Charles Featherstone has some provocative and interesting thoughts about the current crisis. In his piece, he quotes a novelist’s tweet:
Be advised America: you’re cheering for anonymous leakers trying to destroy an elected president. Can you see where that can go wrong?
— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) May 16, 2017
The very tools that made it possible to take down a bad emperor — Caligula — now make it possible to take down a good one, or even stake a claim to leadership based on sheer ambition alone. (Which would be Rome’s condition during the Crisis of the Third Century.) The series of military uprisings that led to the collapse of senatorial support for Nero, and the chaos that was rule in Rome, prompted the commander of the legions besieging Jerusalem, Vespasian, to return to Rome and seize power for himself. the Flavians and the Antonines would restore order, but like all things, it was not permanent.
If Van Buren is right, and the intelligence services are engaging in a slow-motion coup against President Trump, that should be a cause for concern. The intelligence community has become our Praetorian Guard, with the ability to make and unmake presidents. It has not been used yet, but there are an awful lot of people cheering for just that to happen. And once that weapon is unsheathed, for good and ill, and it will only be a matter of time before some ambitious soul realizes you can get and keep the presidency that way, instead of actually having to get elected.
As long as we’re in a Roman mode, the problem presented by the Trump situation brings to mind the historian Livy’s famous line about Rome, whose republican form of government had collapsed, giving way to imperial rule: “We have reached the point where we cannot tolerate either our vices or their cure.”