My fellow history nerds may recognize that the title of this article is a play on the message that Admiral Chester Nimitz sent to Admiral “Bull” Halsey during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in World War II. But in some ways, the comparison may be apt.
The bill that became known as “The Russia, Iran and North Korea Sanctions Act” was passed by an overwhelming and completely veto-proof vote by Congress in July, 2017. Trump reluctantly signed the bill, while at the same time proclaiming
“I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President I can make far better deals with foreign companies.” [ABC News Oct 27, 2017]
The White House was given a deadline of October 1, 2017, to report to Congress its implementation of the status of the sanctions required by the legislation. That deadline passed.
Then on January 30, 2018 – a full six months after passage of the sanctions – the Treasure Department finally released the required list of Russian Oligarchs. But as Leonid Bershidsky reported in The Bloomberg Report, this list they complied relied solely on the Russian edition of Forbe’s Magazine’s listing of the top 100 wealthiest people in Russia. He calls it a “disgrace.” The article is well worth your time reading, but it should be noted that conspicuously absent from the list of Russian Oligarchs is one Vladimir Putin.
The delaying tactics and pitiful response to the Russia Sanctions bill raises some serious questions.
First, in his oath of office, Donald Trump, like every President before him, repeated the words defined in the Constitution “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
One of the responsibilities of the Executive Office is to execute or implement the laws passed by the Congress. Presidents don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will or will not enforce. Granted, some laws are enforced with less enthusiasm than others, but they cannot simply be ignored by the President or the executive branch. If they believe a law is unconstitutional, then the Department of Justice is fully capable of arguing that before the Supreme Court. The DOJ has taken no such action.
Second, why have the Republican leaders of Congress, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, said nothing on this non-enforcement? Remember this was legislation that was passed by a vote of 98 to 2 in the Senate and in the House by 419 to 3. That level of bi-partisan support is unheard of in recent years. Yet it is only the Democrats who are demanding answers.
Third, why is the press giving Trump and the Republicans basically a “pass” on this issue? With any other president, regardless of party, they would have been trumpeting this these missed (ignored) deadlines from the rooftops.
Returning to the initial analogy in this article, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, a critical battle for the Japanese as well as the Americans, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey had gone off on a wild goose chase, taking much of the U.S. fleet with him. Admiral Nimitz, the commander of the Pacific theater for the Navy, had understood that Halsey was only sending a small force northward, not his entire Task Force.
Much like Trump, Halsey was essentially missing in action. Had it been a lesser well-known commander, he would probably have faced a court martial for dereliction of duty. After receiving a desperate plea for assistance from Admiral Kincaide, Nimitz sent the following message to Halsey
“Where, repeat, where is Task Force 34?” The words “the world wonders” were added as a cryptosecurity measure to thwart Japanese code breakers. However, the words were left in the decoded message that was delivered to Halsey.
But it would be apt to add those words today in a message to Donald Trump:
“Where, repeat, where are the Russia Sanctions? The world wonders.”