It was a foregone conclusion that Trump would fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates, a holdover from the Obama administration, even if she hadn’t openly stated that the immigration ban was unlawful. The new administration gets to put their people in place; as the saying goes, they serve at the pleasure of the president. So it’s not a surprise; it was like Ms. Yates, who had planned to step down anyway, was making a point.
Yesterday some senior staff at the State Department put out a dissent memo in which they stated their disagreement with the Trump administration’s immigration ban. The dissent channel has a long history in the department of letting the Secretary and the president know what underlings felt without fear of reprisal. Now the White House, in the form of press secretary Sean Spicer, is telling them to go along or get out. Again, the president has the prerogative of having who he wants serve him and the department.
But purging people because they disagree with you isn’t a good idea. Certainly it’s not an ideal thing to do in a country that is supposedly founding on a free exchange of ideas and a free press, but it’s also a tactical mistake to surround yourself with nothing but yes-people who nod and smile and agree with you because they’re afraid of losing their job or because they know that the more they suck up, the more power might be thrown their way. That’s not how you run an alleged democracy.
It’s also a sign of weakness. A leader who surrounds himself with toadies and sycophants and demands fealty and an echo chamber is really saying that he doesn’t have the courage to hear a dissenting point of view or other opinions; they are brusquely dismissed as losers or traitors. My way or the highway works if you’re running a biker gang; it’s a really bad idea for a country.