Trump’s assault on executive branch departments and employees is crippling these cultures of commitment. I know this from talking to several Justice Department friends, including the one with whom I dined last summer. I see it in stories about how the State Department’s ranks are thinning fast. And it stands to reason that employees throughout the government feel the same way. It is hard to work for a president who attacks you weekly if not daily; who calls into public doubt your independence and integrity; and who shames you with his persistent shamelessness, deceit, and ignorance. The president is succeeding not just in diminishing the reputation of these institutions before the nation, but also in wrecking their aspirations within.
“What am I supposed to do about it?” my gloomy friend asked me last summer. My friend wanted to buck up colleagues’ spirits, and the department’s reputation, in the face of the president’s attacks. But options were limited. My friend had a pretty important job but was not a well-known public figure. The options were thus to resign in protest, or speak out and probably be fired. Neither course would have any effect on the president, my friend concluded, before deciding that the better option for the nation was to ignore the president and continue working hard to uphold the law.