This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Anyone who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States is bound by duty. Members of Congress take that oath, as do members of the military. My West Point training reinforced early and often the relationship between the concept of duty and my oath to support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
We were taught that duty would often be hard, and that it would sometimes bring us into conflict with friends and with popular modes of behavior. Nonetheless, accepting the obligation to carry out our duty to the best of our ability, even if it took us to the gates of hell, was the first consequence of holding up our hands and swearing to support and defend the Constitution of the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz's recent announcement that he intends to leave office early is equivalent to a soldier abandoning his post because he finds his duty too hard. This decision demonstrates the truth of what I told Chaffetz to his face during our debate last October: He is a man who puts his personal interests first, his political fortunes second and his duty to our country a distant third.
Chaffetz's duty as the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is critical to reinforcing the faith and confidence of the American people in their government during what is proving to be an administration beset by a host of legal and ethical concerns. His duty requires him to apply the same standard of scrutiny to the Trump administration that he was so eager to apply during the Obama administration. But Chaffetz lacks the character to carry out his duty when doing so carries political risk.
The Constitution outlines a system of procedural justice in which we are all to receive equal treatment under the law. Those taking an oath to support and defend the Constitution accept an implicit duty to apply the standards of the Constitution impartially. The standards apply to friend and foe alike. At West Point, we memorized something called Worth's Battalion Orders, which states: "But an officer on duty knows no one. To be partial is to dishonor both himself and the object of his ill-advised favor…. Look at him who winks at and overlooks offenses in one, which he causes to be punished in another, and contrast him with the inflexible soldier who does his duty faithfully, notwithstanding it occasionally wars with his private feelings. The conduct of one will be venerated and emulated, the other detested as a satire upon … honor."
Chaffetz's unwillingness to serve out the term for which he ran, and for which he was elected, is dishonorable. It is clear evidence that he lacks the moral courage to apply the same standard to Trump that he applied to Obama and Clinton, and he is running from his duty to do so. Should Chaffetz seek elected office in future, the people of Utah would do well to remember him as a person unable to perform the most basic duty of public service.
We cannot allow Chaffetz to spin his departure as anything other than the hypocrisy and moral cowardice that it is.
Stephen Tryon was Rep. Jason Chaffetz's Democratic opponent in the 2016 election. He is a retired Army officer and former senior executive at Utah-based online retailer Overstock.com.