world were playing his compositions when most people did not even know his name.  Elijah hated publicity and avoided any of the usual celebrity events.  He donated most of his money to help other aspiring musicians.  He was well known among musicians and performers for his humility and kindness towards others.

cafe-wrenEach of our four remarkable people were into their middle years when by chance they met at a small cafe and restaurant in a town called Luck in Northwestern Wisconsin.  Luck is a small town of about 1200 residents, which in its heydays was the home of the Duncan Yo-yo.  In fact, it was once known as the Yo-yo Capital of the world.  Sadly, Yo-yo’s had declined in popularity and so had the fortunes of Luck in terms of prosperity and jobs.  Now perhaps, the high spot of Luck was the Wren Cafe.  A place that had excellent food, good beer and a unique ambiance imbued by its extremely creative owner Stephanie Lundeen.

The café is well known to locals and to many of the cabin people who come up on the weekends to enjoy their sojourns from the “big city” of Minneapolis.  Li Na, Elijah, Isabella and Jamal were each brought there by friends who were locals and who knew that the Wren was a very good place to eat.  The Wren being a small place and small towns being where everyone knows everyone, introductions were soon flying like falling Wisconsin snow.  Our four remarkable people sensed that a new chapter in their lives was about to begin.

Thus, at 12 PM on a cool summer day in Luck Wisconsin, Li Na, Elijah, Isabella and Jamal experienced a nuclear fusion of intimacy.  The result was like a billion tons of dynamite going off at once or the largest fireworks display in the world.  The talent that each had was like a magnet that created an instant bond between the four.  Finding other people of comparable abilities and demeanor was something that they had only dreamed about.  They all found the rapport and affinity they had for each other to be amazing.

After an hour or so of rapid conversation intermixed with more general discussion with others in their parties, our four remarkable people decided to meet again when they could have more time to discuss their lives without anyone else present.  Unbeknownst to their friends and families, Li Na, Jamal, Elijah and Isabella all had serious inner doubts that they had never been able to share with another living soul.  Each believed that they had found some kindred souls with whom they could share their secrets and perhaps find some piece of mind.  They agreed to meet again at the Wren the following week.  It was a week they knew they must spare from their busy lives.

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Part 2 – Four Doubts

For several years now, Jamal had begun to feel that there was no meaning to his life.  He had even contemplated suicide because he felt that he had nothing left to live for. The world did not seem to have people that cared about anything but their new smart phones or how fast their Internet speeds were.  Life was one vast merry go round with people constantly jumping on and off and reacting to whatever the current fads and trends were.  Nobody cared about anything but how much money they had and how many things they could buy.  Jamal desired to know if there was a true Purpose in Life or if life was simply meaningless.

Elijah had many of the same feelings as Jamal.  Elijah no longer found value in anything in life.  Everything he had ever owned or purchased soon became worthless in his mind.  The best yachts, cars and homes that anyone could buy could not make him happy.  Fame and talent and beauty all seemed to fade over time.  People were fickle.  One minute they loved you and the next minute they loved somebody else.  Elijah knew what it was like to be famous and admired but it had lost any value to him.  He thought that being known as the greatest musician in the world would satisfy his inner longings.  Even though he had obtained this goal, it did not seem to provide the value that he had hoped for.  Elijah longed to know if there was any true Value in Life or if everything was really worthless.

Isabella had once believed that there was a hidden truth to life that remained to be found.  She had studied physics and philosophy thinking that they would lead her to this truth.  She had spent many years searching for this truth.  However, every time she found a truth, she soon realized that it was also a lie.  The prophets and great religious leaders had always taught that “The truth will set you free.”  Isabella could never find the talisman that would set her free.

She desperately wanted to believe that there was some truth to existence and that life was more than just a series of lies and deceptions.  She had a desire to find this truth, but she had become increasingly discouraged.  Each day she read the news and only found “Fake Facts” and deceptions masquerading as truth.  The world seemed to have misinformation and disinformation but no truth.  Isabella wanted to find the Truth of Life.

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Li Na was another tormented soul.  A brilliant mathematician, she could not discover a single constant in life.  Every time she thought she had found a concept in mathematics that would provide such a constant, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem would rear its ugly head proving still again that it is impossible to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for mathematics.  If mathematics had no constants, how could life have any constants.  Was is simply true that death and taxes were the only constants in life?  Li Na wanted to believe that there was more to life than simply death and taxes.  Li Na desired to find the one Constant in Life that would really make life worth living.  If she could find this constant, she believed that it would put her soul at rest and she might find true peace on earth.

Part 3 – The Doubts Unfold

To Be Continued:  I will publish the next part of this story when it is finished.  I appreciate your patience. 

Time for Questions:

What do you think so far?  How do you like the four people in the story?  Have you ever shared similar doubts?  What did you do about them?  What do you believe about life?

Life is just beginning. 

“Doubt as sin. — Christianity has done its utmost to close the circle and declared even doubt to be sin. One is supposed to be cast into belief without reason, by a miracle, and from then on to swim in it as in the brightest and least ambiguous of elements: even a glance towards land, even the thought that one perhaps exists for something else as well as swimming, even the slightest impulse of our amphibious nature — is sin! And notice that all this means that the foundation of belief and all reflection on its origin is likewise excluded as sinful. What is wanted are blindness and intoxication and an eternal song over the waves in which reason has drowned.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality

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