There was a time, in the early days of the administration, when a decent, patriotic person could make a case for serving this president. If all the competent people refused, the government would be run by incompetents. Better to surround President Trump with “adults” than to leave him to his own devices. Optimists argued that Trump had no beliefs and could be molded like a piece of unformed clay. Pessimists argued that even if he could not be changed, someone had to save us from his most dangerous errors. And there was the matter of duty. Like it or not, Trump was the elected president, and when the president calls, you have a duty to serve.

Those who went into the administration for all these reasons may want to start asking themselves how all this is working out. On balance, are they preventing bad decisions more than they are enabling them? Do they save the administration from errors more than they help excuse and deny them? These dilemmas arise in every administration, of course, because all presidents commit errors, make bad decisions and yet demand a loyal, stout defense, and even a degree of dissembling, from those who serve them. Nor are we naive: People like their jobs, like the power and rarely resign on mere principle.

This situation is different, however. Many of those who joined the administration opposed Trump during the campaign, not only because they disagreed with his policies but also because they thought he was unfit for the office. This was especially so for those involved with national security. Whether they said it publicly or only among friends, they feared that because of his temperament and his ignorance of world affairs, and because his view of the United States’ purpose was diametrically opposed to theirs, Trump would make a poor if not disastrous president and commander in chief. When they agreed to work for him, they did not pretend that their view had changed. They simply believed that the country would be better served with them in than with them out.