Galileo’s Recantation, Watercolor, 42" x 51", Richard J Van Wagoner, 1995, Courtesy of Angela Moore**

In 2010 Squad Leader Lawrence La Croix held fast to his code:

A lot of people . . . say, ‘you can’t follow an illegal order.’ Trust me. There is no such thing. Not in the military. If I go into a combat situation and I tell them, ‘No, I’m not going. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to follow that order,’ well, they’d put me up against the wall and shoot me.” Assigning responsibility to his platoon leader who had issued the order, La Croix was, of course, explaining why he was legally obliged to commit mass murder. U.S. Army soldiers from the Company C of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the 23rd (American) Infantry Division massacred between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians in South Vietnam on March 16, 1968. Victims included women, children, and infants. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated. Twenty-six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr., a platoon leader in C Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest.

Sally Yates’ Monday Night defiance of Trump’s thinly-veiled Muslim ban both conjured and triggered other massacres. Now we understand her firing may have been as much (or more) the result of her intimate knowledge of corruption and treason within the Trump camp as her refusal to advocate on behalf of a law she justifiably concluded was illegal and indefensible. She was figuratively stood against the wall and shot. Let’s just say she survived, is alive and well. Comey? Time will tell.

In 1973 President Nixon ordered the termination of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who had subpoenaed recordings Mr. Nixon was uncomfortable turning over. The Attorney General and one of Yates’ predecessor Deputy Attorneys General both resigned in lieu of complying with an order they deemed to be illegal. Robert Bork Jr., a pretty smart and ambitious guy, proved to be the only soldier loyal enough to pull the trigger on Mr. Cox. President Nixon promised as quid pro quo Bork’s appointment to the United States Supreme Court. Resigning in disgrace soon thereafter, Mr. Nixon was unable to perform his part of the bargain, but his fellow Californian Ronald Regan did. In 1987, the United States Senate rejected President Reagan’s nomination of Mr. Bork to the Supreme Court by 42–58. He’d been Borked. Anthony Kennedy was confirmed in his place 97–0. Karma’s a bitch.

By definition the manifestations of malignant narcissism are incapable of allowing themselves to be masked. Pathology is the most transparent quality of the current regime. One of Trump’s impulsive counter-punches glibly invoked Nazism on a thin-skinned whim because . . . well . . . it popped into his amazing brilliant beautiful mind. “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public,” he tweeted January 11. “One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?” This last reference was more projection of his own disheveled spontaneous propaganda machine and protestation of his vulnerability to Russian extortion than accurate description of anything external to himself, such as the intelligence community. Trump’s Liddean ethical construct starkly, and unapologetically, equates morality and power. That’s when the focus of applied power turns away from serving its constituents to amassing, consolidating, protecting and preserving itself. That works for only those with power and, as a result, for only so long.

“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.” Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.

It would seem that many people set on Making American Great Again, including the Republican leadership, especially the Republican leadership, are lining up behind the current regime as loyal soldiers in the mold of Bork and La Croix. Karma’s gonna be a bitch unless . . . .

The Sneeze, Watercolor, 21" x 29", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 2005, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God

Each United States Congressperson swears or affirms this Oath at the beginning of the new Congress after the election. The newly elected or reelected United States Senators swear or affirm the same Oath, also in January.

I understand the argument: Members of each political party believe in their party’s agenda. In order to have any meaningful opportunity to advance that agenda, the parties must have and maintain majority control of the elected branches of government, whether Executive or Legislative. This is, of course, all in the interests of serving the constituents. And, the argument continues, these goals can be achieved while keeping both a straight face and one’s Oath to defend and protect the United States Constitution.

This one feels different. This one falls outside the argument. We are facing the possibility that Trump and those instrumental in assuring his victory compromised bedrock constitutional and democratic principles by means of “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” And now the cover-up.

One cannot keep his Oath to defend and protect the United States Constitution, straight face or no, while changing the subject, averting one’s gaze or pretending otherwise. Nor can one maintain any credibility while compromising independence from the target of the investigation. The potential violations here are so dire and of such consequence, it’s time for members of Congress and the Senate to start behaving themselves, that is, placing their Oath of Office before personal or political agenda in the interests of our democratic, constitutional form of government. That goes for all of them.

Not unlike a grand jury issuing an indictment against a criminal suspect, impeachment is the process of bringing charges against an officer of the United States for “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Article 2, Section 4, United States Constitution. If the United States House of Representatives approves the articles of impeachment (charges) by a simple majority, the case is referred to the United States Senate which then serves as the trier of fact, not unlike a jury. Conviction occurs upon two-thirds’ vote. Removal from office is automatic upon conviction.

In light of these constitutional duties to sit in judgment, our elected representatives must evaluate the evidence and its veracity. They must do so through the exclusive lens of their solemn Oaths of Office.

I recently posted a Washington Post editorial that was published in a local newspaper. That article was critical of Republican leadership on the House Intelligence Committee for focusing on the messenger rather than the message. I asked:

Are they capable of keeping their oaths of office? Will it take Trump’s numbers to dip below 30% before they get religion (because only then it could affect their chances in 2018)? Members of this co-equal branch of government took a solemn Oath to serve as an independent check on the executive. Some are proving why appointment of an independent prosecutor is necessary — so we can have any confidence in the process and result. If the investigation reveals collaboration between the Trumps and Russia leading up to the election, which would be treasonous, those congress people who seek to divert attention and shift to the messenger by focusing on the leaks and not their content will be accessories after the fact to and complicit in the highest and most serious crime against us and democracy in history. If they find the leakers, prosecute them. But trying to shift attention from the content of the leaks is an abdication of their oaths, which is to put the Constitution first.

Karma’s gonna be a bitch.

*My brother the fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to

**My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed nearly 500 pieces of my father’s work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father’s art reproduced in are hers.



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