The Back Road: Bonds of affection needed 150 years after Lincoln

The Back Road: Bonds of affection needed 150 years after Lincoln

By Andrew Malekoff

Miles Taylor faithfully served America during President George W. Bush and Donald Trump’s tenures as president. In his new book “Blowback,” Taylor includes an inspirational quote by Abraham Lincoln, delivered when the country was close to civil war: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

The subtitle of “Blowback” is “Warning to Save Democracy from the Next Trump.” Unlike his two anonymously published critiques of Trump, he signed his name to this one.

Taylor, 36, worked in Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. His “Anonymous” opinion piece was published in The New York Times on September 5, 2018. It was entitled, “I am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

Taylor’s story is told from the unique perspective of someone who, although not formally a whistleblower, blew the whistle on the Trump White House. Despite inevitable overlap with other accounts of the Trump years there were disturbing details, new to me, in “Blowback.”

For example, Olivia Troye, who served on the Trump White House coronavirus task force, recalled that “when we were in a task-force meeting the president said, ‘Maybe this COVID thing is a good thing—I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.’”

“Those disgusting people are the same people he claims to care about…who are still going to his rallies today, who have complete faith in who he is,” Troye later noted.

Taylor captured a few of Trump’s most loyal and trusted aides in disturbing conversation. For example, on the matter of migrant border crossings Trump Senior adviser Stephen Miller, who has been credited with devising the sadistic child-separation policy, asked then Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft “when a boat full of migrants is in international waters, they aren’t protected by the U.S. Constitution, right?”

“Technically, no, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at,” responded Zukunft. Miller continued true to form, “Tell me why then, can’t we use a Predator drone to obliterate that boat?”Zukunft was taken aback and responded, “Because, Stephen, it would be against international law.”

Taylor reported that according to former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, “when officials were watching a live feed of a raid against the leader of ISIS, Stephen Miller proposed beheading the militant, dipping his head in pig’s blood as an affront to Muslims, and parading it around as a warning.” Esper had to advise Miller that such an action would be a war crime.” Miller later denied that this conversation ever occurred.

At the core of “Blowback” is Taylor’s bold decision to openly push back against the disorder, duplicity and danger that he had been experiencing during his time in the Trump White House. The book is issued as a warning that a white-collar criminal organization aimed at deconstructing democracy continues taking shape.

The undertow of “Blowback” is the personal consequences Taylor faced when he decided to go public with his identity in 2020. Before that, there was secrecy and risk involved in launching the anonymous effort. Once he acknowledged that he was “Anonymous” he received threats to his physical safety, mental health, and overall well-being.

In addition to citing President Lincoln, Taylor invoked U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant who made a prediction 10 years after the Civil War. His prescient remark resonates today, almost 150 years later.

Grant spoke to what might happen if America was divided in two again: “The divergence wouldn’t be North vs. South. “The dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s, said Grant, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.”

And, here we are today.

Through his dissent Taylor challenges all Americans to find a way to restore the “the bonds of affection” that President Lincoln referred to that have become so terribly frayed.

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