Whoever holds the office of president of the United States wields enormous power, not only in serving as commander in chief of the world's most powerful military, but also as head of dozens of domestic agencies that influence the daily lives of every American. When George Washington took the first oath of office, he recognized the strength in the position and set the standard for all those who followed him by respecting the separation between personal goals and political policy.

Federal agencies do not serve as some kind of arrow in a presidential quiver, waiting to be aimed at something or someone that has angered the nation's top elected official. People would not stand for that from a governor or a mayor who uses a police force as a personal weapon, and they certainly should not stand for it when such a threat comes from the White House.

THAT'S WHY it is so disturbing to hear President Donald Trump call for the Justice Department to investigate the author of last week's anonymous opinion column in the New York Times that alleges a dysfunctional White House. The president has tried to claim the opinion piece constitutes treason, which it does not.

White House officials later said the president's call for an investigation was not a direct order but an expression of his frustration about the opinion column. No one could blame him for being frustrated, but calling for the use of a federal agency — especially the Justice department, which oversees the FBI, the nation's police force — to hunt for political opponents is just wrong. No one wants to live in fear of a knock on his or her door just because an opinion has angered the president.

Americans heard a reminder of a similar situation Friday when John Dean, former Counsel to the President for President Richard Nixon testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

WHEN IN THE White House, Dean contributed to Nixon's infamous "enemies list." Nixon can be heard on tapes at the time talking about going after political enemies and asking "how can we use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies."

On Friday, Dean warned committee members. "There is much to fear from an unchecked president who is inclined to abuse his powers. That is a fact I can attest to from personal experience."

Dean's testimony serves as a reminder for all Americans that federal agencies were created to serve the people, not stand as a threat to them. Let's hope cooler heads within the White House ensure agencies will maintain their independence.

— Commercial News, Danville, Illinois

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