What Makes A Nation Great — Part II

I began this three-part series with yesterday’s post in which I listed some criteria that, in my view, are in large part what makes a country great.  Let’s take a look at how the United States stacks up on some of those …

We have a right to vote, but those who live in poor or minority neighborhoods may find it hard to do so, for polling places may be prohibitively distant, or the hours shortened such that the working person hasn’t the ability to get there.  Restrictive voter ID laws are more likely to disenfranchise poor and minority voters. We’ve seen, in recent months, how hard our ‘leadership’ fights to deny us the right to vote by mail during this pandemic year.  Polling places on college campuses where voters may be more ‘enlightened’ are shuttered.  And, due to gerrymandered districting, every vote is not equal.

A series of Supreme Court rulings between 1990 and 2010, most notably Citizens United v FEC in 2010, made it possible for large corporations and lobbyists to contribute nearly unlimited amounts of cash to political campaigns.  Many of our politicians are in the pockets of various industries, notably the fossil fuel and gun industries, such that the decisions they make in the legislature are not necessarily in the best interests of the people of the nation, but rather of those who pay big bucks to keep them in office.

The U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of powers, a system of three equal branches of government and the responsibility of each to keep the other two honest.  Our legislative branch, Congress, has become so divided by political party that Congress is deadlocked on most every bill.  Checks on the executive office were proven to be null and void on February 5th when the U.S. Senate voted against the evidence, against their collective conscience, and acquitted a ‘president’ who is guilty of crimes far greater than any who came before him.  Even the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court, is largely divided by loyalty to party.

As for an investment in shared infrastructure … think Flint, Michigan, and the water crisis that began in 2015 and continues to this day.  Need I say more?  More than a few times, states have been threatened with the withholding of federal funds if they didn’t accede to the wishes of the ‘president’.

And justice?  Let’s talk a minute about justice.  If you are Black, Muslin, Hispanic, or Native American, or poor, you might as well leave the room, for the justice that applies to you is different than that which applies to white, wealthy people.  Justice is for the wealthy in the United States of 2020.  Justice is for the friends of William Barr and Donald Trump.  I will pay a heftier price for a minor traffic violation than corrupt government officials will pay for robbing the citizens of this nation of millions of dollars.

Internally, we have a government that is doing everything in its power to deny affordable health care and education to its populace.  We have a government in favour of denying assistance to those in need.  We have a head of government who is racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic.  We have a government that is prejudiced against thinkers, prejudiced against so many groups that I cannot name them all.  We have, today, the wealthiest government in our history, yet their concern for our well-being is next to nil.

What makes a nation great is how well it functions for all the people, not just the few who are wealthy and powerful.  This nation fails that test miserably.  Our government favours those in large industries, gives them tax breaks, while 90% of us struggle to put food on the table, pay the rent/mortgage, and clothe our children.  Our government literally worships wealth and tells its citizens that the wealth of the 1% will somehow “trickle down” to them.  It doesn’t … never has … never will.  The prices of food, housing, and other commodities rise, but our wages do not rise at an equivalent rate, for the wealthy decided they needed to add another zero to their investment portfolios.  No, my friends, this is not what makes a nation great.

A great neighbor helps their friends in time of need.  We, instead, have largely abandoned our allies and instead have cozied up in bed with those bullies who would see the world relegated to only two or three great superpowers.  Our allies needed our help in such things as the Paris Climate Accords, World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iran nuclear agreement … and we turned our backs.

A great neighbor takes care of its home, its neighborhood. They don’t throw their trash into their neighbor’s yard, but that is exactly what we are doing. Science has proven that we are destroying not only our own environment, but that of the entire planet.  Oh, the planet will go on, but much of life on earth will not.  We had only just begun, by 2017, to make inroads in controlling the CO2 we put into the atmosphere, and the amount of plastics and other garbage we put into our landfills and ultimately the oceans that belong to all nations.  Now, all the regulations have been ditched in favour of … again … profit for the few, and we are the pariah of the world for our lackadaisical response to climate change.

In the midst of a deadly worldwide pandemic, our government has told us lie, stacked upon lie, stacked upon lie.  The scientists warned governments early on, yet ours chose to tell us that it was nothing, nothing to worry about, nothing to see here.  The lies added up until today we account for over 26% of the world’s cases of the coronavirus, though we have just over 4% of the world’s population.  And still, our leaders are lying to us, telling us it’s nearly over (it isn’t, not by a long shot), and urging us to put ourselves and our children at risk to grow an economy, though it may cost us our very lives.  The scientists, the medical experts, are being criticized, demeaned, and their voices stifled by a government more concerned with remaining in power than with our lives.

The United States has the highest level of income inequality of all the G7 nations.  The median black household income is only 61% of that of the median white household.  The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, where it has been since July 24th, 2009.  More than eleven years since the minimum wage was raised!  Meanwhile, many of the wealthiest in the nation pay taxes at a far lower rate than the middle-income earners, if they pay taxes at all!  In 2016, the CEOs of the top 350 U.S. firms earned on average $15.6 million.  The annual average pay of the typical American worker, by comparison, was $58,000.

There are other factors, of course, that could be considered, but I think that you can see by this assessment what a long way we have before this country can be considered ‘great’.  Given the divisiveness within our society today, it becomes obvious we are not successfully addressing our problems … a contented nation has no need for hatred and violence.

However, lest you think I am blind to what is actually good in this nation, I will have a third part to this series to talk a bit about the positive, what keeps us from being one of those “shithole” countries, and why there is hope for us yet.  So, I hope you’ll stay tuned for that!

Discord & Dissension – Part IX – The Courts

Today, Jeff has outdone himself on Part IX of our project, Discord & Dissension — The Courts. Many people don’t give much thought to the courts as a rule, but Jeff shows us just why it is so very important to consider the impact a president can have on the Judiciary. Thanks Jeff … this one is a real eye-opener!

On The Fence Voters

Now that Super Tuesday is behind us, and we’re down to a two-person race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, it’s time to start thinking about what it’s going to take to get out the vote. If yesterday is any indication, with massive turnout all around the country, it’s apparent that defeating Donald Trump is on everybody’s mind. But it can’t be the only reason.

Jill and I began our project several weeks ago, and it’s still evolving. But, we’ve indeed entered a new phase in the campaign to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. And today, with Part 9 in our series, I’m going to discuss a subject that rarely gets covered, especially in Democratic circles: The Courts.

And, in my view, it’s time for both of our Democratic candidates to start addressing how important it’s going to be to not only win the presidency but also take back the…

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Mad As Hell! (Part I)

Okay, folks, I’ve had enough.  All day, there has been a slow burn building up and it’s just about to ‘splode, so hold on to your hats.

Today will be the first official day of the Impeachment Trial of one Donald F. Trump.  This is a serious affair, for Mr. Trump has abused the power of his office, has utterly failed to uphold the Constitution he took an oath to uphold, has used the office of president for his own personal gain, and in so doing has put the entire nation at risk.  He has already, and will remain throughout history, a dishonoured, impeached president, but now it is up to the U.S. Senate to decide whether the evidence is sufficient to convict him, thereby removing him from office and protecting the nation from further atrocities.

Now, if the Senate carefully reviews the evidence, listens to witness testimony, and then decides to acquit Trump, I will be disappointed, but I will not scream from the rooftops.  But, as of this writing, it appears that there will be no such thing as a fair and honest trial, as impartial judges, and We the People will not be served.  First, as I reported previously, Senator Mitch McConnell said he would conduct the trial according to the wishes of the White House, and Senator Lindsey Graham blatantly said he had no intention of being fair and impartial, but that he had already decided to acquit Trump.

The “White House” sent its first ‘legal brief’1 yesterday, all 171 pages, signed by twelve of the attorneys representing Trump.  171 pages!  Twelve lawyers!  I found it highly interesting to note the name of Jordan Sekulow as one of the signers of the document.  Jordan Sekulow is the son of Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer.  Both Jay and Jordan are talk radio show hosts, as well as lawyers.  The document begins with the Executive Summary that starts …

The Articles of Impeachment now before the Senate are an affront to the Constitution and to our democratic institutions. The Articles themselves—and the rigged process that brought them here—are a brazenly political act by House Democrats that must be rejected.

Rigged???  Sounds just like something coming out of Trump’s mouth, doesn’t it?  A dozen lawyers and this is how they start a 171-page legal brief?  But more importantly are those last three words, “must be rejected”.  The document goes on to urge senators to “immediately” acquit the president of the charges that will be formally presented at his trial that starts in earnest this week, even before hearing evidence or testimony!  Trump’s legal team, led by White House counsel Pat Cipollone, wrote that Trump “did absolutely nothing wrong” as it accused the House Democrats who impeached the president of attempting to overturn the results of the 2016 election and “to interfere in the 2020 election.”  SAY WHAT???

“The only threat to the Constitution that House Democrats have brought to light is their own degradation of the impeachment process and trampling of the separation of powers.”

Trampling of the separation of powers.  Now, isn’t that funny, coming from the lawyers representing the ‘man’ who has refused to allow congressional oversight time and time and time again.  This from the ‘man’ who ordered an assassination of a high-ranking foreign general without cause and without bothering to mention it to Congress.  This from a ‘man’ who forbade people both within and outside the administration from answering congressional subpoenas.

I am not a lawyer … I took a few Constitutional Law classes during my post-graduate studies, but I am in no way an expert.  Still, I know bullshit when I hear it, I know that these guys, under other circumstances, in a fair and honest trial, wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting their client off.  But, these are not other circumstances, and this is not at all likely to be either a fair or honest trial.

The seven House members who will be prosecuting this case submitted a 9-page response2 … nine pages to respond to 171 pages.  Tells you that a) most of the 171 pages were just what I said, bullshit, and b) the House members have better things to do with their time.  The response begins …

The American people entrusted President Trump with the extraordinary powers vested in his Office by the Constitution, powers which he swore a sacred Oath to use for the Nation’s benefit. President Trump broke that promise. He used Presidential powers to pressure a vulnerable foreign partner to interfere in our elections for his own benefit. In doing so, he jeopardized our national security and our democratic self-governance. He then used his Presidential powers to orchestrate a cover-up unprecedented in the history of our Republic: a complete and relentless blockade of the House’s constitutional power to investigate high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

President Trump maintains that the Senate cannot remove him even if the House proves every claim in the Articles of impeachment. That is a chilling assertion.

It is, indeed, a chilling assertion. Any other president in the history of this nation would have been tried, convicted, and escorted out of the White House, probably in handcuffs by now for the many abuses of power Trump has committed, both before his election and since taking office.  Any other president would have been impeached and removed from office after the release of Robert Mueller’s report last year.  But, no other president in the past 233 years, not even Richard M. Nixon, has abused the office of the president in the many ways Trump has.  Since he has gotten by with it thus far, he seems to believe that he is invincible.

And maybe he is, since he has rid the government of those with morals and integrity, surrounding himself with characters who have little experience to qualify them for their jobs, but are slavishly dedicated and loyal to Donald F. Trump.

One more thing …

In the event that at least four republican senators vote to hear witness testimony, Trump’s lawyers and sycophants in the Senate are preparing a “Plan B” to ensure that John Bolton will not be allowed to testify, or that if he does, his testimony will be kept from the public.  Another abuse of the power of the office, another denigration of the separation of powers.  I hope … I sincerely hope that John Bolton has the cojones to give an interview to the New York Times or another credible media outlet and tells all.

If you have any remaining illusions that this is still, as Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”, you’d be wrong.  This is a government of, by, and for the wealthiest few people in this nation, including Donald F. Trump.  We the People are NOT being served, but rather are being royally screwed.

White House legal brief

House Prosecutor’s response

A Chef Who Cannot Cook?

What would you think of a bartender who has never mixed a drink, or a chef who has never cooked a meal?  Or how about a judge who has never tried a case?  All pretty unqualified for their jobs, wouldn’t you say?  Oh wait … or how about a president who has never read the Constitution, who has lied, cheated and stolen, and who has never held a government position?  Seems we’re on a roll here, folks!

But, my point today is the third one … a judge who has never tried a case.  That would be Judge Steven Menashi, whom the Senate just confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.  Let’s look at a summary of Menashi’s experience …

  • In 2001, Menashi earned a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College.
  • He then worked at the Hoover Institute for three years as a public affairs fellow and an associate editor of the institute’s Policy Review.
  • From 2004 to 2005 he was an editorial writer for The New York Sun.
  • In 2008, he graduated in 2008 with a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School.
  • He served as a law clerk to Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit during the 2008–2009 term, and to Associate Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 2010–2011 term.
  • From 2011 to 2016, Menashi worked in the New York City office of Kirkland & Ellis, where he became a partner.
  • From 2016 to 2017, Menashi was an assistant professor of law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
  • In September 2018, Menashi moved to the White House to become a Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President.

Th-th-that’s it, folks … the sum total of Mr. Menashi’s career in eight short bullet points.  Never sat on a judicial bench, never tried a case … and now he’s a lifetime, high-ranking judge.  Well, I think I’ll just run for U.S. Senator next year … I’m as qualified for that as Menashi is for a judgeship!

Menashi

Steven Menashi — what a look, eh?

But this is an interesting appointment and sped-up confirmation folks.  You see, his confirmation hearing was on September 11th, more than two months ago, and there were objections from both sides of the aisle, in part because he refused to answer their questions regarding the role he played in shaping the Trump administration’s immigration policies.  Another point of contention was about an article he had written in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law about ethnonationalism and Israel.

In addition, Menashi has a history of speaking against women’s rights, as well as LGBT rights.  And, when he was sent a letter by the Senate Judiciary Committee asking about his knowledge of Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Menashi refused to respond.

It is interesting, as well, to note that on Wednesday, the same day the Senate invoked cloture, putting an end to further debate about Menashi’s nomination and forcing a vote, a federal appeals court ruled against Trump’s claim that his financial records should remain closed, upholding last week’s ruling by the very court Menashi has been confirmed to, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.  Perhaps if Menashi’s confirmation had not been held up for two months, he would have already been on the bench last Monday, November 4th, and Trump might well have won his case.  Think on that one for just a minute.  As it is, he is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, begging them to ‘shield’ his tax returns being released.  In other words, begging the Court to affirm that he is, in fact, above the law of the land.

Trump’s argument was that U.S. presidents are immune from investigation while in office. A district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled against him, saying that the subpoena was proper and that the president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, must comply.  If there is any integrity left on the Supreme Court, they will rule in favour of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and against Trump’s desire for secrecy and dishonesty.  Don’t hold your breath.

Another seemingly unqualified nominee, Lawrence VanDyke, who Trump nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  His confirmation hearing was held on October 30th, and the Senate is expected to decide on his nomination on November 21st.

VanDyke

Lawrence VanDyke

A couple of things go against Mr. VanDyke … he has taken an anti-LGBT stance in the past, and initially refused to state that he could and would be fair to LGBT people who came before him in the courtroom.  The second thing is that the American Bar Association (ABA) has rated him “not qualified”.  As there is some dispute about the fairness of the ABA rating, and I haven’t as yet had time to do sufficient research, I will withhold my judgment, but just warn that this is one we should keep an eye on.

Since his inauguration, Trump has been stacking the courts with ultra-conservative candidates.  As of November 14, 2019, the United States Senate has confirmed 162 Article III judges nominated by President Trump, including 2 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, 46 judges for the United States Courts of Appeals, 112 judges for the United States District Courts, and 2 judges for the United States Court of International Trade.  Only a relative handful have been rejected by the Senate, or are on hold pending further consideration.

The U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of powers between the three branches of federal government, it calls for a system of checks and balances to ensure no one branch oversteps its bounds, and it calls for the Judiciary Branch to be non-partisan and independent of the other two branches.  More and more, that independence seems to be slipping away, just as do the separation of powers and the checks and balances.  There are enough boot-lickers in both branches of Congress to ensure that almost no legislation is enacted … and now, it appears there may be enough in the judiciary to ultimately ensure that Trump will, indeed, always be above the law.

Funny, isn’t it, how Mitch McConnell blocked so many of President Obama’s nominees, the most notable being the nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the shoes of the late Antonin Scalia?  Ah well, I guess if you’re rich and powerful, you don’t need to be fair and just, but can make your own rules, eh?

Constitutional CHAOS!!!

There is a reason the U.S. Constitution calls for three separate branches of the federal government.  It is called oversight.  It is called separation of powers. It is called checks and balances.  The framers of the document were particularly sensitive to the possibility of a leader attempting to take too much power and turn the presidency into a monarchy, so they designed a system of government to prevent such an event.  Donald Trump is the personification of their fears.

On 27 January, Trump signed an executive order implementing a ban on people arriving from seven Middle-Eastern, primarily Muslim countries.  His order was ‘effective immediately’, with no pre-planning, no discussion with others who might have foreseen the secondary effects of the order, and no warning.  Thus, many were affected by the ban that were already in the air on their way to the U.S.  The result was total chaos at the airports, mass protests, and confusion among customs personnel who had not been briefed ahead of time.

One must question the sense of urgency with which this ban was implemented and the reason for it.  To the best of anybody’s knowledge, Trump’s order was not prompted by any identifiable or specific threat.  So why wasn’t the time taken to meet with intelligence experts and others to assess the wisdom of the ban, likely immediate ramifications, and ways to cut down on the backlash if it was deemed necessary?  Why?  Because Trump remains, as I said many months ago, the Man-Who-Would-Be-King.  Now we are seeing the results of his impetuousness and those results are disastrous.

On Friday night, 3 February, Federal Judge James Robart halted the enforcement of Trump’s order, effective nationwide. Robart, ruling in a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Washington state and Minnesota who sought to stop the order, said the states “have met their burden of demonstrating that they face immediate and irreparable injury as a result of the signing and implementation of the Executive Order. “ He said the order adversely affects residents in areas of education, employment, education and freedom to travel.

Trump, naturally, was enraged that Judge Robart had the unmitigated gall to defy him, and took to Twitter:  “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” And … “When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety &.security – big trouble!” And … “Interesting that certain Middle-Eastern countries agree with the ban. They know if certain people are allowed in it’s death & destruction!” And … “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?”

Lawyers for the Trump administration immediately requested a federal appeals court to overturn Judge Robart’s ruling, but the appeals court declined to do so.  Instead, the appeals court set a schedule asking challengers to the ban to file a response by 3:00 a.m. on Monday, and the Justice Department — representing the Trump administration — to reply to that by 6 p.m.

And still more tweets from the grand poobah:

“Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”

“The judge opens up our country to potential terrorists and others that do not have our best interests at heart. Bad people are very happy!” 

Something interesting to consider:  What if Trump decided not to recognize Judge Robart’s authority? According to Daniel P. Franklin, a professor at Georgia State University, the ultimate arbiter would be the other branch of government. He said Trump could be held in contempt of court, and it would then be up to the House of Representatives. [Contempt of court], in my opinion, is a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’ in the meaning of the Constitution, and he would be subject to impeachment,” Franklin said. “Whether or not the House of Representatives would see it that way is another question. It is at that point their call.”  Joel Nichols, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas: “The key to whether court orders are going to be obeyed isn’t about what President Trump does, but about how the judges respond to noncompliance and whether other non-Trump players decide to obey their orders. I think that some federal judges would be willing to issue a contempt order against [Trump], but I’m not sure they should or would, and they don’t need to. They only need to issue specific orders about laws and regulations, and then hold other government officials in contempt for not following the court order.” It’s all very hypothetical, but Trump’s rhetoric — not just about the judge’s decision, but the judge’s actual authority — and his apparent desire to press his case for his own authority suggest it’s not out of the question.

Again I ask:  why the sense of urgency??? We have not had a travel ban to this point, and unless I am grievously un-informed, there is no new looming threat hanging over our heads. If anything, Trump has made the country less safe with his poorly constructed, poorly considered executive order. I call on Congress and the Judiciary to stop this madman from imposing dangerous and harmful orders that can only damage this nation more than he has already done.

Amid all the chaos, turmoil and confusion, it is easy to lose sight of the most damaging result of Trump’s ill-conceived order:  the lives of refugees.  In the midst of the chaos, there appears to be no accurate data regarding how many people have actually been turned away, but the estimates range from 60,000 to 100,000. We call them ‘immigrants’, ‘refugees’, or ‘asylum-seekers’, but in truth, they are human beings.  HUMANS!  Just like you, just like me.  They are mothers and fathers trying to keep their children safe.  They are people who have lived through the horrors of a war that most of us cannot even begin to imagine.  And they are being bounced around like ping-pong balls by the government of this nation, a nation that once proudly welcomed all people. I am deeply ashamed of the so-called president of this country, deeply ashamed of any who support this ban.  To those who argue that Trump is merely trying to keep the nation safe, I would ask the question: safe from whom?  Our greatest threat today comes from within.  Think about it.

The Man Who Would Be … King?

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.” –  Albert Einstein

“Dictatorships lock up the opposition, not democracies.” – Stanford University Professor Michael McFaul

“It smacks of what we read about tin-pot dictators in other parts of the world, where when they win an election their first move is to imprison opponents.” – Michael Chertoff, a former federal appeals court judge who also served as the secretary of Homeland Security and head of the Justice Department’s criminal division

“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers.” – Randy E. Barnett, Georgetown University Law Professor

 

From the outset, the Republican National Convention in July was more about Hillary Clinton than it was about Donald Trump.  T-shirts reading “Hillary for Prison” were sold outside the venue, Governor Chris Christie led a crowd in a ‘trial by mob’ and later dedicated his entire speech to accusing Clinton of numerous ‘wrongs’, and throughout the convention the crowd could be heard chanting “lock her up”.  Since Ms. Clinton has not perpetrated a crime that would warrant her going to prison, one must assume that the Trump campaign, realizing Trump himself had no merit, determined their strategy must be to make his opponent appear to be evil, a criminal, a bad person.  Not a single one of Mr. Christie’s accusations involved illegal activity, but rather policy decisions.

This is not the first time Trump has threatened to undermine the Constitution.

  • “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.” – Donald Trump, February 2016, threatening to override the 1st Amendment
  • “Well, I’d probably appoint people that would look very seriously at her email disaster because it’s a criminal activity, and I would appoint people that would look very seriously at that to start off with. What she’s getting away with is absolutely murder. You talk about a case — now that’s a real case.” – Donald Trump, March 2016, when asked whom he might name to the Supreme Court
  • “I didn’t think I’d say this but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it, but if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception, there has never been anything like it and we’re going to have a special prosecutor. Because you would be in jail.” – Donald Trump, October 2016, 2nd presidential debate

Trump has made more shocking, seemingly worse statements before, but this one is a statement that we might expect of an autocrat, a dictator, rather than a presidential candidate. In a democracy, we do not jail our political opponents simply because they are opposed to us.  But, we ask ourselves, would it be possible for him to do the things he has threatened to do?  Could he actually circumvent the law of the land and exchange it for the law of the Trump?

Under federal regulations, special prosecutors are appointed in sensitive cases where senior officials may have a conflict of interest. The rules empower the attorney general, not the president, to make the appointment, but Mr. Trump is unlikely to name an attorney general who disagrees with him. Some time ago, I predicted that Governor Christie endorsed Trump in exchange for a promised slot in Trump’s administration, most likely Attorney General.  I am more convinced than ever that this is the case, and it is obvious, based on his convention speech, that an AG Christie would do precisely what Trump demands. Presidents also effectively exercise ultimate authority because they can fire cabinet officials who refuse orders. So yes, Trump could, as president, ensure the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails, or anything else he claimed to be questionable.  But, could he actually imprison her?

Hugo Chávez, came to power in Venezuela in 1999 by arguing that elites had corrupted Venezuela’s democracy. Rather than strengthening institutions, he took their power for himself and persecuted opponents, all while riding a wave of populist support. According to Sheri Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard College in New York, “Our institutions are strong enough to prevent him from doing anything truly horrific.”  Professor Berman went on to say:

“The rhetoric alone is extremely dangerous, because it undermines people’s belief in our democratic institutions and process. What’s really dangerous here is taking people who are already disaffected or alienated, and making them believe that democratic institutions either don’t work or only work for people in power.”

The U.S. Constitution has a built in system of ‘checks and balances’, a three-branch system consisting of the Executive (president), Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court) branches.  This system is intended to effectively ensure that no single person controls all aspects of government, no single person can become an autocrat.  While the system has been tested before, it always held up, but how strong it it?  Is it strong enough to prevent a Donald Trump from changing our “government of the people, by the people, for the people …” into a government of, by, and for Trump?

The question, then, is not only in the matter of his persecution of Ms. Clinton, but in other matters that seem to exceed his constitutional responsibilities, could he actually achieve his objectives through unilateral actions?  George W. Bush and President Obama have both expanded the presidential powers through executive orders, agreements, and proclamations, each for valid, yet different reasons.  Bush had 9/11 and the imminent threat of terrorism, and Obama had a Congress who blocked him at every turn.  Trump has already promised to rely on executive orders to take action on immigration, energy and environmental regulations, trade issues, tax policies and numerous foreign policy matters. He has also promised to undo many of Obama’s executive orders. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about executive power is that there is nothing to stop a president from initiating action, even if unconstitutional. The consequences — whether legal or political — come after the fact.

If Trump issued an executive order to ban Muslim immigrants, the directive would stand unless and until checked by Congress or the courts. Congress can pass legislation to overturn an executive order, or through its power of the purse, it can refuse to provide funding. Federal courts can place an injunction on an executive order (as was the case earlier this year regarding Obama’s executive order to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation), or declare a presidential action to be unconstitutional. Public opinion can also turn against a president, as can support within the president’s party, and both can have electoral consequences. Would any of this deter Trump?  Of course not!  Remember that this is the man who said he could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody without losing any of his supporters.  This is the “man who would be king”.

As for Hillary Clinton, if Trump were elected I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have his Attorney General appoint a special prosecutor.  I do not believe it would go any further, as there is simply no evidence of any illegal activities, and either way, she would have the best lawyers and any case brought against her would drag out long past the end of Trump’s reign of terror.  However, there are still two things to consider:  a) the cost of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, and b) the precedent it would set of seeking revenge against political opponents.  Perhaps the best solution for that scenario is for President Obama to eliminate the threat by pre-emptively pardoning her before he leaves office in January.

A Trump presidency has the potential for danger and destruction of our democratic system as we have known it.  Especially if he were to have a supportive Congress.  It is a risk we cannot take.  It is rather like donning leaky oxygen tanks to go deep-sea diving, saying “I think they will hold air well enough.”  Or driving on an empty gas tank, or … well, you get the picture.  But instead of affecting only one or two people, next month’s decision will affect over 300 million people for decades, if not centuries, to come.