By Times of Trenton Editorial Board
February 9, 2018

You know you’ve entered strange times when two respected heavy-hitters with opposing political perspectives feel impelled to form a task force to monitor the actions of their president.

The unlikely allies are Christine Todd Whitman, a former New Jersey governor, and Preet Bharara, the ousted U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who have put politics aside to launch the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy.

Their common fear rests on a sobering reality: President Donald Trump is turning the norms of accepted political behavior upside down, in the process destroying Americans’ faith in its leaders and its institutions.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law is launching the task force, whose goals are to strengthen ethics in politics; protect the independence of law-enforcement agencies and the courts; and ensure a robust independent press.

“Though the two of us are from different political parties, we both believe that now’s the time to ensure the president and all our public officials adhere to basic rules of the road,” the co-chairs wrote in an opinion essay last week in USA Today.

Now is indeed the time, when the man in the White House feels free to release classified documents to serve his personal agenda at the possible cost to national security. When he uses racist language to denigrate both his own citizens and the dignity of foreign nations. When he slanders the integrity of the FBI to hamper the investigation into Russian interference in our democratic process.

Even many of Trump’s fellow Republicans are belatedly coming to realize that these attacks on our foundational values are creating rifts that may swiftly be moving beyond repair.

It’s encouraging to hear a sane voice like Christie Whitman’s sharing these existential concerns.

In addition to serving as the Garden State’s only female governor, Whitman became administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush. She resigned after bitterly disagreeing with some of the administration’s policies.

Last year, she and another former New Jersey governor, Jim Florio, teamed with the League of Conservation Voters’ Education Fund to raise awareness of issues affecting climate change, public transportation, drinking water, land preservation and urban industrialization.

The task force Whitman and Bharara are co-chairing faces an enormous challenge: to codify norms and ethical standards that have gone by the wayside under Trump rule and GOP complicity.

They say they hope to have a blueprint ready by the summer. We hope that’s not too late.