Civic norms in our nation seem to be unraveling. Some citizens and legislators made a concerted effort to delegitimize President Obama by making frivolous claims about his place of birth. Today, other citizens and legislators attempt to delegitimize President Trump by making frivolous claims that his failure to win the popular vote or Russia’s hacking somehow reverses the legal verdict of a presidential election.
The refusal of the holdover Acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, is another troubling step in our the dissolution of our norms. It is a sad matter when citizens and legislators flout them. But it may be of greater concern when executive branch officials do so, particularly when they run the Department of Justice as holdovers in the delicate transition period.
The Department of Justice defends legislation and presidential actions if there is a reasonable basis in law to do so. No Attorney General has ever taken the position that he will defend such actions only if he is confident that they are legal and only if he believes they are just. For good reason.