A Lack of Faith

Yours is disturbing.
The lengthy recitations of large numbers of perfectly objectionable presidential statements about Muslims coexist with a bunch of other textual indicia showing not merely that the judges doubt Trump’s secular purpose but that they doubt the good faith of his purpose at all—indeed, that they suspect that he is simply lying about his own motivations....
Imagine a world in which other actors have no expectation of civic virtue from the President and thus no concept of deference to him. Imagine a world in which the words of the President are not presumed to carry any weight. Imagine a world in which far more judicial review of presidential conduct is de novo, and in which the executive has to find highly coercive means of enforcing message discipline on its staff because it can’t depend on loyalty. That’s a very different presidency than the one we have come to expect.

It’s actually a presidency without the principle that we separate the man from the office. It’s a presidency in which we owe nothing to the office institutionally and make individual decisions about how to interact with it based on how much we trust, like, or hate its occupant.
Left-leaning judges now feel about the President the way that conservatives did after Lois Lerner, in other words: we no longer trusted a word of their explanations about their conduct, but believed our eyes about what their real intent and purpose was. One of the reason that the email scandal dogged Clinton so much was that the IRS has already burned the bridges of public trust on mysteriously-vanishing email records, inexplicable failures to back up servers as required by both law and contract, and an administration-led legal process that somehow just never found anyone accountable even when it couldn't avoid admitting that something had been done wrong.

That's how you got Trump in the first place. Congress wouldn't step up and do anything to stop this stuff, so people on the right picked someone who seemed unconstrained by norms of civility or honor.

A failure of respect for the institution of the President will be followed, almost immediately, by a failure of respect for the office of judge. Those positions cannot function without respect, except through the raw exercise of power. And power, frankly, doesn't get you all that far. It's a very big country to try to rule by force.


Elise said...

I read the article you linked and I read/skimmed some of the earlier LawFare article (What Happens When We Don’t Believe the President’s Oath?). My question for the authors is the same as it was for the people urging the Electoral College to reject Trump; those writing about using the 25th Amendment to get rid of Trump; hoping for some type of coup; etc. That is, what do you think is going to happen as a result of what you are advocating? Do you think the voters who elected Trump are going to watch him be not elected, declared unfit, overthrown, or constantly blocked by judges, and just shrug and say, "Oh, well, never mind?"

I do not know if the people who are refusing to accept the results of the Presidential election:
1) do not understand what they are doing;
2) understand and don't care; or
3) understand and welcome the idea of a country in which the peaceful transfer of power is just a memory.

jaed said...

Left-leaning judges now feel about the President the way that conservatives did after Lois Lerner

I wouldn't say that. I didn't trust him to be straightforward, particularly, but that's been true of me with other presidents, and was true before the Lerner thing came out. However:
- He was still the president, duly elected;
- As such, he had certain legal powers of the office;
- It was legitimate for him to exercise those powers within lawful limits.

Left-leaning judges—if these are representative—feel that none of these things is true of Trump, if I am interpreting their decisions accurately. That bears no resemblance to how I felt about Obama at any point.

Now, someone might very well disagree with this EO, but it is within his Article II powers, and is moreover supported by legislation explicitly authorizing him to do what he's doing. When the president is acting in an Article II matter, with congressional authorization, he's at the acme of his power. It is very difficult for the courts to overrule a president in such a matter while staying within the Constitution. I wasn't willing to throw out the Constitution to thwart Obama, no matter how destructive some of his policies were. I don't remember others being willing to, either.


Elise, my impression is that the people saying and doing these things—with more or less sophistication of expression, from the judges to the people still hoping that a fairy godmother will come and tap Hillary with her magic wand somehow—have such a strong feeling of rightness about their politics that it is almost inconceivable that any reasonable system would not put those politics on top, and therefore any system that fails to do so is ipso facto not legitimate.

For them, losing the Presidency to someone who repulses them in the way Trump does is already tantamount to anarchy, so losing the Constitution doesn't seem any worse. They don't care about the consequences—at least emotionally they don't care—because the worst has already happened and we're now in a post-apocalyptic situation. They may understand perfectly well, intellectually, that government is still operating, no one's been atom-bombed, and we're not all mutants wandering a radioactive wasteland, but their emotional set is one of disaster.

At least that's my impression: that they're thinking with their emotions, and their emotions are still shock and horror at the unthinkable, even months after the election.

Grim said...

Your points are valid, Jaed. I only meant that, following Lerner, there was no remaining trust that he or his were acting in good faith in these controversial matters.

Elise said...

Jaed, I agree they are thinking with their emotions but the lack of concern over consequences/backlash seems extreme. Supposedly the Left is convinced that Trump voters (and even Trump non-opposers) are bad, bad people who all have guns. Yet the Left also seems to think that treating Trump not "as a real president" but rather "as some kind of accident" who "is not quite the President of the United States" will not trigger (heh) a serious/dangerous response from those who support (or do not vehemently oppose) Trump. I suppose it's the same kind of logic employed by those who scream loudly that Trump is crushing their right to scream loudly that Trump is crushing their right to scream loudly.

Or perhaps it's simply what Megan McArdle said recently in a different context:

Americans have a sort of privilege, a blindness to how wrong things can go in a country, because we live in one of the oldest constitutional republics in the world.

The next time a friend on the Left tells me that Trump is going to destroy the country, I'm going to say what I'm thinking: The danger to the country is not from Trump; the danger is from those who refuse to accept that Trump is, in fact, "quite the President of the United States."

jaed said...

I was thinking this morning that maybe this is our fault.

Because after the 2000 election, they delegitimized Bush in the same way. It was mostly rhetorical at that point, and there was little institutional attempt to prevent him from exercising the powers of his office. (That might be because it was earlier in the process, or it might be because he had Washington experience by proxy through his father, who would have known where a lot of the bodies were buried.)

But the rhetoric was extreme, unprecedented, and widespread. "Selected not elected!" was a popular chant. People protested at his inauguration, which I don't remember happening before. The delegitimization was relentless from the morning after the election to...

... September 11, 2001, come to think of it. When it finally seems to have dawned on people that he was all the president we had, and perhaps it was not a bright idea to undercut him. That event hit something of a reset button on the rhetoric.

But up until then, it was not all that dissimilar to the things people have said about Trump. And nothing bad happened as a result. Conservatives pushed back, but in a polite, diffident fashion. The government didn't stop functioning. Civil peace didn't break down. Protesters were accommodated.

We didn't make them aware that what they were doing could have very, very bad consequences.

So perhaps these people are thinking that they did this before, and it was OK, so maybe it's fine to push it farther. Trump is, after all, a Republican, and delegitimizing Republican presidents is just what good Americans do, right? There couldn't be any danger involved. After all, the country didn't break down last time they did this.

Ymar Sakar said...

so people on the right picked someone who seemed unconstrained by norms of civility or honor.

That was a mere 33% of Trum's faction support. Democrats, moderates, and others made up the rest.

Ymar Sakar said...

And power, frankly, doesn't get you all that far.

Death is a good tool to use to rule over mortals and those weaklings who bow down to Authority on Earth.

Genghis Khan specialized in that.

Using death to coerce immortals and those who are promised eternal life in return for loyalty and service as a vassal, is not something governments can easily undercut.

Humans believe their power structures will last forever, that they are the ultimate force in the verse.

Elise said...

Actually, Jaed, I was thinking about this kind of from the opposite end of things. That is, the Democrats with the Obama Presidency did a lot of overreaching (in my view) and while there was a lot of unhappiness, no one really pushed back. So maybe Democrats/the Left believe that there won't be any push back in response to further over reach on their part. If this is the case, I think what the Left has failed to realize is that the safety valve for the unhappiness with the Obama actions was Republicans/the Right knowing that a Presidential election could change things. If the Left is not willing to accept a change in party/policy following an election there is no longer a safety valve for those on the Right.

With regard to your argument, I'm not sure what else Republicans/the Right could have done to make the Left aware that delegitimizing Bush was dangerous. It may be that the only way to make that clear involves actions that are out of bounds if one wants to have any hope of a peaceful civil society. And warnings about possible consequences of such delegitimization seem always to be interpreted as threats (or wild-eyed dooomsday-ism). So I'm not sure what course is open to those who would like to turn down the fire under the pot of political conflict and would like to convince the "not my President" contingent to do the same.

Grim said...

Death is a good tool to use to rule over mortals...

Indeed, I should think it would only be of any use with mortals.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ jaed - I think you have hit on something about some of Trump's opponents, such as the judges noted here. They believe that events are so dire, the country so near collapse, that they are willing to risk even the Constitution to "restore sanity." Well, some of Trump's eventual supporters felt the same way, though "electing one suspect politician for four years" is less extreme than "ignoring the Constitution." It may seem more extreme symbolically, but the downstream effects are smaller. Some acts of presidents can be rapidly undone, as we are seeing.

They are panicking because their tribe is in danger of not having so many places of honor (and places at the trough). They are not well able to distinguish between their danger and the nation's. This is true of political types in general. When someone tells us that "this is the most important election of our lifetimes" it is often true - for the person saying it. Their career may be in shambles if they or their candidate don't win.

jaed said...

It's not even that "things are so dire", I don't think. It's that Trump is doing them. It's not a reaction to the actions but to the man. (I realize this cuts against my comparisons to Bush. I'm not sure how to reconcile that—still thinking it through.)

Megan McArdle remarked in horror upon Trump's statement to the effect that he would appeal the ruling made by "this so-called judge", on the occasion of the restraining order against his first EO. Now, that's not exactly bowing and scraping, but "it was a bad ruling, but we'll appeal and meanwhile abide by it" is hardly earthshaking. And yet Megan was terribly shocked:
blatant disrespect for a co-equal branch of government raises the fear that Trump will attempt extra-constitutional actions that courts will be forced to thwart [...] undermine or openly defy the judicial system. [...] profoundly undermines not only the Constitution, but the centuries of common-law tradition that preceded it [...] egregious violations of our constitutional tradition
(Don't even ask how upset she was over Trump's saying that Nordstrom's was treating his daughter unfairly by dropping her clothing line in response to boycott threats.)

Now, this reaction strikes me as near-unhinged; I'd consider it kind of nuts if it were coming from Salon, for heaven's sake. It takes the most uncharitable possible reading, and then makes it worse than even an uncharitable reading will support. And McArdle is normally cool and analytical, and is not a flaming lefty by any means. I have a hard time imagining her reacting this way to a similar four-word comment from any other politician or any other president—she might purse her lips a bit at the lack of manners, but she wouldn't be fearful that it heralded the breakdown of the Republic.

But since it's Trump, everything is different. A cool head is not necessary, and neither is sticking to the facts, and neither is a reasonable reading of the text. Panic is mandatory. Electing a politician who is widely disliked and a loose cannon is not even in the same solar system as discarding the Constitution. And yet we have people close to saying that since we did the first, the second is not such a big deal: if we have to get rid of the Constitution to thwart Trump from doing things he has the legal power to do, well, then the Constitution is well-lost.

I'm still coming to terms with the idea that so many influential countrymen of mine feel that way. As is probably obvious. It's my own unbelievable-but-all-too-real post-apocalyptic scenario, I guess.