Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Limiting Trump

Here are four out of a number of articles detailing how aspects of the governing system - both internal and external - are limiting efforts of the Trump Administration to quickly implement its goals.

I've mentioned in class that inertia is built into the constitutional system, here's proof.

1 - Lawfare: Bannon in Washington: A Report on the Incompetence of Evil.

Steve Bannon has proved himself to be so monumentally incompetent that I am fairly certain the Republic is safer than I could have believed three weeks ago, at least from Bannon’s flailing efforts to maximize whatever supposed contradictions he believes he has identified.
Bannon isn’t an arch-villain. And he’s not the guy who’s going to destroy American democracy. Instead, as I’ll explain, he’s just an internet troll.
Bannon’s ineptitude has become clear in the context of his role at the center of the refugee order’s botched writing and rollout—strangely, the same context out of which emerged the portrait of him as the sinister, all-knowing eminence grise. To paraphrase Benjamin Wittes, the executive order was both deeply malevolent and profoundly incompetent.
. . . it’s very hard to dismantle major democratic institutions without a certain degree of capability. The establishment of authoritarianism takes both effort and cunning. And I’m much less worried than I was that these folks have the kind of cunning and focus it would take to take down the American experiment.
And for that I say, thanks, Steve Bannon.

2 - Lawfare: The Real Constitutional Danger.

The real story in the last week, and indeed of the Trump presidency, is (as predicted) how well our constitutional checks and balances are working in reaction to an unorthodox, norm-breaking, law-indifferent President. It is increasingly clear that the main danger in a Trump presidency is not that it will be too strong, but that it will be too weak.

In November I argued that “the permanent bureaucracy, including inspectors general and government lawyers; the press; civil society; Congress; and courts … will operate in much more robust fashion to check President Trump than they did to check President Obama,” and that “Trump’s seeming indifference to the rule of law and his pledges to act unlawfully will cause the checking institutions to judge all of his actions with much greater scrutiny and skepticism.” That is precisely what has happened.

3 - Washington Post: In the early weeks of the new administration, the humbling of a president.


For Trump, nothing has proved as easy as it might have looked on the campaign trail, despite the flurry of executive orders and actions that flowed from his desk in the first days after the inauguration. He has signaled a radically different direction for the country, but only that. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s claim that Trump has accomplished more in a few weeks than most presidents do in their entire administrations should be seen as the fanciful boast that it is. The record is only beginning to be written.
The powers of the president are vast, but they are not unlimited. Trump has come face to face with the checks and balances built into the Constitution and with the difficulty of commanding a huge bureaucracy of federal workers who value their role as public servants. He has seen anew the power of a free press to dig and report and hold those in power accountable. He has felt the power and sting of leaks from inside the government. There’s nothing new about any of this. It has been true for past presidents. Trump is learning the lesson painfully.

4 - The New Republic: Donald Trump Is on the Ropes.

Trump’s obsession with the leakers, and those who are eager to publish these leaks, is consistent with his longtime political strategy of demonizing the press and professional bureaucrats. The leaking issue allows him to pair these two alleged foes as a united enemy—a characterization his base will no doubt devour—and also allows him to have his cake and eat it, too: He can bemoan the “illegally given” information on the one hand, and then claim it’s all “fake news” anyway. Further, this obsession is also consistent with his propensity for conspiracy theories. The very anonymity of leakers makes it easy to portray them as shadowy conspirators plotting against him.
This isn’t just a matter of rhetoric, though. It’s also a reflection of Trump’s approach to governing. He’s being undermined by leakers because he doesn’t know how government works, is isolated and alienated from the professional bureaucracy, and has been slow in appointing his own people to key spots. The result is an utterly chaotic, confused administration—and where there’s chaos and confusion in government, there are usually leaks, too.

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