Straight Talk

Transfer of Power

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Letter to the Editor

I recently finished reading Liz Cheney’s book “Oath and Honor.” Liz Cheney represented Wyoming in the US House of Representatives from 2017 to 2023. She held the third-ranking position in House Republican leadership from 2019 to 2021 and served our nation honorably in other vital roles, not the least of which, as vice chair of the Select Committee (at then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s request) to investigate the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol. For accepting what she considered an honor and her duty, she sacrificed her seat in Congress and has been receiving death threats ever since.

It’s a well-written book, encompasses 368 pages, and contains quite a bit of American history, much of which Cheney’s family seems to have made a significant contribution to. It’s a hard book to put down once you start.

I was reminded that Thomas Jefferson was the first president to take the oath of office in Washington, D.C., March 4th, 1801. Four years earlier, President George Washington had handed power to President John Adams (both Federalists), but this was the first time the presidency had passed from one party to another. Those who observed that occurrence well understood how miraculous it was for power to change hands; absent was the “confusion, villainy, and bloodshed” that usually accompanied transfers of power.

Some of us recall such peaceful transfers; Truman to Eisenhower, Eisenhower to Kennedy, Johnson to Nixon, Ford to Carter. President Ford had lost his voice, so his concession was read to President Carter over the phone by Ford’s Chief of Staff Dick Cheney (Liz Cheney’s father). The concession read: “As one who has been honored to serve the people of this great land – both in Congress and as President – I believe that we must now put the divisions of the campaign behind us and unite the country once again in a common pursuit of peace and prosperity. May God bless you and your family as you undertake your new responsibilities.”

As Liz Cheney reminds us, from George Washington in 1801 until January 2021 (for 220 years), every American president had fulfilled his solemn obligation to safeguard the peaceful transfer of power.

Donald Trump changed all that and practically the entire Republican Party by their active participation or by their silence; and, with unconscionable indifference, helped and allowed him to do it and thus far are held unaccountable. Do we who live in WNC hear any voices in the Republican Party rise to condemn the former president for his behavior or speech? At the town, county, state or federal level, do we hear one word of condemnation from the party responsible? No, not a peep.

We believed (erroneously, it appears) that our system of laws, of checks and balances, our constitutional system, would constrain Trump. Such is not the case. Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the judiciary and ignored the rulings of dozens of courts. Anyone who seeks to hold Trump accountable for his many crimes, they and their families are immediately subjected to death threats by deplorable people claiming they’re only trying to “make America great again.” 

Donald Trump’s actions violated the law and the oath he swore to the Constitution. Those of us who serve (or have served) in uniform took a similar oath. I took it five times and served under six presidents.

In November 1800, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, after he had spent his first night in the White House. The letter read, in part, “May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.”

Donald Trump is not such a man and history will not be kind to those who took an oath to protect our way of life but support a twice impeached former president facing four criminal indictments across four states (91 total charges) who seems bent on destroying the country he swore to protect. Our country cannot survive such a man.

“Oath and Honor,” is the title of Liz Cheney’s book. The Grand Old Party once knew what taking an oath meant, respected and considered honor of vital importance, and highly valued the rule of law. I will dare hope they will find the courage to do so once again – very soon.

David L. Snell, Franklin