Tag Archives: Dan Coats

Ethics–Dan Coats’ Fatal Flaw

According to Axios, Trump is planning to dump Dan Coats as Director of National Intelligence.

President Trump has told confidants he’s eager to remove Dan Coats as director of national intelligence, according to five sources who have discussed the matter directly with the president.

The state of play: Trump hasn’t told our sources when he plans to make a move, but they say his discussions on the topic have been occurring for months — often unprompted — and the president has mentioned potential replacements since at least February. A source who spoke to Trump about Coats a week ago said the president gave them the impression that the move would happen “sooner rather than later.”

Despite finding him personally pleasant, I have never been a fan of Dan Coats, for reasons  not relevant to his performance in his current position. I always saw him as a nice enough man with whom I had substantial policy disagreements. A co-worker of mine said it best, many years ago, when Coats was first running for Senate: “I’d vote for him for neighbor, but not Senator.”

In the Age of Trump, however, Coats has been a star of sorts– an ethical standout among the swamp creatures that populate this appalling administration. Unlike Bob Barr, he hasn’t twisted facts to fit a political agenda. Unlike those on Trump’s Cabinet, he isn’t trying to destroy the agency he leads. Unlike the feckless Senate Republicans, he hasn’t remained silent when the President’s lies have misrepresented reality.

According to Axios

The big picture: Coats has rankled Trump more than once with his public comments, according to sources with direct knowledge.

He angered Trump when he appeared to criticize the president’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin during an on-stage interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell at last year’s Aspen Security Forum.

He drew Trump’s ire again in January when he told a Senate panel that North Korea was unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons, contradicting the president’s cheerier assessments.

There have been unsubstantiated reports that Coats previously had to be talked out of resigning; whatever the accuracy of those rumors, he has responded to what appears to be an intentional leak aimed at undercutting his effectiveness:

In a statement provided by the ODNI, Coats said, “I am focused on doing my job, and it is frustrating to repeatedly be asked to respond to anonymous sources and unsubstantiated, often false rumors that undercut the critical work of the Intelligence Community and its relationship with the President. I am proud to lead an IC singularly focused on the vital mission of providing timely and unbiased intelligence to President Trump, Vice President Pence and the national security team in support of our nation’s security.”

Trump has made it quite clear that he has no interest in the receipt of “timely and unbiased intelligence,” and that he sees no value in the ODNI itself.

As usual, Juanita Jean’s blog had the best snark:

Trump is now saying that he’s eager to fire Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, then eliminate the position altogether.  That fits, right?  Because if there is one word that doesn’t describe Trump, it’s intelligence.

So true.



A Warning From Dan Coats

When Dan Coats was a United States Senator from Indiana, he was too socially conservative for me. That said, I considered him an honest and personally pleasant man who seemed to have a genuine desire to serve the public interest.

I’d have to agree with a friend who said “I’d vote for him for neighbor, just not for Senator.”

Coats is an old-time conservative Republican who earned that description when “conservative” actually referred to a set of political beliefs. He is currently serving as U.S. Director of National Intelligence, and he recently issued a warning:

“The United States is under attack—under attack by entities using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States.

From U.S. businesses to the federal government, local governments—the United States is threatened by cyber attacks every day. While Russia, China, Iran and North Korea pose the greatest cyber threats, other terrorist organizations, transnational criminal organizations and ever more technically capable groups and individuals use cyber operations to achieve strategic and malign objectives.

Some of these actors, including Russia, are likely to pursue even more aggressive cyber attacks with the intent of degrading our democratic values and weakening our alliances. Persistent and disruptive cyber operatives will continue against the United States and our European allies—using our elections to undermine democracy and sow discord and division.”

The warning came in a speech to the Atlantic Conference, in Normandy, France. Coats dismissed Putin’s assurances that he wants to deal with a united and prosperous Europe, saying “invading Ukraine, seizing Crimea, attacking individuals in the U.K. with nerve agents, conducting cyber-attacks against multiple EU countries… do not strike me as unifying actions.”

It is no surprise that Trump has ignored this, as well as previous warnings that Coats and other Intelligence officials have issued, but it is extremely disheartening that the Republican legislature has also ignored the information being provided by members of their own party who are in a position to know what they’re talking about.

It has gotten so bad–and so obvious–that a former Prime Minister of Belgium tweeted out the now-infamous photo from the G7 summit (the one where Merkel is bending over a desk and appears to be lecturing “the Donald” who is sitting with his arms defiantly folded while surrounded by the other heads of state) with the caption: “Just tell us what Vladimir has on you. Maybe we can help.”

Steve Schmidt, the Republican consultant  who ran John McCain’s campaign for President and who has been a consistent–and increasingly acerbic–critic of Trump and the GOP legislators enabling him, summed it up:

Very nearly every elected member of the Republican Congress has chosen Trump and party over our country. It is shameful. They have embraced illiberalism, assaults on the rule of law, attacks on objective truth and staggering corruption. They betray their oaths with complicity.

Schmidt and Coats are patriots. The enablers in Congress are quislings.

Senator Coats Embarrasses Us in Washington

The U.S. Senate has finally passed the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA), a measure that has been languishing in Congress for at least twenty years despite the fact that for a good part of that time, multiple polls have shown support for passage hovering around 80%. (Approval by the more dysfunctional House remains uncertain.)

ENDA extends the basic civil rights protections that currently prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion and gender to GLBT workers. In other words, if you are an employer who is subject to civil rights laws, you can no longer fire someone –or refuse to hire someone–solely because s/he is gay or lesbian.

Although a number of Republican Senators voted against the measure, only one Senator took the floor to urge its rejection: Indiana’s own Dan Coats.

Coats says ENDA “violates religious liberty.”  And it is certainly true that the law would prevent people whose religions preach intolerance from acting on that intolerance in the workplace.

Coats is making the same arguments that were used by those opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and subsequent state-level civil rights laws. “My religion teaches that women should tend the home.” “My religion teaches that black people shouldn’t mingle with whites.” And of course, the ever-popular, “A law telling me I can’t disapprove of certain people and refuse to serve/employ/educate them is an infringement of my liberty to run my establishment as I see fit.”

Well, yes it is. That’s the price we pay for living in a system that strives for equal protection of the laws, a system that separates civil law from religious beliefs.

I first met Dan Coats in 1980, when we were both Republican candidates for Congress. (He won his race; I lost mine.) When he later ran for Senate, he asked if I would host a fundraiser for him, and I agreed. I hadn’t paid much attention to his record, however, and when I asked several female friends if they would attend, I got an earful about his positions on reproductive rights and other issues affecting women. (For younger people who may be reading this, I kid you not: before the party effectively became an arm of fundamentalist Christianity, the GOP used to harbor lots of pro-choice women. Honest. Google it if you don’t believe me.)

When I explained to Dan that his votes to make abortion illegal made him persona non grata to pretty much anyone I’d invite, he was gracious about it. But I’ve never forgotten his explanation: “this is a religious issue for me.”

There are two problems with this defense. First, my religion (and that of many other Americans) had–and has– a very different view of reproductive morality, just as today religious denominations have very different positions on same-sex marriage. And second, the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits people like Dan Coats or Rick Santorum or anyone else from using the law to impose their religious beliefs on those who don’t share them.

Coats is a perfect illustration of a phenomenon that drives me batty–the (apparently sincere) belief that if the law isn’t forcing everyone to live by his religious rules, he is the one being discriminated against.

Take that position to its logical consequences, and a diverse society could neither exist nor function. Dan Coats doesn’t have to like gay people, or Jewish people, or any other people. He doesn’t have to invite us into his private club, or invite us over for dinner. He does, however, have to share civil society with us.

And that, Dan, requires giving unto others the same rights you demand for yourself.

Speaking of morality, I would submit that an inability to understand that simple truth–an inability to respect the equal human dignity of people who differ from you– is a pretty significant moral failure in the view of most religions.

Recycled Politics

Indiana citizens aren’t making much progress recycling paper and plastic, but we seem to be leading in the reuse of old politicians. Evan Bayh is apparently preparing to run for Governor again, and in the race to replace him, Republicans want us to send Dan Coats back to Washington—a city he is intimately familiar with, having been there as a Representative, Senator, Ambassador and lobbyist.

I don’t know which is worse, listening to Bayh piously declare that he left the Senate because his sensibilities were offended by partisan sniping, or listening to Coats engage in it.

This is the point in the political cycle where it is nearly impossible to avoid 30-second spots in which Candidate A explains that Candidate B is unfit for public office, because—unlike Candidate A—Candidate B lacks “Hoosier Values.” Plenty of politicians employ these tactics and the empty phrases that invariably accompany them, and it may be unfair to pick on Dan Coats, but his ads are especially vacuous.

Here is a man who certainly should know something about policy. He’s been part of the legislature; a member of George W. Bush’s inner circle (he was even tapped by Bush to shepherd a Supreme Court nominee through the confirmation process) and most recently, a high-priced lobbyist. Yet his political ads are absolutely devoid of content; they consist entirely of labeling and name-calling.

The wisdom and adequacy of the new healthcare law is an entirely appropriate issue for debate and discussion. Coats clearly disapproves of the law, but he doesn’t tell us why. He just calls it “Obamacare” and “a bad idea.” What parts of it does he disagree with? Does it go too far? Not far enough?

In one ad, Coats says that support for the economic stimulus was a “vote against Indiana.” There is an overwhelming consensus among economists—conservative and liberal alike—that the economy would be immeasurably worse without that stimulus. If Coats disagrees, he doesn’t tell us why.  We are supposed to know the stimulus was “bad” because it is associated with “Pelosi, Reid and Obama.”  Should voters ask Coats how he reconciles his claim to fiscal conservatism with his support for the profligate Bush administration? These are not arguments; they are guilt-by-association smears.

As long as we’re recycling, I’ll resurrect the famous Wendy’s commercial question: where’s the beef?

The truth is that there isn’t any “beef.” Coats—and Bayh, if he really does run again for Governor—are useful to their respective parties because they have money and name recognition, not because they bring energy or new ideas to the table.  They have name recognition because they’ve been around for a long time—and have thus been part of the problem. They have money because they are old Washington insiders who’ve demonstrated an ability to play nicely with the vested interests. We can assume they have no new ideas, because they aren’t offering any.

I’ll recycle paper and plastic, but I draw the line at recycling old politicians.