The press has done a lousy job of protecting American freedoms in recent years. But I have a modest proposal for improving press performance: Elect a white male Republican.Keep reading.
When Bill Clinton was inaugurated as president, actor Ron Silver, then a Democrat, was there. And when fighter jets flew over the Lincoln Memorial, he was reportedly at first upset at the military symbolism, but then reminded himself that since Democrat Clinton was being sworn in, ”those are our planes now.”
We’re seeing something of a reverse-version of this phenomenon as large swathes of the commentariat realize that we might wind up with a President Trump. Suddenly, sweeping executive power (fine with many under President Obama) is being portrayed as a possible threat to the republic. Which, to be fair, it is. But only now do they care.
At National Review, Charles C.W. Cooke poses this question to folks on the left: “Has Donald Trump’s remarkable rise done anything to change your mind as to the ideal strength of the state?”
A sensible view is that we might not want the government as a whole, and the president in particular, to possess more power in general than we would be willing to allow when our political enemies were in power. Because experience demonstrates that, just as for Ron Silver “their planes” became “our planes” when the White House changed hands, so too “our president” becomes “their president” when it changes in the other direction.
But while that view might be sensible, it doesn’t seem especially common. Though a few people are evenhanded on executive power — law professor John Yoo, for example, who supported sweeping antiterror policies under both President Bush and President Obama — most seem to regard stretched authority as necessary and proper when a president of their party does it, and as an imperial presidency when the other party does.
Here’s a hint: It’s the imperial presidency pretty much all the time.
But it’s nice to see the prospect of a Trump administration reminding folks on the left of this, particularly as the journalist and pundit classes are dominated by lefties. It’s terrible, we’re told, that Trump is issuing veiled threats to journalists — though Obama joked about auditing his enemies, seized journalist phone records and threatened a journalist who refused to reveal sources with imprisonment. Trump would be a warmonger, we’re told, although in fact Barack Obama has been at war longer than any other U.S. president, if without any particular success. Trump would arrogantly ride roughshod over any opposition, though Barack Obama famously used “I won” as an excuse to ignore opponents and bragged that he had a “pen (and) a phone” to bypass congressional disagreement. (And he’s used them a lot.)
Many of the journalists and pundits who see Trump as the next imperial president were silent over these Obama actions. Like Ron Silver with his fighter jets, they saw Obama’s envelope-pushing as fine because it was by their own president...
A lot of my students this semester wrote their papers on President Obama's DAPA (Deferred Action on Parents of Americans) program, in which the White House issued executive orders granting work permits and preventing deportations for at least 4 million undocumented migrants. The case is before the Supreme Court, which is tied 4-4 and likely to uphold the lower court's ruling against the administration (striking down the unilateral executive amnesty). Students to the one supported DAPA and wanted the high court to sustain Obama's executive actions. None of them considered what might happen if the shoe was on the other foot, if a President Trump had the same unchecked executive power on U.S. immigration policy. In theory, a President Trump could use those same sweeping executive powers to reverse Obama's DAPA (and DACA, Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) and begin rounding up illegal aliens for deportation. Students looked positively glum when I posed that possibility to them. But no one said they didn't want Obama to have those powers. American politics is completely tribalized, all the way down to the low-information (non-voting) students at community college.