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Opinion My letter of not quite resignation from the Trump White House

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn listens as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington in April. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Dear Mr. President,

I can say it in no uncertain terms: Everything this administration does makes me sick.

I am absolutely disgusted with everything going on the White House right now. Several times daily, I must run out of a meeting of the National Economic Council to vomit into a wastepaper basket. (Sometimes, weeks later, I am chagrined to discover one of these papers being presented as a policy proposal.) This cannot go on any longer.

Everyone has told me that I should resign. Random members of the media. My wife. People whom I did not even realize knew my name.

I am under tremendous pressure. I have done everything I can. I have privately described myself off the record as sickened and appalled. What more do you want from me? An actual letter of resignation? Well, I have certainly drafted one. I can draft another. Really I can do anything with a letter of resignation other than send one.

There are some principles, they tell me, that should not be sacrificed. But there are things more important than principles. There is also, of course, principal.

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How can anyone weigh these things? On the one hand, the president continually equates the KKK, white supremacists and neo-Nazis with those who protest against them. This is harmful and outrageous, and I have already denounced it in no uncertain terms, on background, to members of the media, through third parties!

But then, on the other hand, there is the theoretical possibility of passing tax reforms that might lower the base tax rate for corporations. They say, you can’t stand by while they attack your people and President Trump defends them. I say: Corporations are my people, too.

We must protect the most fragile and vulnerable among us. And if there is anything I have learned from the past decade of Supreme Court decisions, it is that the most fragile and vulnerable among us are corporations, whether national or multinational.

Charlottesville and the events of the past two weeks have been harrowing, certainly. But when I think of that little corporate tax cut, alone and friendless and just starting out in the world, my heart breaks a little. We have agreed to such a good policy skeleton, and not the kind of skeleton that you see on the helmets of neo-Nazis.

Think of all the corporation headquarters, lost and alone, on a hostile shore, when they could be here. I have to protect them from BATs and all other dark, unseemly things that fly in the night and steal away their profits. Who will protect the three big deductions? Who will kill the estate tax? Who will remove the death tax? If not me, then who? (Other, non-me people, probably. Fine.)

I go home to my family, and they hiss at me, audibly. I tell myself that they are just excited for the new Taylor Swift album, but in my heart I know they are not.

I don’t like what I see when I look in the mirror. So I have covered all the mirrors in my house.

In the wake of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, politicians question President Trump's response and ask whether he has the 'moral authority' to lead the nation through divisive times. (Video: The Washington Post)

There is a reason I have let every media outlet know — secondhand — that I am “disgusted” and “frantically unhappy” and, at this moment, drafting a stern and strongly worded letter of resignation. Because I intend to do nothing. Also, I love drafting letters and never sending them. It is very cathartic. You get to feel as though you’ve made a beautifully worded statement of moral principle, but then in actual reality you haven’t.

People say, there is no reason to remain in this administration. People say, you are complicit. People say, this tax cut for corporations is not worth standing by and letting Trump give cover and support to hate groups. Those people are right, but when I see that little tax cut so friendless and alone, something stirs within me. You have to weigh the definite losses against the hypothetical good that these things will probably do in an imaginary future. It’s called dynamic scoring, people!

Charlottesville was a wake-up call, sure. But the thing to do with wake-up calls, as I have learned over the course of years of business travel, is to mutter something vague and then go back to sleep.

One day, Trump will do something really awful. And on that day, I will also draft a very stern letter, which I will place into a drawer and not send.

My job needs me. My baby tax reform needs me. I understand Trump has already said and done a number of things that would have prompted prompt resignations from most people. But — I am not most people. And that is exactly who will benefit from my tax reforms: not most people.

Please, you have to understand: I don’t want to resign because of the awful things those neo-Nazis chanted. Or, more relevantly, because of the awful things the president said afterward. I don’t want to resign, in general.

Look, what would you like me to do?

I have done all the things you can do with a resignation letter, as I keep telling the media. I have drafted it. I have even printed it out one or two times. I have signed it. I have placed it on a desk.

Can you blame me? Yes. But you cannot blame me now. Today, I turn over a new leaf.

I am announcing that I am resigned. Not from the Trump administration, though.

To it.

The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri wants to make it clear she’s available for the job of White House press secretary. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)