That said, it is the President's right to fire members of the Executive Branch. Like all of us without contracts, they are at-will employees who may be terminated for any reason. Civil service union contracts may provide some government employees with further employment protections - I'm not clear if Ms Yates was a member of such a union - but absent that it's expected that higher-ups are going to fire subordinates who order disobedience.
The rub, for me, is that there are better and worse ways of acting in the situation Ms Yates found herself in, and I think her chosen course was not the best. Generally, a high-level appointee (even acting) who disagrees with an order or policy should make that disagreement known internally, advocate for reversal or amendment of the position, and if that is not possible then resign. I am reminded of John Ashcroft's refusal - under duress - to re-authorize illegal domestic surveillance in the Bush era. Once outside the public service, that person should be free to voice their concerns, raise objections and awareness, and so on. If the law or order is unconstitutional it should not be followed, but in-house direct disobedience is likely not the best or only recourse. Even Edward Snowden, confronted with evidence of the most massive illegal program in history, appears to have used internal channels to voice his concern before taking more dramatic action.
Think back, if you will, to Obama's tenure. He had a couple of unusually public disagreements with ranking military officers who opposed his policies. Those generals were let go or resigned. Imagine a Democratic successor (*) faced with a subordinate Trump appointee who refused to implement an order re-funding family planning clinics. You'd expect that subordinate to be fired as Ms Yates was fired.
Long-time readers may recall that when the Democrats were in charge in Congress they moved to change the rules on filibusters. I said that was a bad idea and now in 2017 we find ourselves in a situation where none of Trumps awful appointees can be filibustered. Govern not as you would when in power, but as you would want government to operate when you are not.
I applaud Ms Yates's courage and principled stand. I wish more civil servants would find ways to oppose corrupt, harmful, and likely unconstitutional directives. But I am left ill at ease by her chosen course of action. Rights and values again.
(*) Michelle Obama 2020 - who's with me?
Cross-posted from Dreamwidth, at http://drwex.dreamwidth.org/942516.html. You can comment here or there.