President = dictator?

Hyperbolic?  A little.  But, sadly, only a little based on the absolutely preposterous arguments Republicans have been making in support of their hopelessly corrupt president.  I’m sure there’s lots of really good takes on this, but for now, Jonathan Bernstein is handy and his take is really good:

The president’s lawyers moved closer than ever to simply embracing the idea that the president can do whatever he wants. Alan Dershowitz even went so far as to argue that since presidents always think that their re-election is in the national interest, they cannot be legitimately impeached for any use of their powers of office to aid that re-election. This would have been good news for President Richard Nixon. And surprising news to pretty much everyone throughout U.S. history. [emphases mine]

It appears more and more that even if the House managers serving as the impeachment prosecutors are eventually allowed to call one or more witnesses, the trial will end after establishing the principles that the president may use the powers of the office any way he or she wishes to without constraint, and that presidents will no longer have any legal obligation to submit to congressional oversight. 

That said, future Congresses will still have plenty of weapons to use to fight back against presidential misbehavior. And it’s true that impeachment has never been a particularly strong congressional weapon. But now it will be weaker. Presidents will be emboldened, and the norm that the president’s party will exercise absolute fealty to the Oval Office, which has been building since the 1980s, will be even further strengthened.

The Republican Party, meanwhile, has fully surrendered to its least responsible members; not just Trump, but the worst of the House Freedom Caucus and its allies in the Republican-aligned media. There was a defense of the president available that involved accepting the overwhelming evidence that he had tried to use the powers of his office to force the government of Ukraine to help his 2020 re-election campaign, and declaring it not quite up to the level of impeachment and removal. Instead, the president’s team, with the support of most Republican senators and the apparent willingness of the rest to go along, staked out wild constitutional positions, used their time to throw mud (including flat-out falsehoods) at former Vice President Joe Biden and anyone else who gets in their way, and generally disgrace themselves. 

Believe me, I get the power of partisanship.  I get the power of power.  I get the power of electoral incentives.  But, damn, I have to admit I have nonetheless been surprised at Republicans’ willingness to utterly trash our constitutional system in support of this petty, incompetent tyrant.  Okay, I think that also means I don’t get the power of those things after all.  Or I just underestimate humans ability to debase themselves.  Ugh.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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