Getting priorities straight

In 2009 lab technician Raymond Clark III murdered graduate researcher Annie M. Le because she failed to follow protocols specific to the Yale University laboratory he was given charge over. It was the most extreme example of pedantic overreaction I’d ever heard of. It was, for a time, my most useful example of priorities gone haywire, and it yielded devastatingly tragic consequences.

It oddly reminded me of the movie “Bridge on the River Kwai,” where Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) at first tries to foil an assault on the “proper bridge” he and his men had constructed for their Japanese captors. Before he had a final moment of clarity, he’d temporarily forgotten the larger picture and whose side, ultimately, he was on.

Occasionally such confusions of priorities can have comical results. Like when Trump attorney Sidney Powell accused Republican Governor Brian Kemp of conspiring with the CIA and long dead Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez to steal the election from Donald Trump. Even so, on balance I’m usually not pleased when I see such confusions. As with Lance Corporal Harold Dawson in the movie “A Few Good Men, I find priorities such as “unit, corp, God and Country” far from edifying and often decidedly disturbing.

But getting priorities wrong is a Republican specialty. What’s particularly galling is many of them know they have their priorities wrong, because they privately admit as much to themselves and others. For example, Carl Bernstein recently tweeted the following:

“I’m not violating any pledge of journalistic [confidentiality] in reporting this: 21 Republican Sens–in convos w/ colleagues, staff members, lobbyists, W. House aides–have repeatedly expressed extreme contempt for Trump & his fitness to be POTUS.

“The 21 GOP Senators who have privately expressed their disdain for Trump are: Portman, Alexander, Sasse, Blunt, Collins, Murkowski, Cornyn, Thune, Romney, Braun, Young, Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Rubio, Grassley, Burr, Toomey, McSally, Moran, Roberts, Shelby.”

Like Colonel Nicholson, these Republican Senators know whose greater good they’re supposed to be fighting for, but unlike Nicholson they lack the guts and the candor to bring their fight out in the open. To quote again “A Few Good Men,” they just can’t handle the truth.

And what is the truth? Bernstein sums it up in the coda to his tweet:

“With few exceptions, their craven public silence has helped enable Trump’s most grievous conduct—including undermining and discrediting the US the electoral system.”

But that is what happens when a public servant puts party before country. They betray their country, their constituents and ultimately themselves. These 21 Senators are the ones who are willing to admit it out loud, albeit in private. How many more of them know that Trump is and always has been unfit to serve as POTUS but can’t bring themselves to admit it, even to themselves?

It is a cautionary tale and one we can learn from. We should always be clear and forthright in our acknowledged priorities. We are Americans first, Democrats second. Having it any other way can and will lead to disaster. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

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