2016 Election • America • Congress • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Healthcare • Political Parties • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers

Repealing Obamacare Could Spur Much-Needed Bipartisanship

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Republicans should just REPEAL failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate,” President Trump tweeted last week. “Dems will join in!”

Much as so many Americans like to denigrate the president’s freewheeling Twitter commentary, in this case I believe he is on to something. His advice, if followed, could be a game changer in terms of both healthcare and the toxic political environment we find ourselves in. Let me explain.

Now, I do not discount the possibility that Senate Republicans will ultimately pull themselves together and vote to pass a comprehensive plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Remember, the House of Representatives had enormous difficulty in passing a similar bill, but it got done. That it was hard work should come as a surprise to no one. Every congressman and senator is holding out for the best possible deal, as he or she sees it. That’s just political gamesmanship. No one should dismiss the possibility, therefore, that the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare simultaneously will still succeed.

But, supposing that “repeal and replace” really is dead in the water, Trump’s plan for repealing now and replacing later has considerable merit.

Of all its potential advantages, though, I want to concentrate on only one: repealing Obamacare now, and presenting Democrats with a fait accompli, is the best way to confront them with the fact that Obamacare really is dead, and starting over is a necessity. It is thus also the best way to convince them to participate in creating a new and better health care plan.

Any conservative will tell you that getting rid of Obamacare has been a necessity, in terms of the national interest, for a long time. That may be true. Politically, though, Democrats are under huge pressure from their fanatically Leftist base to preserve the existing law, for a number of reasons: it is part of President Obama’s (tattered) legacy; it expands access to health care for many Democratic constituents; and, philosophically and practically, it expands government, and what Leftist doesn’t jump for joy whenever government swells in size and power?

Not surprisingly, every Democrat in the House and Senate has so far voted against the Republicans’ bills to repeal and replace Obamacare. Whatever they may think of Obamacare itself, and some must realize its manifold flaws, politically they cannot afford to anger the Democratic base, which loves Obamacare.

But imagine if congressional Republicans followed Trump’s advice and voted to repeal Obamacare in a way that takes effect in, say, 2019 or 2020. Trump would sign the bill, and instantly the political landscape would change.

No longer could Democrats portray their obstructionism as a defense of Obamacare. Obamacare would be history. Democrats and Republicans alike would thus have to turn the page and ask themselves: after Obamacare’s demise, what comes next? Surely, something would come next. It could be something hammered out by Republicans, working alone, no doubt with great difficulty but with a sense of urgency, since Americans do expect some assistance from the federal government in meeting their health care needs.

But it’s much more likely that, instead of Republicans working alone to replace Obamacare in the next two or three years, responsible, moderate Democrats would join them. They would want to put their stamp on “Trumpcare,” as it may eventually be called, and the Republican leadership is likely to welcome Democrats to the table, because passing a replacement health care plan would be immensely difficult, as it has been up to now, without bipartisan agreement.

The long-term result of following Trump’s advice on health care, therefore—of repealing now, and replacing later—may be not only better health care but conducive to more bipartisanship in Washington, something that has been depressingly rare ever since the contentious Clinton years.

Simply put, the shibboleth of Obamacare, alternately adored and despised by millions of Americans, will have been obliterated, and freed of that mythical construct we will all see health care with fresh eyes. Democrats and Republicans may even find that, in cobbling together a new plan, they are in agreement much of the time on what needs to be done. (That, frankly, is already the case.) For those who think this is pie in the sky, consider all the Democrats who voted to confirm various Trump nominees, including Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. That is a beginning, but much more can be done.

Sometimes, to make progress after a long period of deadlock and recrimination, the old conversation needs to be set aside and a new one begun. Trump’s tweet suggests how this could be accomplished, and how Congress and the president can start governing again. It’s worth a try, is it not?

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

Administrative State • America • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Government Reform • Healthcare • Political Parties • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • The Leviathian State

Restoring the Republic Means Reimposing ‘Regular Order’

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

The Republican congressional leadership’s failure to repeal Obamacare has led to suggestions that, perhaps, they should have approached their task through “regular order.” Since Congress has not operated under “regular order” at all since 2006, and with decreasing frequency in the decades before that, younger readers, especially, may be excused for not knowing what these procedures are. Far from being arcane ephemera, they are the indispensable catalyst that makes American government responsible to the people. Casting aside “regular order” was essential to the rise of the unaccountable administrative state and the near-sovereignty of party leaders, lobbyists, and bureaucrats.

Herewith, a summary of what “regular order” means, what purpose it once served, why and how it was shunned, and of what has ensued.

More than a half century ago, Daniel Berman’s college-level text, A Bill Becomes a Law, the template for K-12 civics courses, described more or less how Congress had operated since the 1790s. Bills introduced in House or Senate would be sent to the relevant committee, and thence to the proper sub-committee. The ones thought worthy—including those funding the federal government’s operations—would be the subject of public hearings.

The committees’ partisan majorities and minorities would try to stage manage the hearings to make the best case for the outcomes they desired on each point. In the process, public support would strengthen or wane for particular items and approaches. Then, each subcommittee’s public “mark up” of its portion of the bill would reflect the members’ votes and compromises on each item.

Once the several subcommittee products had made their way to the full committee, the same process would repeat. Votes on contested items, and on the whole bill, would end the full committee’s “mark up” and send the bill to be scheduled for action on the House or Senate floor.

Just to get to this point, every element of every bill had to be exposed to public scrutiny. Senators or congressmen on the committees offered amendments and had to vote on the record for each part of the bill. On the House floor, amendments would be limited. But in the Senate, there could be—and often were—“amendments by way of substitution.” By the time the “yeas and nays” were tallied on the final bill, just about all members had had as much of a crack at it as they wanted. The final product would be the result of countless compromises “on the record.”

In 2017, it is useful to recall that this process used to apply to each and every government activity that required a dollar from the U.S. treasury, each and every year. For the past 11 years, however, all the money drawn from the treasury have come from single “continuing resolutions” (CRs) or “omnibus” bills, drafted in secret by “leadership” staffers, executive branch officials, and lobbyists, on which there have been no hearings and which few members have ever read, and on which few if any amendments have been allowed. These “Cromnibuses,” served up as the government runs out of spending authority, end up being passed by the majority party’s near unanimity.

While this is consistent with the Constitution’s words, “no money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law,” it wholly reverses their intent. Individual congressmen and senators are cut out of the legislative process. The voters can no longer hold each accountable. When Republican leaders make common cause with the Democratic Party against Republicans who won’t go along, whom they accuse of “shutting down the government,” they create a bipartisan ruling party. That makes both parties equally responsible, and ensures that changing your vote from D to R or R to D won’t make a difference.

Senators and congressmen abandoned regular order because it hinders their craving for power and flight from responsibility. Voters elect them to vote accountably on important matters. But since such matters are almost inevitably divisive, they do their utmost to avoid voting on them.

Associating with the pleasant and avoiding the opposite, they prefer exercising influence and making compromises privately. Regular order had forced them to be small-r republicans—alone, responsible to the voters. They prefer to be safe, indistinguishable, comfortable among courtiers.

Regular order’s death came about in this way. For over a century, congressmen and senators’ procrastination had pressed legislative business into the last weeks before the end of congressional sessions. Members had noted that they could slip items into bills in frenzied times, which would not have survived regular order’s scrutiny. In the 1970s, some committees started to procrastinate on purpose, so that the end of the government’s fiscal year would come without an appropriation for one or more department of government. The Appropriations Committee would then prepare a “continuing resolution” to substitute for the uncompleted appropriations. These were supposed to just “keep thing going next year as in the previous year,” thus avoiding all issues. At the very least, they obviated whatever major changes anyone might want to make. But it was never that simple: from the beginning, these CRs always had riders. The more influence you had, the more you could slip into the CR.

This proved to be catnip for politicians. Party leaders grasped the more that legislation was done by continuing resolution, the more influence they would have on their members. Presidents—and above all their bureaucrats—saw that direct, private contact with the CR drafters was a far more effective means of getting their way than through “regular order.”

The Democrats’ control of the Senate and Harry Reid’s control of the Senate following the 2006 elections changed American government radically. In fiscal years 2007 and 2008, by preventing any committee from producing any appropriation bill for any government agency, Reid made sure that all of the U.S government’s business would be compressed into one CR, the contents of which would be negotiated strictly between himself and President George W. Bush, whom Reid had over the proverbial barrel. Between 2009 and 2015, the same tactic yielded a federal government that was the “cosa nostra” of Harry Reid, Barack Obama, and Nancy Pelosi.

The crumbs for which Republicans scrambled in those years were enough to addict their leaders to the new way of American government. Envying Reid and Pelosi, they yearned to imitate them. Hence, when John Boehner replaced Pelosi as Speaker of the House, his vow to enforce “regular order” amounted to nothing. Same for Paul Ryan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since 2015 has been a Harry Reid wannabe—minus the competence, plus the pretense.

Understanding the Republican leadership’s addiction to government without regular order is all too easy. We have so much to do. We have tools to do it expeditiously. Why not use them? This, the standard procedural argument for Progressivism, is as valid today as it was when Woodrow Wilson made it in the 1880s.

In fact, Reid and Obama used these tools effectively. But neither Donald Trump nor Mitch McConnell possess the personal or ideological purposefulness to match their predecessors. Most important, while Reid and Obama enjoyed wholehearted support from the bureaucracy, the media, the corporations, and so forth, Republican congressional leaders get only opposition from the establishment.

Merely holding the line against the establishment’s continuously mounting claims on the rest of America—never mind reversing them—will require re-involving the American people in their own business. That means restoring Congress as the American people’s primary representative institution. Making Congress work according to regular order, and only through regular order, is a prerequisite.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Intelligence Community • Law and Order • Republicans • Russia • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Leviathian State • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

Mueller’s Investigation Must Be Limited and Accountable

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

How much goalpost moving should be tolerable in the Trump-Russia collusion investigation?

Remember, we started with an allegation that the Trump campaign may have been complicit in the Putin regime’s “cyber-espionage”—i.e., the hacking our intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian government operatives carried out against email accounts tied to Democrats. The investigation took a more serious turn last week, when it was revealed that Trump campaign officials met in June 2016 with a suspected emissary of the Putin regime. Yet, there is currently no basis to believe that meeting had anything to do with hacking. So, while the meeting warrants investigation, the original allegation is no closer to being proved.

Of course, it is certainly possible for a political campaign and a foreign government to engage jointly in unsavory behavior that does not rise to the level of crime. The less objectionable the behavior, however, the further afield we would be from the egregious allegation that prompted the investigation in the first place. Unless one is a rank partisan whose goal is to damage the president (rather than hold him accountable for actual, significant wrongdoing), this should be a matter of concern. Investigations are debilitating. They erode an administration’s ability to govern.

The investigation is a moving target because of its slippery vocabulary. It has been discussed and analyzed through the prism of “collusion” and “counterintelligence.”

When we think of an “investigation,” the connotation is a criminal proceeding—crimes, penal law, grand juries, subpoenas, warrants, arrests … prosecution. In that thicket, the terms “collusion” and “counterintelligence” are outliers. The former is a vague term that blurs the legally salient lines between mere association and conspiracy—that is, the difference between innocence and guilt. The latter is an unnecessary term: a counterintelligence investigation is an information-gathering exercise designed to divine the intentions of foreign powers to the extent they bear on American interests; a criminal investigation, by contrast, is an evidence-gathering exercise designed to build a prosecutable case that a specified person has committed a suspected penal-law offense.

The Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016, between Trump campaign figures and suspected Russian agents illustrates our difficulty.

In the criminal law, our sights are trained on conspiracy, which makes things easy. A conspiracy is an agreement to commit a violation of law. If Smith and Jones have a meeting, it is of no concern to the police unless the meeting is for the purpose of, say, arranging a heroin shipment or robbing a bank. It is the criminal offense that is the objective of the meeting, and nothing else, that makes the meeting relevant.

To speak in terms of collusion rather than conspiracy—as the Russia investigation coverage often does—only confuses matters. Contrary to what you may have heard from sundry “strategists” and “analysts,” collusion is neither a crime nor a term that has a legally consequential meaning. The word has a pejorative feel, especially in the last seven months. But literally, all it means is “concerted activity.” That could be criminal or noncriminal, sinister or benign.

Thus, if we insist on asking about “collusion” in the context of a criminal investigation, we’re really asking two questions: was there any concerted activity between two or more people, and, if yes, what was the precise nature of the activity—i.e., collusion in what?

That is where we are at with respect to the Trump Tower meeting. In light of the Donald Trump, Jr. emails and the meeting that followed them, it makes little sense to me to claim there was no “concerted activity.” Yet, the “in what?” question remains vital.

In an ordinary federal criminal case, if the “what” is not a felony, there is no cause to investigate further. Here, of course, we are not talking about an ordinary criminal investigation. The president is involved. Our standards for presidents are higher than whether an indictable crime has been committed. They involve fitness for the high responsibilities of the office. Since there is now indisputable proof of some kind of concerted activity between Trump campaign staff and potential Russian operatives, it is worth focusing investigative attention on the exact purpose of that activity and the nature of the relationship.

Nevertheless, a counterintelligence investigation is the wrong vehicle for such an inquiry. It is not designed to investigate wrongdoing. Its purpose is to collect intelligence in order to understand a foreign power’s designs and to predict its behavior. It is forward-looking, whereas criminal investigations are retrospective. It seeks to assess, not to prove. As such, there are no natural limitations on the investigator’s warrant; it is completely open-ended.

The lack of jurisdictional confines exacerbates a problem that exists in every special counsel investigation: the assignment of a prosecutor with prodigious resources to probe a single target (or set of targets) with a mandate and a high incentive to make a case if there is one to be made.

In an ordinary prosecutor’s office, a lawyer is assigned to investigate, say, a suspected fraud crime. The assignment is finite. Depending on the complexity of the fraud scheme (most are not that complicated), the prosecutor and the police working on the investigation know what kind of evidence are looking for. They will either find it or not in relatively short order. If they find it, the case is indicted; if they do not find it within a reasonable time, the case is closed. The office has lots of cases and cannot afford the luxury of too much time and resources spent on any single one.

To the contrary, a special counsel such as Mueller, has only one case to worry about—he can pour into it all the resources at his disposal into it. The only solace for an investigative subject in such a heavy-handed arrangement is that the prosecutor is supposed to be looking for something specific. The regulations for assigning special counsels when the Justice Department is beset by a conflict-of-interest call for there to be a basis for a criminal investigation—a specific, suspected crime—before the special counsel is assigned.

To make the special counsel investigation a counterintelligence investigation eviscerates this modicum of protection and investigative discipline. Mueller has virtually unlimited resources, one set of targets to focus on, and no jurisdictional restrictions.

This is how it becomes so easy to slide from hacking conspiracy to “collusion” in something (who knows what?), to obstruction of the limitless investigation, to whatever crimes Mueller and his swelling staff of notoriously aggressive prosecutors might reasonably suspect . . . or creatively imagine.

It is fair to observe that there was more interaction between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian regime (including Putin’s oligarch cronies) than the president and his subordinates acknowledged. Even if that interaction is unrelated to Russia’s cyber-espionage, the nature and extent of the relationship merits investigation.

But an investigation of a president necessarily compromises an administration’s capacity to govern. That can harm the country. Therefore, the investigation must have parameters.

The applicable regulations make it incumbent on the Justice Department to specify what exactly a special counsel is authorized to investigate. The Justice Department has failed to do this, a dereliction that must be rectified. Complying with this requirement would not prevent special counsel Mueller from seeking an expansion of his jurisdiction were he to discover behavior that warrants additional investigation. But limits must be imposed.

If they are not, there is no telling where the probe will wander, how long it will take, and how paralyzing it will be. And that does not serve the country well.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Russia • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

The Russia House: Pope or Kafka?

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Not the Pope, Francis the anti-American environmentalist Jesuit. No, I mean Alex, the 18th-century English poet.

Here’s my question: Is the whole Russia-meddled-in-U.S.-election/Donald-Trump-colluded-with-Putin-to-snatch-the-presidency-from-its-rightful-owner,-H.-Clinton narrative an example of what Pope talked about at the beginning of The Rape of the Lock?

What dire Offence from am’rous Causes springs,
What mighty Quarrels rise from trivial Things . . . 

Or is Kafka’s book The Trial a better entrée into the fevered and surreal swamp that has Democratic, and not a few Republican, heads exploding with conspiratorial visions?

Poor Josef K.: there was no crime, there wasn’t ever even a trial, only a suffocating atmosphere of menace populated by malevolent state actors: clean, well-dressed chaps who show up at your front door and take you away—There! Was that Max Boot and Gabe Schoenfeld? Or maybe Ralph Peters and Richard Blumenthal and Robert Mueller? In this light it’s so hard to see. But they’ve latched on to the fellow—Josef., Don Jr., whatever—and you know how it ends: “the hands of one of the gentleman were laid on K.’s throat, while the other pushed the knife deep into his heart and twisted it there, twice.”

I don’t think it’s going to end like that. I think the whole RussiaRussiaRussia “investigation” will end as did the world in T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men,” not with a bang, but a whimper. It is like Gertrude Stein’s famous judgment of Oakland, California: there is no there there. All there is is foaming-at-the-mouth hysteria.

Foam: The other day, the former news outlet CNN devoted 93 percent of its morning show to RussiaRussiaRussia.

But what’s the news? Are you ready? Here’s the stop-the-presses revelation that has the credulous classes in a swivet: In June 2016, Donald Trump Jr., having been pinged by Rob Goldstone, a British-born “entertainment publicist” (really: look him up), met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who claimed to have incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Oh my God, can you believe it? And just like Hillary Clinton—oh, wait, I mean unlike Hillary Clinton—Don Jr. released the relevant emails leading up to this awful meeting in Trump Tower. On June 3, Don Jr. wrote back to Goldstone saying “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

My, how the anti-Trump press pounced on that. There’s the smoking gun, all right: “I love it”! Can you believe it? According to Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.), former vice-presidential aspirant, “To meet with an adversary to try to get information to hijack democracy: the investigation is now more than just an obstruction of justice investigation; it’s more than just perjury; it’s a treason investigation.”

Treason, mon ami! You know, like what Benedict Arnold or the Rosenbergs did.

Don Jr. meets with a Russian lawyer—who, curiously, got to the United States courtesy a special pass from the Obama administration—and that’s treason? Yes! According to Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) “these emails are a textbook example and evidence criminal intent that is potentially a violation of the espionage act, yes, treason.” Poor Blumie. But then, he is clearly delusional. Remember, he is so far gone that he thinks he served in Vietnam, but as even the New York Times acknowledges, he didn’t.

The other day, my friend Andy McCarthy, casting his eye over the Russia mess, wrote a sober piece explaining the ins-and-outs of impeachment. He pointed out, inter alia, that impeachment is a political remedy, not a legal one. That is, impeachment is first of all a safeguard against an individual’s violation of a public trust: incompetence, maladministration, “the misconduct of public men,” as Hamilton put it: “the abuse or violation of some public trust.” By that standard, I’d say that both Tim Kaine and Richard Blumenthal might well have committed impeachable offenses, groundlessly accusing someone of treason in their hysterical efforts to hobble the Trump presidency and repeal the 2016 election.

But Donald Trump? Or Don Jr.? He, together with Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer and a Russian-American lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin. He took the meeting because a seedy PR guy said they had compromising information about Hillary Clinton. As it turns out, they didn’t. Too bad, of course, but it didn’t really matter since Hillary Clinton was a walking compendium of opposition research against herself. The private email server, the 30,000 erased emails, the shadowy money-laundering scheme known as the Clinton Foundation . . . really, it is quite a tale.

Let me summarize my thinking about this whole preposterous narrative.

1) Vladimir Putin is a bad guy. He has journalists who criticize him murdered and does other nasty things. He also regards the United States as a rival if not an enemy and he does what he can to thwart our interests.

2) Donald Trump knows this.

3) Trump also knows that, in this imperfect world, one has to deal with people and countries that are not our friends, including Putin. It would be better, as Trump said during the campaign, to get along with Putin than not.

4) This means that people like Ralph Peters and Max Boot, who are triggered like Pavlov’s dog by the sound of Putin’s name, have taken leave of their senses. If you don’t believe me, watch how they perform in their conversations with Tucker Carlson. Really, their loved ones should be worried about their sanity.

5) There are people working on the campaigns of all presidential candidates who engage in opposition research, i.e., digging up dirt on their rivals. Unpleasant, but true. Mitt Romney presented a difficult case because he is a supremely decent man, always has been. But that didn’t stop the hyena press from saying he was like Hitler and shouting from the rooftops that he had once teased a kid in high school and had even driven with a dog on the roof of his car.

Donald Trump was easier prey. There was the Billy Bush/“Access Hollywood” incident, of course, and the phantasmagoric “dossier” compiled by an ex-MI6 intelligence officer with “ties to Russia.” Then there were the Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump’s candidacy. “Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country,” Politico reported. “Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office.” This is how our politics work. Unsavory. But there it is.

Ergo:

6) Don Jr. did nothing wrong by meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya who, by the way, had no known ties to Putin (though I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Vlad and she have been sharing a vodka or two in the last few days).

What’s the big picture here? I’d say it was this: Vladimir Putin really would like to do anything he could to thwart the United States. But in this ambition, his allies have been not Donald Trump but institutions like CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and unwitting individuals like Max Boot and Ralph Peters whose hysterical anti-Putin animus has played right into Putin’s hands.

Ask yourself this: What would make Putin’s day? How about hamstringing the president of the United States, distracting him from his agenda of making America great again by harping endlessly on a fabricated non-story about supposed collusion that never happened? I suspect that Putin begins each morning with a little prayer to people like Boot and Peters, thanking them for doing more than he could ever hope to in weakening and delegitimizing the leader of the free world.

The good news is that it is not working. CNN is impressed by the fake scandal. Peters, Schoenfeld, Boot and their confrères in The Resistance (snicker) are obsessed by it. But who is paying any attention to them? Robert Mueller? Maybe. Throw enough lawyers at anything and a bad smell will inevitably occur. But we’ve had various investigations on the Russians going on for almost a year. And what have they turned up? Nothing.

This whole story is one part partisan animus—Richard Blumenthal, Tim Kaine—mixed with three parts wounded pride—the anti-Trump commentariat—underwritten, I have no doubt, by a chortling Russian disinformation machine that must be loving it, just loving it, that they have been able to get CNN to devote 93 percent of its morning show to a story that is not even a story.

Meanwhile, the real news is in Donald Trump’s judicial appointments, the strong jobs figures his policies are bringing home, the new-found confidence of America’s energy industry, the revitalization of America’s military, Trump’s strong endorsement, in his Warsaw speech, of the values of Western civilization and his promise to safeguard Poland’s access to alternative sources of energy: these are bullet points in a long agenda of renewal. Believe me, Vladimir Putin doesn’t like any of that one bit. I don’t expect professional pols like Blumenthal or Kaine to care about that: all they care about is their own power, not the good of the country.

But smart folks like Max Boot and Ralph Peters? How can they not see that their unfounded hysteria serves, if I may so put, to give aid and comfort to America’s enemies? Aren’t they, just a little, ashamed of themselves?

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””] overlay_color=”” background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Book Reviews • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Declaration of Independence • Democrats • Donald Trump • Hillary Clinton • Lincoln • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

Coarse Correction: The Real Significance of the 2016 Election

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

About a year ago, the respected Harvard political theorist, Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., wrote an op-ed about Donald Trump for the Wall Street Journal titled, “Why Donald Trump Is No Gentleman.” Mansfield made the case that the appellation “gentleman” is one used so rarely these days that we forget, even, to note its opposite.  

He also wrote:

The outstanding person in this election is Donald Trump, in that he attracts the most attention, but the outstanding fact is the voters behind him who excuse Mr. Trump for his ungentlemanly behavior….

Incapable as he is of appreciating the gentleman, Mr. Trump earns the disdain of the promoters of gender neutrality. Mr. Trump’s resistance to political correctness, however, has the coarseness of a male [this months  before the Access Hollywood tape]. Or what used to be the coarseness of a male. Now that women are practicing to swear like sailors, Mr. Trump is a reminder of male superiority in the department of vulgarity. Surely no woman would have run his campaign.

Mansfield’s essay, then, invites consideration of the coarseness of his female opponent. She was after all the embodiment of vulgar pandering to sex preference. In fact, his penetrating essay implied that Trump had a good chance of beating Hillary Clinton precisely because he was willing to be crude and in that contest, he could outmatch even her.

The subhead of Mansfield’s article tells the tale in more detail: “Like Machiavelli, [Trump] makes clear that winning dishonorably is better than losing honorably.” Can a citizen survey the field of honorable candidates, losers or near-losers, all—be his name Romney, McCain, or Bush—without revulsion and fear for the future of republican government? Could any of 2016’s supposed gentlemen candidates have beaten Clinton by flipping those Midwestern states and Pennsylvania?

Two weeks after Mansfield’s article appeared, Trump named Kellyanne Conway his campaign manager. In that sense a woman did run (and win) Trump’s campaign. It seems that the coarse candidate made the very course correction that Mansfield implied was impossible: the Machiavellian candidate’s truthfulness about political correctness needed political protection (not to speak of wisdom) in Conway’s form.

How did Trump stump the smartest campaign masterminds and conquer Lady Fortune? For one thing, he delighted more than conservative voters with his skewering of media figures and intellectuals. His keen insight was that Americans, whatever else they may think, do not like to be told what to think. And as his recent tweeting shows, the all-important proxy war with the media as the front for intellectuals continues into his presidency with Trump standing in as the unlikely champion of the people.

In this light, consider anti-Trump pundit George Will’s onetime praise of Trump who, Will then noted, “believes that excess can be a virtue” and in that belief “is as American as Manhattan’s skyline…. Brashness, zeal and elan are part of this country’s character” (quoted in The Art of the Deal, 1987). That was then. But the Will of the Trump era not only renounced Trump but the Republican Party that embraced him as well.

Mansfield narrows Trump’s attack on political correctness to questions having to do with women, but Trump included racial and ethnic identity politics as well.

Haven’t all card-carrying conservative intellectuals at some point denounced affirmative action and identity politics as corrosive of the souls of citizens and of the common good? After all, how does a judge in San Diego even get a case about a New York-based Trump University? More to the point, how did this adherent to a policy of favoring one identity group over others become a judge in the first place?  Why isn’t calling out a “Mexican judge” turnabout as fair play? It’s not as though he hit a girl.

If a candidate won’t defend his own interests, using all weapons at his command, why should the public think he will zealously defend their common interests, especially against pseudo-aristocratic racial/ethnic claims of privilege? It is scarcely egomania, let alone “white nationalism,” to defend oneself from fire coming at one from a safe space. Why are low blows and insults tolerated when they are directed at Republicans, but “unpresidential” and “beneath the dignity of the office” when they are repulsed in equal measure? In fact, Aristotle makes it clear that permitting an injustice to oneself is a vice.    

With these things in mind, I turn now to a book written by three distinguished conservative intellectuals who again combine their talents to produce what may well be the most insightful book written on the 2016 election. In Defying the Odds: The 2016 Elections and American Politics, James Ceaser (University of Virginia), Andrew Busch (Claremont McKenna), and John Pitney (Claremont McKenna) resume their quadrennial series on American presidential elections, going back to 1992 (Pitney having first joined for the previous book).

As I wrote of the 2012 edition, their latest deploys witty prose in combining “the best in political journalism with the most relevant political science scholarship—in other words, a citizen’s perspective but with statistical and empirical support and, above all, historical . . .” background.  Their focus on progressive striving to overcome natural rights and conservative gestures at defending those rights is surely unique in contemporary political science on campaigns.

Not coincidentally, a former student of the two Claremont coauthors, Heidi Cruz, emerged the most impressive spouse in the campaign.

But for all their seriousness and the seriousness with which they attempt to take Trump (and pro-Trump sources such as the Journal of American Greatness and its successor, American Greatness, “Flight 93” author Publius Decius Mus, and Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams) they end up missing Trump’s significance for American politics.  

Review of James Ceaser, Andrew Busch, and John Pitney, Jr., Defying the Odds: the 2016 Elections and American Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 216 pages, $29.95)

Ceaser’s concluding paragraph (he stands in for all three authors) epitomizes the book’s strengths and weaknesses: “No one . . .  had been more of an outsider. No one had disrupted his own party and the conventions of politics more. No one had, in a single election, laid low the reigning dynasties of both his own party (the Bushes) and the other party (the Clintons).” Just before this, however, they write, “Although it was clear what Trump was against, it was never quite clear what he was for.”

They were unsure, for example, whether Trump would bring about a new form of identity politics, “white nationalism,” or instead call for a new emphasis on “citizenship and the nation.”

In a similar vein, Ceaser sometimes lapses into a kind of moral equivalence between Trump and Clinton—considering both anti-constitutionalist and “authoritarian.” Certainly, these authors should understand that the rise of intellectual elites (e.g., the Clintons with their Yale law degrees  and Obama as the first president with both parents holding Ph.D.s) distorted recent politics.

Trump’s ‘Political Friendship’

While Machiavelli always enlightens, Aristotle provides even better insight into the Trump campaign. Aristotle (Politics V.6) explains, “Oligarchies change most often in two most obvious ways. One occurs when they treat the multitude unjustly, for then any champion is sufficient, especially when it turns out that the leader comes from the oligarchy itself….”

Moreover, though neither Ceaser nor Trump uses this language, the America of failed promises we are now presented with is properly labelled a majority faction, which threatens individual rights and the common good, as seen in the constitutionally dubious waging of futile wars, promoting of illegal immigration, and preference for globalist policy over American interests. With the threat of yet another Bush or Clinton, prime causes of their current discontents, Americans turned as in 1860 to the unlikely candidate most likely to throw off “the slave power,” as the Decius once put it.

Thus Trump opposes identity politics, not by singling out groups, but instead by showing how an American identity is superior to all others (and especially to divisive sub-groupings of Americans). Trump’s patriotism is what Aristotle called political friendship, a kind of friendship of virtue. It is the unity of purpose, individual and national, that Lincoln described in the Gettysburg Address.

Thus Trump opposes identity politics, not by singling out groups, but instead by showing how an American identity is superior to all others (and especially to divisive sub-groupings of Americans). Trump’s patriotism is what Aristotle called political friendship, a kind of friendship of virtue. 

Far from being its enemy, such a “populism” becomes essential to preserve constitutional government, just as clearly as identity politics destroys it. It promotes a higher identity that unites rather than divisive sub-identities that set us against each other. And this is why the political correctness of identity politics is a necessary step to build that enduring faction known as the administrative state. That kind of authoritarianism and anti-constitutionalism is wholly assumed by Clinton. Quite the opposite with Trump.

Ceaser’s characterization of Trump as “post-ideological” misses that Trump is in fact pre-ideological—he thinks in terms of the whole American nation, not in terms of the groups that comprise it. Trump is more like Lincoln at Gettysburg than Madison in Federalist 10.

In a similar way, Trump was clearly the strongest candidate of a weak (not strong, as the conventional wisdom held) Republican field. His serious opponents were pretty much either parochial governors, callow senators, or yet another Bush. The man with “New York values” was, ironically, the only national candidate.

With this Trump in mind, I make my own observations about 2016, including a few major differences with Ceaser:

  • Their comparison of 1992 and 2016 doesn’t work, because George H.W. Bush ran away from Reagan, and Pat Buchanan despises Lincoln.
  • Modifying  the charge that 2016 was “perhaps the most uncivil, vulgar, scandal-flecked campaign in living memory” one should recall the impeachment and trial of Bill Clinton, the political attacks in the anti-Goldwater campaign of 1964, and the Truman campaign of 1948.  
  • A Clinton television ad featured young kids in front of a TV watching Trump at various campaign moments. That played two ways.  I saw the way liberals treat their kids: Dump them in front of a TV without adult supervision.
  • Trump proved himself the best Catholic in attendance at the Cardinal Dolan-hosted Al Smith dinner, speaking truth to power by launching an impolitic attack on Hillary Clinton for her support of abortion rights, to the boos of the assembled audience. Trump won the Catholic vote.
  • Choosing Mormon Evan McMullin as a possible anti-Trump spoiler in Utah was itself a form of low identity politics, showing how corrupted and anti-American their partisan opposition to Trump had become.
  • Making America great again requires a stronger military, so no one should have been surprised by his cabinet and National Security Council adviser picks.
  • Besides demolishing the leading members of party establishments, Trump would redefine the Republican Party as the workers’ party, and welcome back black men as Republican voters (they cast 13 percent of their votes for Trump).
  • Finally, there is the matter of FBI Director James Comey’s various interventions or non-interventions, which continue to reverberate. Our authors write,

If third parties, FBI directors, Russians, and racists are not really satisfactory explanations for Trump’s win, can anything else be offered to help understand this surprising election? An alternative story might be built around world trends, rioters, a weak president, and rampaging progressives.

While there is much in that, the real alternative story of 2016 is Comey as a representative of the administrative state, which Nixon had made his concern. We still don’t know the extent of Comey’s attempts to go well beyond his investigatory obligations to exercise political influence.

Just as the left makes every attack on the administrative state an attack on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, so every Republican Administration becomes for the media and Democrats a replay of Nixon and Watergate. Nixon tried to rollback the Democrats’ successor to the New Deal, the Great Society.  Republicans still haven’t learned the meaning of Watergate, which was far more a political crisis engineered by partisan Democrats than a constitutional crisis brought about by Nixon. Republicans have yet to recognize that their Machiavellian enemies in the bureaucracy, media, and politics brought about Nixon’s demise. Trump has seen that crisis early on in his presidency, embodied in James Comey, and is gamely fighting it..

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

America • Americanism • Center for American Greatness • Declaration of Independence • Defense of the West • Featured Article • History • Obama • political philosophy • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Culture

Progression—or Degeneracy? Part One

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series.

The American regime that resulted from the American Revolution differs from today’s in size, scope, and character. We do not elaborate the contrasts. Rather, we ask: Whence came these differences between the former’s constitutionally limited pursuits of modest objectives—domestic tranquility, justice, the common defense, the general welfare—and the latter’s unlimited administrative discretion over everything from the planet’s climate to the proper exercise of religion? How could a regime evolve into something so like its own negation?

Specifically: are modern America’s institutions and mores departures from its founding principles, or are they the logical, necessary consequences of those very principles? Did the Founders’ principles undergo corruption, or did they bear the fruits inherent in them? How does the DNA that America’s Founders wrote into our roots relate to our present regime? What is the present regime’s genetic code? Regardless of the founding principles’ influence—restraining or propulsive as they may be—by what mixture of political and cultural mechanism did the changes occur?

Properly, these questions are historical. Too often, however, debate about the character of America’s DNA devolves into abstract exegeses of intellectual and moral principles, as if the Founders’ minds were tracking on one or another set of mutually exclusive views of man and society. We suppose that each track produces competing versions of what those principles were or ought to have been, and that these principles, like great trees’ seeds, predetermined America’s character—either to live by natural law, the Declaration’s “laws of nature and nature’s God,” or to satisfy whatever desires the natural right of selfish autonomy might engender.

Although—as we shall argue—this philosophical dichotomy does not explain everything, it counts for a lot.

If, as Abraham Lincoln argued to Stephen Douglas, the Declaration of Independence defined the new nation in terms of a set of divinely ordained natural laws, then any and all departures from those laws would pervert it.

The laws cited by the Declaration gave meaning to the Constitution. They bound the government and the people. America was not free to become indifferent to, never mind to accept, slavery (and, by implication, to anything else that violated those laws) without ceasing to be itself. But if, as Douglas argued to Lincoln, growth and greatness themselves are the American regime’s “law of life,” then any attempt to restrain the most powerful desires that arise within it must choke it. In that case, Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope is correct that the U.S. Constitution is merely “the way by which we argue about our future.” Consequently we—or rather, whoever prevails among us—are bound only by our latest appetites. If those lead us to accept, say, polygamy, or to trade the Bill of Rights for rule-by-administration, so what?

Clearly, whether the men of the American Revolution and founding thought in terms of natural law or of natural right makes the difference between courthouses engraved with the Ten Commandments, and ones whose portals bear the words inscribed over Rabelais’ Abbey of Theleme: “Fais ce que vourdas”—Do what you want (limited only by what you can get away with).

Focus on the pure forms of these philosophical points of departure, however, diverts attention from the founding generation’s forma mentis, which grasped philosophical doctrine through the medium of the practical questions at hand. Foremost among these was the struggle against the British regime. Although America’s founders are not here to pronounce on what may have been implicit in their hopes for the future, they were clear enough about what they were revolting against, as well as about about the basis upon which they revolted.

What Freedom Means

The founding generation was steeped in the concept of natural law. But it had not distinguished that concept from “natural right” as clearly as we do.

Their education in in Greco-Roman thought taught them to regard man as a social animal who is born, lives, and dies in families, tribes, and various kinds of political arrangements, and who has a fixed, knowable nature. As Christians they believed (along with Jews) that man is created “in the image and likeness of God,” and that this status between God and the rest of creation defines what is good for man. Such secularists as there were among them joined in believing that right, for man, is to live according to his nature. The Christian addendum to classical thought also stresses that because men are equally God’s creatures, none may rule another without the other’s consent, and that duties to God are separate from duties to earthly powers. All this portends limited government and defines “freedom” as the capacity to choose between good and evil, as these categories exist in the immutable “laws of nature and nature’s God.”

So what kind of freedom did America’s founders mean to establish? Fact is that, as they framed the American regime, they used the terms natural law and natural right interchangeably. Hence, they never choose explicitly between the implication of these terms as we have come to understand them.

Competing for their attention was the post-15th century (previously adumbrated in Greek thought) construct of the individual—radically unattached and inalienably self-interested. This individual first appears in a “state of nature.” Positing this “state” makes it impossible to think of creation and creator, as well as to consider for what purpose man might have been created. In short, it makes it impossible to think about what might be right for man by nature. The “nature” of this “state of nature” has really only one law, one natural right: self-preservation. What is good is whatever that individual decides for himself at any given time may be consistent with that right.

Consequently, any and all familial and political bonds are naturally artificial. Freedom means the unfettered natural right, collective as well as individual, to decide what good and evil might be according to the inalienable priority of self-preservation. That in turn means discovering and satisfying one’s own ever-changing sentiments. The state has the greatest freedom to satisfy desires.

‘Right’ Rightly Understood

So what kind of freedom did America’s founders mean to establish? Fact is that, as they framed the American regime, they used the terms natural law and natural right interchangeably. Hence, they never choose explicitly between the implication of these terms as we have come to understand them.

They left no doubt, however, that their peculiar notion of right is something at the same time ancestral, natural, and divinely ordained.

Today’s dominant philosophical-political assumptions make it difficult for us to understand that. Since the Founders did not maintain the strict opposition between the concepts of “nature” and “convention” or “custom” to which academic philosophy has accustomed us, they found nothing incompatible about claiming that, as Britain was violating rights established by God and Nature, it was also violating the ancient rights of Englishmen—and vice versa.

Our difficulty in understanding this stems in part from the assumption—as wrong as it is widespread—that history has moved more or less uniformly from less freedom to more freedom, that America’s Founders were revolting against the middle ages’ legacies (despotism mixed with and veiled by religion) and that they, Children of the Enlightenment, were trying to make it possible for people to live however they like.

Consider: this British regime had been ruling in the same way for almost 400 years. The Americans were rebelling against the 18th century’s ancien regime’s established customs. But they were doing so in the name of a regime that was even more ancien, whose customs were no longer customary but were somehow right in themselves. Where had these customs come from? What endowed them with right?

Our difficulty in understanding this stems in part from the assumption—as wrong as it is widespread—that history has moved more or less uniformly from less freedom to more freedom, that America’s Founders were revolting against the middle ages’ legacies (despotism mixed with and veiled by religion) and that they, Children of the Enlightenment, were trying to make it possible for people to live however they like.

In reality, the Founders knew that the regime that was oppressing them was anything but medieval. They faulted it for having trammeled medieval and downright ancient rights. Nor, aside from Franklin, were they libertines. To them, freedom was the capacity to live life free from arbitrary power. This is something of which there had been much more in remote times than in their time.

Insofar as the American revolution was about custom, it was about restoring customs of limited government, which they believed was also divinely ordained.

In fact, the British crown against which the Americans were revolting (Parliament had become the senior partner within it) was not a relic of the middle ages. Like other European monarchies, Britain had transcended medieval political forms as well as the Christian notion of right as independent of power. The regime against which the Americans revolted was like the rest of Europe’s in having shed all but the trappings of an earlier age.

Why the Middle Ages Matter

The previous millennium’s story had been similar, whether in Spain, France, Germany, or England. The Germanic tribes that had overrun Western Europe consisted of free men. They had done away with Rome’s imperial bureaucracy. The absence of easy communication between towns as well as between countless corners of countryside, abetted the tribes’ independence from one another, as well as the autonomy of their components.

All this meant that the rules of life grew in diverse ways throughout Europe, and guaranteed that arrangements within medieval society would be flexible. All arrangements were inherited and hence became customary. Arrangements between nobles, towns, and kings became the charters of freedom, from Spain’s “fueros” to England’s Magna Carta. Since Christianity provided the only common intellectual guide, these arrangements had to be justified in terms of what is right and wrong in itself. Hence, the notion of consent of the governed became the essence of the medieval legal principle of jus et consuetudo regni (Ranulf de Glanville, 1180). Here we see diversity born of selfishness and necessity, ingrained by custom, blessed, and amplified by Christianity’s teaching of human equality.

Medieval Europe’s complex polity, which such as John Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliae (1394-1480) described at length, and which Aristotle would have called a mixed regime, is what the kings of the Baroque age had destroyed. In England, Royal commissioners enforced the king’s will. Local custom had given way to law made by the king’s judges or by parliament.

Arrangements between nobles, towns, and kings became the charters of freedom, from Spain’s “fueros” to England’s Magna Carta. Since Christianity provided the only common intellectual guide, these arrangements had to be justified in terms of what is right and wrong in itself.

Elsewhere, though the details varied, the story was much the same. Tocqueville’s The Old Regime And The Revolution describes the result: “The central power encroached on every side upon decaying local franchises. A hierarchy of public functionaries usurped the authority of the nobles. All these new powers employed methods and took for their guide principles which the Middle Ages either never knew or rejected, and which, indeed, were only suitable for a state of society they never conceived.”

The kings just wanted more power. But they did not understand that, as they gathered it, they were building Leviathans. Having the power, as Blackstone said, “to do anything not naturally impossible,” these would fall for the temptation to do all that and more. The crown had declared itself the arbiter of right and wrong over all things. By what right? Britain was no stranger to the European doctrine that kings exercised absolute power. Louis XIV claimed divine right by papal dispensation. Henry VIII’s heirs headed the church and made rules about matters religious as well as secular. This of course was a negation of Christian orthodoxy as well as a departure from medieval practice.

What the Founders Were Up To, Really

In sum, the Americans sought to recover a right to self-rule which they supposed to come from God and which they recalled as the (by then largely superseded) custom of England. As Thomas Jefferson pointed out in The Rights of British America (1774), they harked back to Anglo Saxon government, limited by the people’s ancestral rights understood as natural rights. And, as James Wilson argued in his 1790 inaugural lecture to the first American law school, attended by a Who’s Who of the Founders, Americans disagreed with Blackstone’s notion that right is the will of the sovereign. In America, said Wilson, law was to be right insofar as it is right by nature.

Regardless of their precise understanding of natural law and natural right, of nature and convention, the American revolutionaries were not trying to transcend Christian or classical notions of right and wrong, much less were they trying to create a centralized state capable of instituting whatever moral or social order anyone in power might want.

Regardless of their precise understanding of natural law and natural right, of nature and convention, the American revolutionaries were not trying to transcend Christian or classical notions of right and wrong, much less were they trying to create a centralized state capable of instituting whatever moral or social order anyone in power might want. If the latter had been their intention, they would hardly have crafted a Constitution that makes it excruciatingly difficult for the government to act. Had they meant to institute the unbounded capacity to satisfy their own desires, they would not have sought to re-establish medieval customs. Rather, they would have grasped and reinforced central authority over all matters, including religion. That is what their contemporaries in France did, about whom more below.

No. Although Progressives have succeeded in making the American regime open-ended, they are wrong historically. It was not meant to be that.

Follow these links to continue reading part two and part three.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • Congress • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Political Parties • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

Mueller’s Empire: Legions of Lawyers, Bottomless Budget, Limitless Jurisdiction

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

So I’ve been wondering: Why on earth does a prosecutor, brought in to investigate a case in which there is no apparent crime, need a staff of 14 lawyers?

Or, I should say, “14 lawyers and counting.” According to the press spokesman for special counsel Robert Mueller—yeah, he’s got a press spokesman, too—there are “several more in the pipeline.”

Concededly, none of Mueller’s recruits requires Senate confirmation, as do Justice Department officials—notwithstanding that the former may end up playing a far more consequential role in the fate of the Trump administration. But does it seem strange to anyone else that, by comparison, the president of the United States has managed to get—count ’em—three appointees confirmed to Justice Department positions in five months?

A special counsel, the need for whom is far from obvious, has in just a few days staffed up with four times the number of lawyers. And all for a single investigation that the FBI has described as a counterintelligence probe—i.e., not a criminal investigation, the kind for which you actually need lawyers.  

The way this is supposed to work is: the Justice Department first identifies a likely crime, and then assigns a prosecutor to investigate it. Here, by contrast, there are no parameters imposed on the special counsel’s jurisdiction. Mueller is loosed—with 14 lawyers and more coming—to conduct what I’ve called a “fishing expedition.”

Oh, and about those three Justice Department appointees: One of them, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has already recused himself from the investigation in question—the department’s most high profile undertaking. Another, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, is reportedly weighing whether he, too, should bow out. Perhaps he figures he has already done quite enough, having sicced a special-counsel investigation on the Trump Administration by flouting both the regulation that requires a basis for a criminal investigation before a special counsel is appointed, and the regulation that requires limiting the special counsel’s jurisdiction to the specific factual matter that triggers this criminal investigation.

The way this is supposed to work is: the Justice Department first identifies a likely crime, and then assigns a prosecutor to investigate it. Here, by contrast, there are no parameters imposed on the special counsel’s jurisdiction. Mueller is loosed—with 14 lawyers and more coming—to conduct what I’ve called a “fishing expedition.” But it is actually worse than that, as sagely observed in these pages by my friend John Eastman, the Claremont Institute scholar and former Chapman Law School dean. Mueller’s probe is the functional equivalent of a general warrant: a boundless writ to search for incriminating evidence. It is the very evil the Fourth Amendment was adopted to forbid: a scorch-the-earth investigation in the absence of probable cause that a crime has been committed.

For now, Mueller appears utterly without limits, in his writ and in his resources. As the ease with which he has staffed up shows, it is not hard to recruit lawyers. All you need is money. Mueller has a bottomless budget, thanks to a bit of Treasury Department chicanery known as “permanent, indefinite appropriations.”

Under the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause, no funding is supposed to be paid out of the treasury unless Congress has approved it in advance. Under the Framers’ design, with an eye toward limited, accountable government, every spending initiative must compete with every other one when Congress enacts a budget. Lawmakers must decide what we can and can’t afford when they draw on what is supposed to be the finite pot of money confiscated from taxpayers. We are supposed to know what we are underwriting and what it will cost.

The Swamp, ever resistant to such restraints, has developed a scheme known as “indefinite appropriations.” These are slush funds for future contingencies. A good example is the “Judgment Fund,” which President Obama raided to underwrite nearly $2 billion in ransom payments demanded by Iran, the sweetener he needed to close the infamous nuclear deal. It is an Orwellian game. What makes an appropriation an appropriation is that Congress provides a definite amount of funding suitable to the task it has approved. If it turns out more is needed, the executive branch is supposed to come back to Congress—ask for it and justify why it should be prioritized over other needs.

These lawyers, overwhelmingly, are Democrats. Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff and the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross have been tracking it: Mueller’s staffers contribute to Trump’s political opponents, some heavily.

Mueller’s special counsel investigation is somehow under no such restrictions, according to the Justice Department. He unilaterally decides how much staffing he needs. And unlike a normal prosecutor’s office, the special counsel does not have to apportion his resources over hundreds of cases. He can direct all of them at one investigative target.

In this instance, the target is Trump, and the resources—apart from what will be scores of FBI agents—include 14 lawyers (going on 15 … going on 16…).

These lawyers, overwhelmingly, are Democrats. Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff and the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross have been tracking it: Mueller’s staffers contribute to Trump’s political opponents, some heavily. The latest Democratic talking-point about this unseemly appearance is that hiring regulations forbid an inquiry into an applicant’s political affiliation. That’s laughable. These are lawyers Mueller has recruited. They are not “applicants.” We’re talking about top-shelf legal talent, accomplished professionals who have jumped at the chance of a gig they do not need but, clearly, want.

The Democrats’ other rationalization is that Mueller, whose integrity is well established, is ultimately responsible for all prosecutorial decisions. I agree that Mueller’s personal probity entitles him to a presumption of ethical propriety. But a presumption is not a blank check.

Unlike many conservative commentators, I’ve contended that too much has been made of Mueller’s close personal friendship and longstanding professional ties to former FBI director James Comey. In drawing that conclusion, I have relied on Rosenstein’s description of the investigation assigned to Mueller. He said it is the same investigation Comey described in March 20 congressional testimony. That investigation is a counterintelligence probe—which is why I’ve never understood the need for a prosecutor. Since such investigations are not intended to build criminal cases, there seemed little prospect that Comey could become a critical prosecution witness. I reasoned that, in the unlikely event criminal charges became a possibility, Mueller could be trusted to consider the ethics of his participation.

Now, however, if reports are to be believed, Mueller is weighing whether the president is guilty of an obstruction crime. Putting aside my assessment that there would be no legal merit to such an allegation, there could be no doubting Comey’s importance as a witness in such a case. Mueller would then have to consider an ethical dilemma that the National District Attorneys Association, in its National Prosecution Standards (third edition), has described in the section on conflicts of interest (Standard 1-3.3, at p. 7):

The prosecutor should excuse himself or herself from any investigation, prosecution, or other matter where personal interests of the prosecutor would cause a fair-minded, objective observer to conclude that the prosecutor’s neutrality, judgment, or ability to administer the law in an objective manner may be compromised.

Notice that, consistent with the familiar ethical canon that lawyers must avoid even the appearance of impropriety, the standard here is based not on the lawyer’s personal rectitude or his subjective belief that he can administer the law impartially. The issue is: What would this look like to fair-minded observers?

Consequently, if this boundless investigation careens into a criminal prosecution, Mueller could have some major soul-searching to do. I thus confess to being taken aback that he has exacerbated the problem, rather than trying to mitigate it, with his staffing decisions. Into an investigation that was already fraught with political tension, the special counsel has recruited partisans—donors to politicians who describe themselves not as a loyal opposition but as the Trump “Resistance.” What are fair-minded people to make of that?

Not just one or two recruits, but 14 lawyers, with more to come.

Some personal perspective, if you’ll allow me. I had the good fortune to be a prosecutor in two of the better known criminal cases in modern American history. The Pizza Connection case, which I believe remains our longest federal criminal trial, involved a vast narcotics and money-laundering enterprise, overseen for well over a decade by the mafia in Sicily and the United States. The years-long investigation required gathering evidence on three continents, coordinating with a parallel, massive Italian prosecution, and ultimately indicting 36 mafiosi. The subsequent 17-month trial of 22 defendants, starting in late 1985, featured hundreds of witnesses and more than 2,400 wiretap conversations (translated into English from Italian). I was the junior member of a five-prosecutor team, which many of our peers found to be excessive despite the prosecution’s success.  

Consequently, if this boundless investigation careens into a criminal prosecution, Mueller could have some major soul-searching to do. I thus confess to being taken aback that he has exacerbated the problem, rather than trying to mitigate it, with his staffing decisions.

I was the lead government lawyer in the terrorism investigation of the so-called Blind Sheikh’s jihadist cell, following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and an unsuccessful plot to bomb New York City landmarks. The case involved extensive undercover investigations. We also probed the history of overseas jihadist movements, as well as that of covert American aid to the Afghan mujahideen’s war against the Red Army. There were classified-information challenges, including litigation over the admissibility in a criminal trial of evidence obtained under foreign-intelligence-gathering authorities. The eventual nine-month trial of 12 defendants, involved hundreds of witnesses and intercepted conversations (translated into English from Arabic).

We managed to get by with a team of three trial prosecutors and one appellate lawyer assigned to help us with the many novel legal issues. After all the defendants were convicted, I wrote the government’s appellate brief with the assistance of a single appellate editor. Not much staff, but the convictions and sentences were nevertheless upheld.

Why does special counsel Mueller need 14 lawyers (and more coming) for a counterintelligence investigation, as to which the intelligence professionals—agents, not lawyers—have found no “collusion with Russia” evidence after over a year of hard work? What will those lawyers be doing with no limits on their jurisdiction, with nothing but all the time and funding they need to examine one target, Donald Trump?

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

Administrative State • Center for American Greatness • Deep State • Donald Trump • Intelligence Community • Russia • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • Trump White House

Who Will Police the Police: The Comey Testimonies

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Former FBI Director James Comey earnestly lectures about the inaccuracy of leaks and laments that it is not the purview of disinterested federal agencies to correct such erroneous information that the press such as the New York Times recklessly publishes.

Fine. Yet for the last six months, information in the hands of the FBI, such as the infamous Steele fake-news dossier, a hit piece of opposition research, was leaked by intelligence agencies to the press for political advantage. Comey mirabile dictu himself confesses to planting leaked information to the press of a privileged conversation with the President, via a third-party friend—information that he composed while the Director of the FBI on government time in connection with his job and on a government computer.

In the age of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, why would a former Director of the FBI himself leak a key government document to the press in deliberate fashion to undermine the president (and in the process mislead about the chronological sequencing of events that prompted him to leak) rather than provide the memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee? Why would he use a third-party to go to the press?

Non-investigations

Comey corroborates his earlier thrice-stated admissions that Donald Trump was never under investigation for collusion with the Russians to subvert the 2016 election, but suggests now that he could not release such exonerating information to the press because he might later have had to go back to amend it should Trump at some such future time become under investigation.

This is an Orwellian argument—given:

(1) that it is becoming clear that almost all scurrilous rumors about Donald Trump were leaked to the press by the FBI and other federal agencies—while exculpatory facts, such as that Comey was not investigating Donald Trump, were not leaked;

(2) that Comey had in fact previously repeatedly done just the opposite of what he said he could not do in the Trump case—namely that he had first disclosed publicly that Hillary Clinton was no longer the subject of a “matter” (in obedience to Loretta Lynch’s mandatory euphemism aimed at helping the Clinton campaign), then later amended that public admission by saying that she was, in fact, again under renewed investigation, and then amending again that amendment by stating that she was no longer a subject of an investigation. In other words, there was no such FBI policy of prudently keeping silent on the progress of an investigation;

3) that any American citizen in theory could be a future target of any theoretical investigation; but, of course, that fact is no reason for a federal agency to fail to concede that it is not conducting an ongoing federal investigation of said citizen being battered by press leaks and unfounded allegations—unless the aim of a federal agency was to spread doubt about its intentions and thereby cast a prejudicial cloud of suspicion over an individual not under investigation. In Comey’s world, we can all live under a cloud of future investigations, should a mum FBI wink and nod, bob and weave to the press and public about whether we are currently under an investigation—as we are libeled and smeared.

He Said/He Said

Comey states that he was so concerned about a private conversation with Donald Trump (whom he admits once again was not pressuring him to stop a federal investigation of purported Russian collusion) that he immediately went to his government car to write a memo based on his interpretation of the conversation (again, subsequently to be leaked to pet journalists through a third-party friend and as yet strangely not made public). But was this standard Comey practice after meeting with administration officials whom he suspected might be inordinately pressuring him on investigations?

If so, did Comey write a memo after a private meeting with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch when, he now recollects, she quite unambiguously pressured him not to state publicly that he was conducting an ongoing “investigation” of Hillary Clinton, when in fact he was doing just that—a direct order much stronger (especially given the current election cycle) than the clumsy suggestions of Trump that Flynn was a ‘good guy’ and thus his character should be considered in assessing and perhaps mitigating his conduct. Left unsaid is why Comey earlier buckled under Lynch’s alleged order, but not under Trump’s later purported pressure. (Was Lynch more the bully than Trump?) And does an FBI Director adjust his behavior on the basis of whether he—an investigator rather than a legislator or president—decides that a special prosecutor is or is not needed?

Eminently Fireable

Comey states that he was fired for resisting subtle pressures to massage the Russian investigations. But this assertion again makes little sense because earlier Comey had stated that Trump himself was not under investigation, and, second, that his investigation so far had found no evidence that the Russians, always eager to disrupt American democracy, hand-in-glove with Trump affected the outcome of the election or were working with Trump to subvert the election—facts seemingly supported at times by both anti-Trumpers John Brennan (“I don’t know whether or not such collusion—and that’s your term, such collusion existed. I don’t know.”) and James Clapper (“as I’ve said before—I’ve testified to this effect—I saw no direct evidence of political collusion between the campaign and—the Trump campaign and the Russians.”).

In truth, Trump was playing a mongoose and cobra game with Comey the minute he was elected, given his observations of the Director’s erratic behavior during the 2016 campaign—now wishing him gone, now perhaps afraid to remove him, given the power of the deep state (NB the surprising continuance of IRS officials involved in the Lerner fiasco for an example of Trump’s wariness about the power of unelected bureaucrats). Had Trump earlier said that he feared Comey might take notes during a private conservation and then leak them to the press, the media would have cited that as proof of presidential paranoia. In sum, Trump fired Comey because he knew that he allowed the FBI to leak untrue allegations about collusion, while privately he was assuring his new boss that he was not under investigation.

Comey’s entire testimony is ipso facto evidence why in fact he was fired—and why any president would fire such an unstable and mercurial subordinate:

The Zeal to Do Nothing

Comey says he interpreted Trump’s blunt talk about loyalty and Flynn etc. as insidious efforts to intrude improperly into his overall Russian investigations. But if true, Comey then apparently never took Trump’s clumsy subversive efforts very seriously at all: Comey subsequently neither quashed the investigation concerning Flynn’s veracity (confirmed by his deputy) nor reprimanded Trump for his supposedly obstructive order nor notified the Attorney General or his deputies that he was asked to do something that might well constitute an obstruction of justice—as he was legally bound to do in such compromising situations (but expressed confusion over just that responsibility in the hearings). And again Comey was experienced in such matters, because in obsequious fashion, he earlier may well have complied with what an interfering Loretta Lynch ordered him to do.

Bullying is Not a Crime

Trump, no doubt, according to Comey’s “memorization,” appears to be the consummate Manhattan real-estate wheeler dealer engaging in flattery and subtle bullying without worry over nuance, optics, or presidential discretion and protocols. If Comey is telling the truth about Trump, his unguarded remarks do not descend to the level of some of the transcripts that attest to the earthiness of Lyndon Johnson, the twisted logic of Richard Nixon, or the reported vulgarity of Bill Clinton on the golf course—and certainly not on a level of impropriety of Barack Obama’s assurances in October 2015, in the midst of an ongoing FBI investigation,  that candidate Clinton’s private email server and trafficking in classified documents were “not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”

But aside from the fact that Comey’s characterizations are unsubstantiated versions of one-party to a two-party conversation (a point forgotten by a rabid press), Trump’s reported bluntness hardly ranks as indictable, much less impeachable, behavior—at least according to the low bar of exemption seen during the past two years of the Obama administration: an FBI Director leaking a government document to the press for careerist reasons, a former president meeting with an Attorney General stealthily during an ongoing investigation of his spouse; an Attorney General persuading a FBI director to contextualize an ongoing investigation in a fashion that would help a current presidential candidate of her party, a sitting Secretary of State illegally establishing a private server and communicating classified information over it.

A Colossal Waste of Time

We are left with the three lessons from this sorry year-long episode.

One, the Russian collusion story after nearly a year of strategic leaks, investigations, and yellow-journalism rumors has proved a fable—yet an extremely valuable fable for Democrats in their ongoing efforts to drive down Trump’s ratings, turn attention away from the reasons for their 2016 defeat and party anemia, and stall signature Republican bills on health care and tax reform—all in hopes of winning the House in 2018 or at least peeling away frightened Republican representatives of districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 in order to calcify the Congress. And that is the positive take on the Russian mythology, given the more likely aim is the removal of Donald Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, impeachment, or some other means.

Two, almost all federal bureaucrats like Comey, Clapper, and Brennan were expecting a Clinton victory and envisioned it as a probable guarantee for the extensions of their own long bipartisan tenures and so were ready once again to recalibrate their well-known past political adjustments (especially the gymnastic Brennan). So some in Comey’s FBI leaked fake news stories about a Trump investigation when it was likely that Hillary would be elected. Then after the election, a flexible Comey assured Trump (but only privately) that he was not under investigation when he was worried about his continued tenure as Director—but, of course, with Comey’s unspoken assumption that there might continue leaks given that the mercurial Trump himself might not be around to finish his term.

During the transition many of these beltway careerists apparently entertained vain hopes that they still might charm or triangulate their way into the new Trump administration, which explains their often erratic passive-aggressive behavior, more consistent with politicos than that of public servants.

Three, the fables of Russian-Trump collusion—like the earlier Jill Stein effort to subvert the electors, the fake-news of rigged voting machines, the Steele dossier, the serial demonization of the week (Bannon the fascist, Flynn the traitor, Sessions the conniver, Jared the wheeler-dealer crook, Ivanka the peddler, Melania the illegal alien and estranged First Lady, Nunes the partisan naïf, etc.)—were all tropes to derail the Trump agenda that so far could not be derailed by the Congress, the media, street theater, or the courts.

More importantly, these distractions were aimed at burying amid hysteria a true scandal that is far more likely to have occurred and far more dangerous to the republic in its implications: the reverse targeted surveillance of the political opponents of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton in 2016, the improper unmasking of their names, and the leaking of such information to an enabling press—all of which provided the basis for much of the fake-news stories of the last eleven months.

The larger story is that under the Obama administration, zealots believed that their noble ends occasionally justified improper and illegal means and were assured that an “echo chamber” toady press shared their same objectives and methodologies. The result was the corruption of the IRS, the illegal surveillance of journalists, rank deceptions about everything from the ACA to Benghazi—the proper perquisites for the finale of surveilling, unmasking, and leaking classified information about their perceived opponents. Note well that, after the Comey hearing, the New York Times now claims it cannot find the unnamed sources for its original February 2016 story that Trump people were under investigation. Were those unnamed sources the same as those now currently under subpoena by the House Intelligence Committee for surveilling, leaking, and unmasking and thus wisely unavailable for a second round of improper activity? Comey adroitly steered away from the New York Times February 2017 report during the hearings, as if to wink and nod that he played no part in what he must have known was likely illegal activity by Obama administration officials—and likely to prompt investigations of far more than those currently subpoenaed.

Finally, in the Left’s own low-bar grounds for impeachment, what presidential abuses would they believe would qualify for presidential removal?

Did Trump use intelligence agencies to surveil and unmask political enemies?

Did he use the Justice Department to monitor and surveil Associated Press reporters?

Did he politicize the IRS to go after perceived political enemies?

In secret did he dismantle anti-terrorism investigations to further efforts to negotiate a treaty with Iran that would bypass the Senate’s constitutional prerogatives?

Did he encourage cities to nullify federal law, while for political purposes failing to enforce federal immigration statutes?

In sum, we are now in revolutionary times.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

Administrative State • America • Big Media • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Defense of the West • Democrats • Donald Trump • Foreign Policy • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Hillary Clinton • Intelligence Community • Political Parties • Republicans • Russia • self-government • separation of powers • Terrorism • The Courts • The Culture • The Left • The Leviathian State • The Media • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

The Real Collusion

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Maybe it will be remembered as the weekend when, at long last, the media-Democrat complex overplayed its hand on the “Collusion with Russia” narrative. They are still having so much fun with the new “Jared back-channel to the Kremlin” angle, they appear not to realize it destroys their collusion yarn.

Their giddiness is understandable. The new story is irresistible: President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in a December 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the ubiquitous Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, discussed setting up a communications “back-channel” between the incoming administration and the Kremlin.

There is now the inevitable Kush-said-Kis-said over exactly who proposed the back-channel. For Trump’s critics, the meeting itself, as well as the contemplated (but apparently never consummated) line-of-communications, are a twofer against Trump: a) the amateurish attempt to insulate the transition’s discussions with an important foreign power from monitoring by the Obama intelligence agencies, and, b) the naïve sense that the Russians would keep their discussions discrete rather than humiliate Trump at the first opportunity.  

As if that were not enough, more cause for media-Democrat excitement: Reports that Kushner’s outreach to Kislyak resulted in the former’s being passed along to a shady Russian banker—a close Putin crony with roots in Russia’s intelligence services.

For anti-Trumpers of all ideological stripes, the story is a much needed gap-filler. For all the hype in D.C. and the Democrats’ coastal enclaves, the collusion story is flagging in most of the country. It lacks what a scandal needs to sustain itself: evidence. There is none: not when it comes to anything concrete that the Trump campaign may have done to aid and abet the Russian “interference in the election” project―a project that, though probably real, is more a matter of educated intelligence conjecture than slam-dunk courtroom proof.

For anti-Trumpers of all ideological stripes, the story is a much needed gap-filler. For all the hype in D.C. and the Democrats’ coastal enclaves, the collusion story is flagging in most of the country. It lacks what a scandal needs to sustain itself: evidence.

The latest episode in the Trump-Kislyak follies may divert attention from this omission for a few days. But sooner or later the new angle must be recognized for what it logically is: the death knell of the collusion narrative. Once that dawns on the commentariat, maybe we can finally get around the real collusion story of the 2016 campaign: The enlistment of the U.S. government’s law-enforcement and security services in the political campaign to elect Hillary Clinton.

Let’s start with the ongoing collusion farce. National-security conservatives harbored pre-existing reservations about Donald Trump that were exacerbated by his Putin-friendly rhetoric on the campaign trail. It is no secret that many conservatives who supported Trump in November―or at least voted against Hillary Clinton―preferred other GOP candidates. All that said, we’ve found the collusion story risible for two reasons.

First, to repeat, there is no there there. The “there” we have is a campaign by politicized intelligence operatives to leak classified information selectively, in a manner that is maximally damaging to the new administration. Democrats and their media friends have delighted in this shameful game, in which the press frets over imaginary crimes while colluding in the actual felony disclosure of intelligence. Such is their zeal, though, that we can rest assured we’d already have been told about any real evidence of Trump collusion in the Russian 2016 campaign project. Instead, after multiple investigations, a highly touted (and thinly sourced) report by three intel agencies (FBI, CIA and NSA), and a torrent of leaks, they’ve come up with exactly nothing.

Second, the eight-year Obama record is one of steadfastly denying that Russia posed a profound threat, and of appeasing the Kremlin at every turn. This even included a hot-mic moment when Obama explicitly committed to accommodate Putin―to America’s detriment―on missile defense.

It could scarcely be more manifest that the collusion narrative is strictly political. Were that not the case, there would be no bigger scandal than the Clinton Foundation dealings with Russia that lined Bill and Hillary Clinton’s pockets while the Russians walked away with major American uranium reserves.

The truth of the matter is that Obama, the Democrats, and their media megaphone had no interest in Russian aggression and duplicity until they needed a scapegoat to blame for their dreadful nominee’s dreadful campaign.

The truth of the matter is that Obama, the Democrats, and their media megaphone had no interest in Russian aggression and duplicity until they needed a scapegoat to blame for their dreadful nominee’s dreadful campaign. Until the fall and The Fall, the Left’s default mode was to ridicule Republicans and conservatives who took Putin’s provocations seriously―like Obama’s juvenile jab about the 1980s wanting its foreign policy back when, at a 2012 debate, Mitt Romney correctly cited Russia as a major geo-political menace.

Palpably, the point of the collusion storyline is to damage Trump politically. It is not good faith alarm over Putin’s regime.

The latest revelation about Kushner’s contacts with Russia underscores the emptiness of the collusion narrative. The contacts took place weeks after the election was over. Put aside the Trump transition’s foolishness in deputizing the young, green Kushner to negotiate with Kislyak, a wily former Soviet apparatchik. We’re talking collusion in the election here. If there had been such collusion―if the story the Left has been peddling for six months were true―there would have been no need for a discussion in December about opening communications channels. The lines of communication would long have been up and running.

Thus, the latest Kushner brouhaha strongly suggests that the Trump campaign did not have a collusive relationship with Kremlin operatives during the 2016 campaign, much less one specifically aimed at influencing the 2016 campaign.

Of course, that hardly means there was no collusion.

Kushner’s Trump transition companion at the December 2016 meeting with Kislyak was none other than retired army General Michael Flynn. His presence is significant, but not because of the now familiar Flynn-as-Putin-puppet caricature.

Flynn was Donald Trump’s top adviser in the 2016 campaign, particularly regarding intelligence about the threats confronting the United States throughout the world. He had also been the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency until Obama fired him in 2014. Flynn’s conflict with the White House boiled down to one thing: He believed the administration had politicized the intelligence community―i.e., that Obama’s top intelligence officials were altering fact-based assessments made by the analysts in their agencies in order to support rosy administration narratives that downplayed threats to the United States.

Flynn laid this case out in the bestselling 2016 book he co-authored with historian Michael Ledeen, The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies. Remarkably, despite Flynn’s travails, his book is virtually never mentioned in the collusion coverage.

Or maybe it’s not so remarkable. After all, Flynn’s book argues that the Putin regime, along with its Iranian ally, forms the core of a global challenge that confronts the United States on multiple fronts, including through the jihadist groups it supports. That is, Flynn’s book not only undermines the “Putin puppet” claims; it contends that Obama’s foreign policy was an abject failure in refusing to factor the reality of Russian hostility into dealings with the Kremlin on areas of mutual interest.  

The Field of Fight also includes passages like this one:

In 2014, I was fired as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency after telling a congressional committee that we were not as safe as we had been a few years back. Others who want to tell the truth about the war are fighting back against their censors. In the late summer of 2015, dozens of military analysts protested that their superiors at CENTCOM—the Central Command for the war in the Middle East—were blocking or altering their reports on the true course of events. That allegation was then investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general. The story was leaked, and congressional hearings were held. This book shows that the censorship isn’t new; it has been going on for years, and threatens our ability to win.

It is a theme of Flynn’s argument that the Obama administration put American intelligence―its credibility and its capacity to shape narratives―in the service of the Obama political agenda. Can there be any doubt that this is true?

Do we really need to wonder whether our intelligence agencies were exploited this way in 2016 when it is undeniable that they were so exploited in 2012? Do we really need a reminder that during the two months between September 11, 2012, and Election Day, when Obama was locked in a tight race, the White House and the intelligence community colluded to defraud the electorate into believing the Benghazi massacre was the result of a “protest” run amok over an anti-Muslim video, rather than an epic failure of Obama’s policy of empowering sharia-supremacists in Libya?

So what do we know about the 2016 election so far?

  • The Obama Justice Department bent over backwards to avoid charging Hillary Clinton with patent violations of law―involving mountainous evidence of the mishandling of classified emails and destruction of thousands of government records―while simultaneously investigating the Trump campaign with great zeal over what appears to be vague suspicion.
  • The Obama White House, State Department and intelligence community shrouded the Iran deal in secrecy, hiding risible terms, cash ransom payments to the mullahs, and Tehran’s violations, in order to preserve the arrangement without harming Clinton’s campaign.
  • The NSA and FBI have both been cited by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for flouting court-ordered restrictions against accessing and exploiting intelligence about Americans gathered under foreign intelligence-collection authorities.
  • Foreign intelligence-collection authorities were used to investigate Trump campaign and transition officials, at least some of whose identities were “unmasked” even though they should presumptively have been concealed under court-ordered restrictions.
  • The New York Times, based on classified leaks, reported that the FBI was consulting with “Obama advisers” while the Bureau investigated Flynn’s communications with Kislyak—communications that were appropriate given that Flynn, as Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was communicating with various foreign officials as the new administration prepared to take power. “Obama officials” pressed the FBI on whether Flynn had discussed a “quid pro quo” with Kislyak—i.e., the possible dropping of sanctions in exchange for Russian cooperation of some kind. The FBI conceded that he had not.
  • In a strangely timed order just days before his administration ended, President Obama loosened the restrictions on access to raw intelligence, allowing the NSA to share it throughout the community of intelligence agencies before sanitizing it to protect American identities in accordance with privacy protections. This would geometrically increase the likelihood of leaks of classified information involving American citizens.
  • A former Obama Defense Department official, Evelyn Farkas, let slip in an interview that the administration and its allies were encouraging Congress to demand disclosure of classified information, especially intelligence pertaining to Trump and alleged ties to Russia. This, again, would dramatically enhance the likelihood of selective, unlawful disclosures of top-secret intelligence. Or, as Ms. Farkas put it, “That’s why you have all the leaking.”
  • Finally—I know you’ll be shocked to hear this—there has been a spate of classified leaks since Election Day, clearly designed to undermine Trump’s capacity to govern and advance the agenda on which he campaigned.

Should Jared Kushner and Michael Flynn have met with the Russian ambassador without alerting the Obama Administration and its intelligence apparatus? No. They should have known our spies would learn about their communications by monitoring Russian operatives―and, probably, that those Russian operatives would put out misinformation about the meeting for the purpose of embarrassing Trump. (Memo to POTUS: for the umpty-umpth time, Russia is not your friend.)  

But to concede that Kushner and Flynn used bad judgment is not to say they didn’t have their reasons. There is abundant cause for concern that the Obama administration tore down the wall between the missions of law-enforcement and foreign-intelligence, on one side, and partisan politics, on the other. The White House and its politicized security services wanted Hillary Clinton to become president, and they do not want to let Donald Trump be president.

There’s a collusion story here, but it’s got nothing to do with Russia.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Big Media • Cultural Marxism • Democrats • Donald Trump • EU • Europe • Foreign Policy • Immigration • Infrastructure • Republicans • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Media • Trump White House

On the Resistance, Building Campaigns, and Filibusters

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

In the synagogue business, the few rabbis who are unfortunate enough to practice at one of the few undesirable congregations with grumbling and carping congregants (probably no different from what some similarly unfortunate pastors encounter among those outlier church flocks pocked with sociologically pathological congregants) are told that nothing puts the grumbles to an end like a successful building campaign: Just get everyone absorbed with raising funds and building something—anything:  a wing, an annex, a revamp of the whole building, a re-furnishing of the sanctuary. . . just get them all busy on a project, building something, doing something. Keep them busy with something constructive, and they will stop grousing.

We call it the “Edifice Complex.”

No fair observer can doubt that President Trump is a victim of a merciless witch hunt, with no end in sight until he is back hosting “The Apprentice.” Remarkably, his approval ratings remain steady around 39 percent, the same as they were before “Comey-this” and “Flynn-that,” before head counts at Inaugurations and leaked phone calls to Australian and Mexican heads of government. All the witch-hunting has solidified his base, and it has moved mild supporters into his camp. Recently, Ann Coulter titled her weekly column “Every Time I Try to Be Mad at Trump, the Media Pull Me Back.”    

Amen.

During the president’s recent travels abroad to the respective centers of the world’s three most influential religions and to NATO world leaders, the media followed, seeking to portray him as a rube on foreign affairs, much as they have tried to depict him on domestic matters. There was little doubt that, by the time he returned, the Left- Democrat “Resistance” and their media stooges would be accusing Trump of having sown discord abroad, even as his supporters have exhaled with joy that, finally, a strong voice of American pride traveled overseas to assert American greatness.

Clearly, the Democrats and the media now are on “Andrew Johnson Mode.” The Democrats have not been this angry since the Republicans took away their slaves. They aim to tie up the president with one nonsensical non-scandal after another.

The media loved the Obama model for world leadership. In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, send John Kerry to France with James Taylor singing “You’ve Got a Friend.” Obama meeting with Russians, asking them to tell “Vladimir” that Obama will cut sucker deals that hurt America after he gets reelected. Obama going to England and shocking the British public by continuing to ramble into a microphone while the orchestra deferentially played “God Save the Queen” in Elizabeth’s presence. Obama going to Communist Cuba and dancing the salsa in front of Castro. And always, everywhere, apologizing for America and promising to cut America down to size so that we no longer tower over Europe and Asia and Africa and the Middle East.

I prefer a “rube” like Donald Trump who leads from the front, drops a MOAB explosive on an ISIS hide-out and terror base in Afghanistan, and who orders 59 cruise missiles launched into Syria to enforce a red line against poison weapons that he does not even have to warn about.

Now that he is home again, the president should turn his attention to the Edifice Complex. He has done well with Executive Orders and Cabinet-and-Court appointments he’s filled, but he is way behind on filling scores of open federal district judgeships and dozens of openings in the federal judicial appellate circuits. If he would only get those seats filled with the kinds of judges he wants, he and the Republicans actually would start winning more federal-case appeals, and justice would move back from the Obama imbalance.

But the time is now for some solid legislation, some real building. His Administration needs to get moving on some serious legislation. To start building that wing or annex or re-furnishing the sanctuary of his political program, he has to move into that next gear. It is time for legislative initiatives like tax reform. Once he and the GOP start getting some “building campaigns” going—healthcare something-or-other, real tax reform, some construction going on the border, infrastructure work—people will become engaged in that and see “stuff” happening. It works in churches; it works in synagogues. Get started on building some of that wall. There is nothing like a building campaign. Maybe even sell plaques for donors to put their names upon: “This brick is donated by Sadie and Izzy Feldstein.”

Clearly, the Democrats and the media now are on “Andrew Johnson Mode.” The Democrats have not been this angry since the Republicans took away their slaves. They aim to tie up the president with one nonsensical non-scandal after another. They allowed Eric Holder’s “Fast and Furious” to pass without a Special Prosecutor. No Special Prosecutor to investigate Lois Lerner and the IRS targeting of politically conservative associations. No special investigation of the Clinton Bathroom email server, the Huma Abedin emails of secure intelligence to her crazy husband, Carlos Danger, who not only lacked security-clearance to see those emails but was ripe to be extorted for all kinds of mischief. No Special Prosecutor to investigate connections between Bill Clinton’s million-dollar speaking engagements in the Putin universe and the concomitant conveyance of American uranium—the stuff of nuclear weapons—to the Russians. Yet the Democrats—call them the “Obstructocrats”—now repeat their stance towards Andrew Johnson 150 years ago:  impeach the president under any guise, for any reason, and just tie him up defending himself. I cannot recall any time in the Modern era, in any Western democracy, where the losing party declared itself “The Resistance” instead of the “Loyal Opposition.”

In the end, it may take two things to determine whether Mr. Trump ultimately is going to be the president he set out to be and for which we elected him: first, the midterm elections in 2018 and second, finally finishing what Harry Reid started and ending the filibuster rule completely, even as it applies to legislation.

Certainly, the party in power typically sustains midterm losses. If the GOP manages to hold the House with minimal bi-election losses, and gains some of those Democrat Senate seats in red states without losing more than one or two GOP Senate seats, then President Trump will emerge with enormous authority to move forward. It will mean that two years of concerted Democrat obstruction, which seems so successful to them and their media Echo Chamber in D.C., actually will not have advanced their interests. All the more so, the president’s strength will be enhanced if the GOP holds all but one or two of their Senate seats and sweeps a boatload of the red state Democrat Senate seats. It will be a definitive statement that, for all the garbage and “Resistance” and left-leaning op-eds and editorials, the voters outside the Beltway did not buy and are not buying any of the daily character assassinations.  

By contrast, if the Democrats do well in the mid-term House voting, even if they do not recapture the House but merely chart substantial gains, and if they hold most of their red state Senate seats and even scoop a few of the GOP Senate seats, then they will be emboldened to intensify “The Resistance” going into 2020, and the president will be stymied.

Today’s filibusters are not in the spirit of Mr. Smith.

Even so, and even then, it is one thing for voters to tell Quinnipiac and Rasmussen that they are disappointed in or do not approve of President Trump (especially when the survey questions are worded in a way to elicit that response). It’s quite another thing when the same voters are faced with the actual—not theoretical—alternatives: Bernie, Elizabeth Warren, other misfits and public nuisances of that ilk. One remembers back to Richard Nixon being reelected in 1972 by the biggest landslide ever because his opponent was Sen. George McGovern, who was not likable, not impressive, and quite radical by the day’s standards.

With or without “The Resistance,” if President Trump gets reelected in 2020 there will be hell to pay because this man takes down names. By then, he absolutely will be pressed to end the filibuster nonsense, assuming the GOP holds the Senate. There is some value to a filibuster rule when it is used sparingly and judiciously. Moreover, all sober-minded conservatives recognize that politics is cyclical, and one day the Democrats again will hold power. But we also know that the filibuster, which has no basis in the Constitution, never was meant to require that each-and-every bill muster at least a 60 percent super-majority. Rather, it was intended for the one or two moments in a term when a bill of Constitutional moment was on the line, and the rule required the filibustering Senator to hold the floor and speak with actual physical support from colleagues. It never was meant for a “Resistance” to prevent a majority party from getting anything done for eight years.

In the meantime, let’s get some donors to get the building fund rolling.

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • America • Americanism • Declaration of Independence • Great Reads • Greatness Agenda • political philosophy • Religion and Society • Second Amendment • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Culture • The Resistance (Snicker)

For Memorial Day, Some Common Sense About Our Common Purpose

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

“Will our Republic survive?”

It is a fitting question for Memorial Day. For, as Abraham Lincoln noted in his Gettysburg Address, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” The work of preserving our freedom is never over and the best respect we can offer to those who “gave the last full measure of devotion” to preserve it is to dedicate ourselves to the task of making their sacrifice meaningful.

So, “Will our Republic survive?”

I’m guessing that when you read those words you did not think of the threat of Islamic jihad, or of Russia, or of China. I’m guessing that you, like Abraham Lincoln, thought first of the danger that we pose to ourselves. “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher,” said Lincoln, and he was right. When thinking of the terrible disorder within our borders and amongst ourselves today, I reflect that not since the days leading up to the Civil War has America been so divided. A great many Americans and many of the leaders of the Democratic Party utterly rejected the election of America’s first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln. And today, it seems, they utterly reject the election of this Republican President.  There has again been talk of secession, long considered a matter settled by the Union victory. It seems we are no longer “one Nation under God, indivisible.”

The 19th century secessionists openly rejected the Founders’ vision. The Declaration, they said and wrote, was simply wrong about equality. In contrast, our fellow Americans who reject the outcome of our recent election seem more unhappy with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Among other things, they reject the Electoral College and the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

Those who reject the Founders’ vision today are mounting a spirited challenge. Consequently, those who do not want to lose our Republic need to mount a spirited defense. But to do that successfully, a strong grasp of the Founders’ vision will be needed. To that end, I recommend three books which, taken together, will ground the patriotic citizen in the understanding they will need to defend the Founders’ gift to us. All three consider the same cast of characters, examining them from three different perspectives. The result is a remarkably robust, almost holographic, presentation of the Founders and of how their new thinking transformed the world in so many ways.

The Society of Useful Knowledge

Benjamin Franklin, of course, plays a central role in all three books. The Franklin we come to know in this one is the man who initiated an American project of harnessing mankind’s intellectual and creative powers for the common good. The author, Jonathan Lyons, tells the story of the birth of the American way of doing science. It turns out that the Founders, who originated a new way of thinking about political liberty, also originated a new way of thinking about the study of nature.

The book is replete with references to common sense, as well as to those other intriguing terms—“the common good,” “the commonwealth,” “the common people,” “common purposes,” “common interests”—that cluster around and help define common sense. If your interests run to science and technology, this might be the book for you to begin your exploration of the American Founding.

On Two Wings

Here are the first words of the Preface: “Most of us grow up remarkably ignorant of the hundred men most responsible for leading this country into a War for Independence and writing our nation’s Constitution…This is a scandal.” But the good news is that you can easily remedy this.

If you want to learn more about the importance of religious faith and religious learning to the American Founding, then this is the book for you. In the brilliant image offered by the author, Michael Novak, the American eagle took flight on two wings, religious faith and common sense. And both those wings were uniquely American. As Paul Johnson wrote in A History of the American People, “In the America of the Enlightenment . . . the specifically American form of Christianity—undogmatic, moralistic rather than creedal, tolerant but strong, and all-pervasive of society—was born.”

The religious wing of the American eagle gets the lion’s share of Novak’s attention. Despite the book’s acknowledgement of the importance of common sense and the reference to common sense in the subtitle, common sense does not get equal attention. Consequently, Common Sense Nation makes the perfect companion to On Two Wings.

Common Sense Nation

Will you kindly forgive me for recommending the third book? Although it is true that I wrote it, it is also true that its fit with the other two is remarkable, and that I hope justifies including it.

This is from Scott Segrest’s review in National Review: “Common Sense Nation makes the case that recovering the Founders’ American idea is vital to reestablishing political order…[The author] is concerned most directly, as the book’s subtitle indicates, with an “idea” that once inspired, and he hopes will inspire again, the American nation. In his careful treatment of the U.S. Constitution, his intent is to recover the understanding and logic underlying the system, to get at the reason for our constitutional arrangements. The “American idea” is both the source of American identity and the standard for what America should be…[the book] tells the forgotten story of the philosophy of common sense that the Founders embraced, a philosophy that in fact was central to their purpose…Curry’s ultimate mission is to reawaken the American citizenry to their heritage and identity and to show them the rational principles by which they can reestablish a sound political order. His book could not be more timely at a moment of massive public disorientation and discontent with our public institutions…”

Because we live in the country the Founders made and in the world they transformed, it is all too easy for us to overlook what an astonishing break they made with all that went before and how great were their achievements. If America had never happened, you and I would almost certainly share the fate of our remote ancestors; we would be living poor, hungry, and oppressed. The Founders’ gift of liberty made possible the abundant and expansive lives we lead, and which we sometimes thoughtlessly take for granted.

Wherever you start, please consider diving in. After all, the Founding was one of the most remarkable and interesting events in the history of the world, and learning about it is its own reward.

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Cultural Marxism • Law and Order • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Left

Fake Law by Fake Judges

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Brazen judges openly legislating from the bench are confirming the widely-held public perception that activist courts are out of control. As a lawyer practicing for three decades in the plaintiff-friendly stronghold of California, within the jurisdiction of the notorious Ninth Circuit, I witnessed many instances of judges—state and federal—slanting their decisions against disfavored parties, such as insurance companies, corporate employers, and deep-pocketed defendants.

Activist judges used to be subtle about it, usually “fudging” the result only in close cases, and typically relying on semi-plausible statutory interpretations, tenuous factual “findings,” flimsy credibility determinations, and the like to justify the politically-desired outcome. Even in California, it was important for judges to maintain a patina of impartiality, so decorum required that their result-oriented decisions hide behind at least a fig leaf of neutral reasoning or precedent.

Not anymore. Judges increasingly view themselves as political actors free to “go rogue,” issuing rulings that are directly contrary to unambiguous laws. Such scofflaw decisions cannot in any meaningful sense be considered “law,” and the black-robed functionaries who issue them cannot fairly be regarded as “judges.” We are entering the realm of fake law being invented by fake judges. This obliteration of the proper judicial role is a threat to democracy—or, if you prefer, to our republican system of representative self-government.

When judges refuse to follow the law, they are scofflaws who threaten democracy.

If this sounds like hyperbole, consider the absurd ruling of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a nationwide injunction of President Trump’s travel ban order, not based on the actual text of the order, but on statements that candidate Trump made on the campaign trail. Even NeverTrumper David French at NRO called this decision “a strange madness” that he termed “Trumplaw” because he does not believe that any court would rule this way if the President were any other politician. Yet a recent ruling from a federal district judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (based in Allentown) is even worse—possibly the most outrageous judicial decision I have ever seen.

The case, Blatt v. Cabela’s Retail, Inc., is a straightforward employment discrimination lawsuit brought by a former employee against the outdoor sports retailer Cabela’s, under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The facts are simple: A biological male named James Blatt was hired by Cabela’s as a seasonal stocker at its Hamburg, Pennsylvania store. He was employed for six months, from September 2006 through March 2007, at which time Cabela’s terminated him. Blatt is a diagnosed “transgender,” meaning that he “identifies” as female even though he was born as (and anatomically remains) a male. Blatt’s lawsuit alleges that Cabela’s discriminated against him under the ADA by refusing to “accommodate” his medical condition—gender dysphoria—by allowing him to wear a female name tag (“Kate Lynn” instead of “James”) and granting him access to the female restroom. Additionally, Blatt alleges that he was subjected to objectionable comments from co-workers due to his decision to dress and act like a female at work, and ultimately was fired due to his condition.

I confess that I am skeptical about the extension of legal privileges to so-called transgender persons (see, for example, here, here, and here), but the ADA clearly excludes gender identity disorders as a “disability” requiring accommodation by an employer. Simply put, when Congress enacted the ADA in 1990, in section 12211 it specifically denied legal protection to “homosexuality and bisexuality,” and went even further, listing the types of sexual disorders that would not qualify as a disability. The statute expressly states that “the term ‘disability’ shall not include … transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders.” (Emphasis added.) “Gender dysphoria,” Blatt’s alleged disability, is a gender identity disorder. Ergo, Blatt’s condition is not covered under the ADA and cannot form the basis for a claim of discrimination under that statute.

Nevertheless, on May 18, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Leeson, appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama, denied Cabela’s motion to dismiss, ruling that gender dysphoria is protected by the ADA. Acknowledging the provisions of section 12211, quoted above, Judge Leeson “reasoned” that the exclusion of “gender identity disorders” from coverage of the ADA should be “read narrowly to refer to only the condition of identifying with a different gender, not to encompass (and therefore exclude from ADA protection) a condition like Blatt’s gender dysphoria, which goes beyond merely identifying with a different gender and is characterized by clinically significant stress and other impairments that may be disabling.” Whatever that means.

Congress unambiguously excluded “sexual behavior disorders,” from the ADA, specifically citing “transvestism” and “gender identity disorders.” Therefore, gender dysphoria is not covered by the ADA, period. The statute could not be clearer. Judge Leeson strained to conclude that Blatt’s gender dysphoria was more than merely “identifying with a different gender,” by claiming that Blatt’s condition also “substantially limits her [sic] major life activities,” including reproducing.

As Dave Barry would say, I’m not making this up.

Legal Mandarins inhabit the courts today.

According to Judge Leeson, because a man pretending to be a woman, and even dressing like a woman, can’t bear children, that makes the gender identity disorder a disability under the ADA. Therefore, Judge Leeson concluded, “Blatt’s condition is not excluded by section 12211 of the ADA, and Cabela’s motion to dismiss Blatt’s ADA claims on this basis is denied.”

Cabela’s will now have to incur the legal expenses of discovery and trial preparation in defense of a claim that Congress intended not to exist. Cabela’s recourse will be to appeal an adverse judgment to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, if it doesn’t settle the meritless lawsuit in the meantime to avoid substantial legal costs.

This was not a casual mistake by a busy, overworked judge. Federal judges are assisted by a bevy of full-time “law clerks” (recent law school graduates who compete for the coveted one or two year positions based on academic distinction), and sometimes also part-time “externs” (current law students volunteering for a semester). Judge Leeson’s six-page opinion was issued nearly 18 months after Cabela’s motion to dismiss was argued in December 2015. Judge Leeson’s ruling was deliberate. He blatantly thumbed his nose at the ADA because he desired a policy outcome contrary to the one enacted by Congress. The decision, largely overlooked in non-legal media, was closely-followed in the LGBT community—in fact, hailed as a landmark ruling. Which it is.

Americans need to confront that judges—especially life-tenured federal judges—have become naked political actors, advancing a policy agenda masquerading as law. The ideology represented by these “new mandarins” is profoundly hostile to our bourgeois social order. Activist judges now routinely misconstrue or ignore statutes enacted by the legislature, and—as with the case of Trump’s travel ban order―hamstring executive branch policies with which they disagree. This is antithetical to the constitutional separation of powers, and principles of self-government. Despite activist courts’ ongoing judicial usurpation of lawmaking, many libertarian legal theorists continue to advocate an even greater role for judges in reviewing democratically-enacted laws. Proponents call this theory “judicial engagement,” but I view it as a call for libertarian judicial activism. The judiciary is too “engaged” already. Decisions like Blatt v. Cabela’s illustrate the need for judicial restraint, not increased activism.

background_color=”” border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • American Conservatism • Americanism • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Identity Politics • Immigration • Law and Order • Political Parties • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Left • The Leviathian State • Trade • Trump White House

What “Make America Great Again” Really Means

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Donald Trump’s wholly unprecedented political disruption and victory is still working itself out and will surely reverberate in the public’s consciousness for years to come. It also added a new phrase to our national political vocabulary: “Make America Great Again.”

The press, the Left, and the anti-Trump faction of the conservative Right want to say that the phrase is nothing more than a racist dog whistle or a wink-and-a-nod to a time when women and minorities knew their place in patriarchal, white Christian America. But these are tired shibboleths and represent failures to take Trump and his supporters seriously. Even if critics ultimately dismiss the Trumpian understanding of “Make America Great Again,” it is wrong to fail to grapple with it on its own terms.

We can discern what Trump and his supporters truly mean by “MAGA” by examining  various other statements spoken by Trump and others both on the campaign trail and post-election and by honestly assessing those statements: “drain the swamp,” “deconstruction of the administrative state,” and, “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.

But Trump appeared to have understood instinctively, at a gut level, the critical need to restore the nation to that previous mode of being by sounding the alarm about the pernicious administrative state; that resonated powerfully with voters who felt their identity and heritage were under siege from the forces of globalization, “free” trade, and a virtually unsecured southern border and that warmed over Reaganism wouldn’t—couldn’t—be the answer they needed.

It’s clear from these declarations that Trump and his administration’s primary concern is for the sovereignty of the American people, for their ability to chart their own political destiny unencumbered by liberty-destroying fixtures like the administrative state. To assert that this slogan is anything other than a simple, powerful, and resoundingly American idea is to expose oneself as engaged in motivated reasoning and sloppy thinking: finding bigoted bogeymen where there is only a desire to hearken and gesture back to America’s founding origins—to recover them in practice. “Make America Great Again” points to the past in saying “again,” sure, but it is fundamentally an expression of a healthy nostalgia—not to a more racist time or to an era where workers were mistreated—for a time when the American people, for all their faults, were still steeped in a tradition of liberty and understood at a deep level the rights they had and the duties these rights imposed upon them for the maintenance of self-government.

Some are alarmed by this “psychological disposition” and dismiss it as unrealistic or unworkable in the real world. They call it “reactionism,” and the clear implication is that people’s urge to want to go back, to want to do anything at all except race headlong, blinders fully engaged, forward—never mind where, just forward!—is fundamentally mistaken: perhaps even fatally bigoted. But when such a one way ratchet has crystallized itself into the “conventional wisdom” of D.C.’s “bipartisan junta” it is certainly time to heed the advice of C.S. Lewis and recognize that the fastest way to return to the right path after realizing that one is on the wrong path is to turn around.

But Trump appeared to have understood instinctively, at a gut level, the critical need to restore the nation to that previous mode of being by sounding the alarm about the pernicious administrative state; that resonated powerfully with voters who felt their identity and heritage were under siege from the forces of globalization, “free” trade, and a virtually unsecured southern border and that warmed over Reaganism wouldn’t—couldn’t—be the answer they needed.

To achieve this goal—making America great again—we will have to rethink the status quo at home of a government-by-experts that “dispassionately” and “neutrally” “implements scientific policy in the public interest” and the relationship between the nation-state and entangling military treaties (e.g., NATO), labyrinthine “free trade” agreements (e.g., NAFTA), and transnational, technocratic institutions (e.g., the United Nations) abroad. In both domestic and foreign affairs, the primacy of the will of the people—acting through their elected representatives—at home and as a sovereign and independent state abroad (not an unrooted, philosophical construct) must be unabashedly reasserted.

Writing in National Affairs, Greg Weiner, an assistant professor of political science at Assumption College, notes that constitutional law scholars, especially those partial to originalism, “almost universally agree that the New Deal derailed the regime the framers designed in Philadelphia in 1787.” Further, “The eruption of legislative activity in Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office … is widely assumed to form a partition separating a long period of limited national government from one of concentrated central authority.” This heretofore unseen rift in the constitutional order, with its roots in Wilsonian progressivism, is what gave rise to the unofficial fourth branch of the U.S. government. Not the media (thank God!) but something much more pernicious: the administrative state. This illegitimate fourth branch was birthed by “some favorable emergency”—the Great Depression—and exploited by FDR, a power-hungry opportunist. (Fact: His administration’s Keynesian economic interventions served only to prolong the worst economic downturn in the country’s history.)

The administrative state has “subverted, perhaps irreversibly” our constitutional order by flouting with impunity the indispensable principle of the separation of powers, subsuming for itself all three species of State power: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The Federal Register, a daily digest published by the federal government since 1936 that contains proposed regulations from agencies, finalized rules, notices, and corrections, has grown by more than 60,000 pages every single year for the last 20 years (stacking only the pages added since 1993, it exceeds the 555-foot-tall Washington Monument). If you honestly think you haven’t violated at least one of those rules at some point, or that you’re truly free while that monstrosity exists, then you’re not being honest with yourself. (I’ll bet you didn’t know you commit about three felonies per day!)

Obviously, the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court could work, whether independently or in concert, to wrest authority from the administrative state and restore themselves to their rightful constitutionally-sourced roles, but they have shown depressingly little initiative on that front. And the fourth branch is also essentially unaccountable to democratic management. It has its own internal, self-directed momentum and refuses to be repurposed, redirected, slowed, or stopped altogether. So we are consigned, by their dereliction of duty, to suffer under this new and foreign Leviathan.

Why should this trouble us? For two reasons. First, because Madison presciently warned over two centuries ago in Federalist 51 of the dangers of blurring the sharp distinctions in authority erected by the Constitution between the three branches—which is why he and the other Framers built both the separation of powers and checks and balances directly into the Constitution’s architecture. Indeed, Madison in no uncertain terms stated in Federalist 47 what the outcome of undermining that architecture would be: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed [sic], or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” (emphasis added).

This perfectly describes the Administrative State: an illegitimate conglomerate of all three species of State power, one which invades our lives with frightening effectiveness because it has no incentive to vie for power over and against the other three, legitimate branches.

The second reason we ought to be concerned is that we are no longer living under our original government. Whatever philosophical consent means, it certainly does not require the American people to agree to be ruled by a State that is in some fundamental sense not the one established by the original, founding charter: the Constitution. A bloodless coup has been carried out, and it seems we are all none the wiser. Largely through the Supreme Court’s passivity and inclination toward technocracy (but a Caesarist, expansionist presidency and a feckless Congress no doubt shoulder their share of the blame), the constitutional order established in 1787 has been turned on its head. As Timothy Sandefur of the Goldwater Institute astutely notes, we now live in a society where our freedoms are treated as privileges that the government can grant or restrict at will (as they were pre-Enlightenment), not as inborn rights that the government must have very good reasons to violate. We increasingly are content to pursue our various projects within the confines of cramped “freedom zones” whose contours are set by the State in its “beneficence.”

Trump’s presidency so far has achieved quite a lot of good—especially when weighed against the possibility of at least four more years of Obama-Clinton style progressivism.


Thus, in a practical sense, we no longer conceive of ourselves (and certainly the government does not view us) as born basically free. As evidence of this, look no further than the truly disturbing lengths to which Uncle Sam will go to shut down children’s lemonade stands. No longer is government limited, which is a shame. Were it so, each of the two major political “tribes” would not view lost presidential elections as signs of an imminent Apocalypse and lose their minds—as the Democratic Party and liberal activists still are even as Trump’s “first 100 days” are now behind us—because it would not matter so much who, in particular, was in power. Government would simply be far too feeble to actually direct, control, and/or micromanage the substantive content of our lives.

Trump’s presidency so far has achieved quite a lot of good—especially when weighed against the possibility of at least four more years of Obama-Clinton style progressivism. He managed to get a stalwart originalist—Justice Gorsuch—confirmed to the Court, cracked down on the flow of illegal immigrants through the southern border, and took a swing at excessive regulations. The House improved upon ObamaCare by passing its version of the AHCA (the Senate will do yet more). And tax reform is up next.

In truth, Trump could be restricted to a single, disastrously unproductive (and even thoroughly scandal-ridden) term, and America would still ultimately come out the winner (particularly if he were able to nominate one—or even two—more Supreme Court justices).

Why?

Because his election has precipitated a fundamental realignment of our nation’s politics; it has opened a political Pandora’s Box. No longer will it be possible for candidates to ignore core issues, issues integral to national self-determination, such as immigration and proper foreign engagement—at least not if they actually want to win. Trump has given Americans a great gift by offering us a chance to claim once more our multi-faceted birthright as Americans: a government constrained by the rule of law, our God-given right to liberty, the Constitution’s structural commitment to federalism, and our own rightful claim to be a sovereign people. We have been given an opportunity—We the People have—to try to see to it that the “Blessings of Liberty” are secured “to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Let us not waste the opportunity.

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • Conservatives • Deep State • Democrats • Donald Trump • Featured Article • Greatness Agenda • Hillary Clinton • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Culture • Trump White House

What Donald Trump Can Learn From the Clintons

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

You have to hand it to the Clintons. They understand power. At least, Bill does. Hillary may be too much an ideologue to excel in the power sweepstakes.

Donald Trump? I think the jury is out on him.

Did you know that one of Bill Clinton’s first actions after he had been inaugurated was to install a friend of his wife’s and one of his campaign workers as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service? The lucky lady was Margaret M. Richardson, Clinton stalwart.

Many conservatives must wonder, why is John Koskinen still head of the IRS? If you haven’t watched Koskinen’s testimony before Congress lately, take a look. Then take a look at Lois Lerner’s testimony. Really, take a look at that. Then note that you, a taxpayer, are helping to pay for this disgusting person’s pension (the amount, of course, is undisclosed).

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, I suggested that Trump take a page from Machiavelli. “The success of his administration,” I wrote,

will depend on many things: luck, skill, effective alliances. But all will be for naught if he tarries. It’s not just the first 100 days that will matter. It’s the first week, nay, the first 48 hours. His team should come to town ready to undo, right now, today, every executive order promulgated by Obama. Every appointment that can be made should be made instantly, every nomination should be put forth and, so far as is humanly possible, fast-tracked. It should be a shock-and-awe performance. The media will howl. The political establishment will squeal. But they will have been rendered irrelevant before they knew what hit them. It will be a spectacle worth watching.

As I have noted, I think that Trump’s opening chapter has been a success. The simple fact that Hillary Clinton is not president is a triumph for democracy. “The fact that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, is president is already, just by itself, an accomplishment of the first water,” I noted recently.

And it’s not just a matter of what Hillary Clinton would have done. At issue was also who she was: a Clinton. I leave to one side the breathtaking corruption that she conspired with through her connections with the Clinton Foundation and its various pay-to-play schemes. I leave to one side also her callous and mendacious incompetence in handling the terrorist attacks on our consulate at Benghazi, her scandalous and routine mishandling of classified material and deployment of a home-brew email server. Leave that to one side and think just of the precedent she would have set had she become president: no, I am not talking about her anatomical status as female, but rather her dynastic status as a Clinton. Had she won, the presidency of the United States for the last twenty years would have shuffled between three families. That alone would have set an ominous precedent and upsetting that counts as a large bullet dodged.

I think of that, I think of the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, of Trump’s efforts to roll back counterproductive regulation, his energy policy, his efforts to enact a pro-growth agenda by cutting taxes and taming the beast that is ObamaCare: I think of all that and am glad.

But, still, I worry. Like Gulliver in Lilliput, Trump is surrounded by enemies. So far as I can see, he has done precious little to neutralize them. The day Bill Clinton was inaugurated, he asked for, and got, the resignations of 93 U.S. attorneys. Trump early on asked for 46: much wailing and gnashing of teeth greeted that initiative.

Bill Clinton moved quickly to replace an FBI director he didn’t like. In August 1993, just months after Clinton took office, Louis J. Freeh was confirmed.

I am trying to imagine what the response on the Left would be if Trump did any of these things.

What would Stephen Colbert say?

My concern is this. You often hear that the president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world.

Like Gulliver in Lilliput, Trump is surrounded by enemies. So far as I can see, he has done precious little to neutralize them.

I’d say, that depends.

Compare, for example, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Who was the more powerful president? Reagan may have been the most powerful person in the world. Was Carter?

I think the answer is obvious.

Why? Personal charisma? That was part of it.

But there was something else. Part of the answer, I feel sure, was an intuitive grasp of the physics of political power. Reagan had it. Carter did not.

One of the first things Reagan did upon coming to office was settle a strike by air traffic controllers. In 1981, he fired 11,000 striking workers. “They are in violation of the law,” said Reagan, “and if they do not report for work within 48 hours they have forfeited their jobs and will be terminated.” Notwithstanding the fletus et stridor dentium I alluded to above worked: the union was tamed, the planes flew, freedom and prosperity moved a few inches forward.

Reagan defeated the Soviet Union without firing a shot. His tax cuts sparked the greatest economic boom in world history.

What did Jimmy Carter do? What do you remember? The “malaise” speech? “More mush from the wimp”? The Iran-hostage fiasco? The “misery-index”?

So long—but only so long—as the people who put Donald Trump in office believe he is doing his best to fulfill that promise, they will follow him to the ends of the earth.

The moment they sense he has betrayed them on this fundamental issue, the party is over.

Let me say this: The promiscuous desire to be liked is a personal character failing. In a politician, it is an existential challenge.

I have recently had occasion to quote one of my favorite mots from William Dean Howells: “The problem for a critic is not making enemies but keeping them.”

A congressman’s wife is on the board of a local dance company that gets $10,000 from the NEA. “Don’t defund the NEA, honey! What will Mildred think?” Will he keep his enemies or let them go?

Have you been to any swank parties in New York lately? Everyone, darling, is on board with the idea that “climate change” is an existential threat to mankind.

It’s errant nonsense, but no matter: it takes a politician of rare courage to buck the trend and say the truth.

Here’s something our friend Niccolò Machiavelli knew but that escapes many: power operates according to a partially occult calendar. What is possible on day one or day 100 or even on day 150 of a politician’s tenure will no longer be possible on day 366.

I am not sure anyone has ever said exactly why that should be the case.

But it is the case.

Donald Trump came to power on an extraordinary wave of hope and bitterness.

The bitterness was a response to a justified sense of existential marginalization at the hands of an anonymous technocratic elite that presumed to run people’s lives without in the least understanding their lives.

The hope arose from the trust that, finally, someone understood the score and was going to return prerogative to the people, not simply shuttle it to another party.

That is exactly what Trump said he would do on January 20, 2017. “[T]oday we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another,” he said in his brilliant inaugural, “or from one party to another—but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

So long—but only so long—as the people who put Donald Trump in office believe he is doing his best to fulfill that promise, they will follow him to the ends of the earth.

The moment they sense he has betrayed them on this fundamental issue, the party is over.

No politician wins every battle. Trump has already won several. He has lost some. He will lose more. There are some symbolic victories that have to happen: the Wall, for example. Somehow, that has to happen.

There is also one central promise that has to be kept: Make America Great Again. I believe that Trump has already made great strides in that battle. But at the end of the day it will be won or lost on one issue: economic growth. The magic number is somewhere between 3 percent and 4 percent. It can be done. Will it?

If Trump understands political power, the answer is Yes. Does he?

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

America • Americanism • Democrats • Donald Trump • Economy • Greatness Agenda • Healthcare • Immigration • Republicans • Satire • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Culture • The Left • The Resistance (Snicker) • Trump White House

A Retrospective on Trump’s First 100 Days, Part 2

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Author’s note: This article has been proofread by Louise Mensch. Any fake news contained herein is therefore impossible unless Vladimir Putin hacked American Greatness, which he probably did right after faking the moon landing.

In our last installment covering the first 100 days of President Trump’s tenure, we touched on the area where Trump has had the most unquestioned successes: namely, foreign policy. Now, we turn to the area where the media and the Left are fond of saying Trump has been least successful: domestic policy.

 

A Small Potato World Class Villain?

On that front, Trump spent his first few days in office ruthlessly gutting Obama-era regulations, and even authorized the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, a move which somehow managed to be both an apocalyptic, unprecedented act of environmental rape, and political small potatoes that only an inexperienced rube like Trump would count as an accomplishment of any weight, depending on which liberal consultant was emailing headlines to press outlets.

In response to this political small ball/villains’ plot from a “Captain Planet” episode, along with the aforementioned anti-regulatory measures (which liberals almost described as child-killing before Planned Parenthood asked what was so bad about that), the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 20,000 for the first time ever and has stayed above that ever since. Democrats responded to this milestone by pointing out that Hillary Clinton would’ve hit a record in the Popular Stock Average, a concept which has just as much meaning as the popular vote.

Nevertheless, the first few weeks of Trump’s term were dizzying in terms of the amount of executive action taken, to the point that many Democrats doubted that anyone would be able to defile their cherished institutions so successfully in the future. They have since concluded that only Bret Stephens is capable of such atrocities.

 

Masterclass Rhetoric

Trump also began to show mastery of the ceremony of statecraft, as in late February he delivered a widely praised speech to a joint session of Congress, even going so far as to bring the Congress to its feet for a record setting amount of time in order to applaud Kerryn Owens, the young widow of a fallen soldier. Democrats in particular were horrified by this, because instruments of American imperialism should never be applauded, and besides, her slain husband was white and male, and therefore his death was a win for progress. Unsurprisingly, these actual reasons don’t play with voters, and so Democrats resorted to accusing Trump of using Mrs. Owens as a prop to justify unjustifiable military decisions. Nakouley Basseley Nakoula could not be reached for comment.

 

Hitting an Immigration Wall

In any case, despite these early successes, all presidents must hit obstacles eventually, and so it was with President Trump. He faced adversity almost as soon as he began to tackle immigration. Specifically, Trump issued a ban on travel to the United States by residents of seven different countries, with the added wrinkle that it extended even to current green card holders from those countries.

[A] district court judge blocked the ban for reasons that can approximately be summed up as, “Trump said things that upset my country club while campaigning, and I care more about that than what the law actually says.” When this order was taken to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges declared that the Constitution and the ban said something different in their safe spaces, and therefore the ban was likely unconstitutional everywhere.

Predictably, the Left went into hysterics over the fact that Trump had taken such a draconian and unforeseeable step that he had been talking about since 2015. As a result, several problems immediately hit the administration: First, demonstrators swarmed airports to protest the ban, an event which the airports were powerless to stop because none of the demonstrators had tickets for United Airlines to steal, and thus there was no way to force them out. Second, a district court judge blocked the ban for reasons that can approximately be summed up as, “Trump said things that upset my country club while campaigning, and I care more about that than what the law actually says.” When this order was taken to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the judges declared that the Constitution and the ban said something different in their safe spaces, and therefore the ban was likely unconstitutional everywhere.

President Trump reacted, understandably, by blasting both courts for their blatant partisanship and biased reading of the law. At this, every legal commentator on the Left immediately declared that Trump was undermining the independence of the judiciary and seeking to destroy the American system of checks and balances before penning more think pieces arguing for the court to be packed so that Citizens United could be overturned.

Contrary to the fears of his critics that Trump might imitate Andrew Jackson and refuse to obey the courts, Trump decided to reissue the travel ban in more legally sound terms, at which point another judge protested that Trump had also said things that upset his country club, and blocked the second travel ban in retaliation.

Despite these setbacks, the day-to-day enforcement tactics of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly so terrified would-be illegal immigrants that illegal immigration dropped by over 60 percent. Seeing this, Trump decided to keep President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order in place, so that those same childhood arrivals would have an easier time using the interstate highway system to flee to Canada. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, was spotted wandering in the woods of Utah in nothing but a hair shirt, all while muttering “self deportation” and sobbing.

 

Judging the Justice

That said, Trump was clearly angered by the antics of activist judges, because shortly after taking office, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. This met with universal acclaim from both Trump supporters and Conservatism, Inc., though sources tell American Greatness that Erick Erickson privately fretted that it was bad Christian witness to accept a Supreme Court nomination from a man who has appeared on the cover of Playboy.

Sober reflections like this characterized the informed and thoughtful opposition to President Trump’s agenda.

Democrats, meanwhile, energetically began telling the country that Neil Gorsuch had let a man freeze to death in his truck, a move that caused a minor crisis of conscience in their base, who had recently decided that they rather liked chilling effects.

At his confirmation hearing, Gorsuch had the audacity to sound intelligent while white, male, and better informed on the law than certain female Senators, at which point the Left decided that on no account could a man who actually knew about a subject be allowed anywhere near power. As a result, they dug in fiercely against Gorsuch, until Mitch McConnell finally pulled the plug on the judicial filibuster altogether, an act that caused a minor panic in Washington, D.C., as the sound of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s desolate wailing reached the pitch and volume of an air raid siren.

 

Healthcare Ails

Having filled Antonin Scalia’s seat with one of the staunch conservative justices on his announced list (or, as Brent Bozell III insisted on calling Gorsuch, “Trump’s Sister”), the president then moved on to the topic of healthcare. Here things got complicated quickly, as the House Freedom Caucus insisted on a bill that would not merely repeal Obamacare, but also designate a national Obamacare Repeal Day, in which Americans would be encouraged to urinate on replicas of the bill. The moderate Tuesday Group, meanwhile, announced that they would only support an Obamacare repeal bill if Trump were immediately replaced by John Kasich. Unable to fill either of these requests, and lost for ideas, Speaker Paul Ryan instead called the heads of multiple insurance companies and asked, “So we know Obamacare already gave you most of what you want, but anything else?”

Trump was clearly angered by the antics of activist judges, because shortly after taking office, he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. This met with universal acclaim from both Trump supporters and Conservatism, Inc., though sources tell American Greatness that Erick Erickson privately fretted that it was bad Christian witness to accept a Supreme Court nomination from a man who has appeared on the cover of Playboy.

The result was the American Health Care Act, a bill which managed to infuriate practically every member of the House and Senate except for Ryan’s staffers. The Democrats, flummoxed as to which angle to attack the bill from first, eventually settled on accusing the bill of repealing a major entitlement for the first time: an attack that, while accurate, somehow did not manage to win it the support of the House Freedom Caucus. Trump, meanwhile, who saw the bill as the fulfillment of a campaign promise and also possibly leverage to get Speaker Ryan to shut up about how we needed to lower labor costs so that the strikers in Galt’s Gulch would come home, tried desperately to get it through, but eventually had to permit the bill to be pulled.

This caused the press to enter a fit of jubilation, declaring that Trump had “failed” on healthcare. Their jubilation was cut short, however, when it was discovered that Ryan could just revise the bill: a concept that doubly horrified the press, because most of them had never encountered the concept of revision before. As of now, the bill is being held up by the Tuesday Group, who remain horrified at the idea of overturning an entitlement because, come on, that’s what Russia would do!

 

Tax Reform For People Who Refuse to Win

Just before his 100 days were up, however, Trump signaled that some form of success could be on the horizon in two distinct ways. First, he released a proposed tax reform package so bold that upon reading it, Grover Norquist had to be carted out of Americans for Tax Reform, sobbing that he had seen the face of God. Unfortunately, as with everything Americans want, Congress likely views the tax cut package as dangerous, dead on arrival, and far too drastic for serious people (read: lobbyists who donate to them) to support.

Secondly, Trump and Congress came to an agreement to keep the government open until September. And while the details of the bill have made both Jeb Bush and John Kasich (unfortunately not kidding about Kasich) crow over being right about what could be done in the policy world, Democrats are taking a big risk because, in signing this bill, they are signing away their leverage on GOP policymaking for the next four months.

However, they likely have nothing to worry about, given that getting something through the GOP-controlled congress is not merely like herding cats, but even more complicated because the cats in question are arguing over which breed is superior.

Thus ends this retrospective on Trump’s first 100 days. With any luck, the succeeding four years will be not only as entertaining, but also at least as good.

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Americanism • Big Media • Congress • Democrats • Donald Trump • Political Parties • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Left • Trump White House

Trump Is Bad at Being a Tyrant

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Donald Trump is a truly dynamic figure. Many Republicans understood after the disasters of 2008 and 2012 that the party needed someone different. Some of us saw early on in the 2016 election that Trump was just the man for the job.

Of course, the Left spewed its usual hate. They attacked his looks; they attacked his kids; they attacked his wife. They also called Trump a “Fascist!” What else is new? They say the same things of any Republican candidate who looks strong enough to win. To the Left, a Trump presidency (as a Romney presidency in 2012 or a McCain presidency in 2008) would have ushered in a tyranny not seen since the early days of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

To be sure, Trump manipulated the media in much the same way savvy dictators do. Also, he is loud and he loves gold. And he doesn’t tolerate nonsense from the “lying press.” Where I was raised, though, what Trump has been doing with the media is called standing up for yourself. To the media, however, a Republican that stands up for himself is “dangerous.”

If Trump were elected, the Left insisted that he would override Congress and the courts, in order to push his purportedly unpopular agenda through—just like so many strongmen have done throughout history.

So it was with bated breath that so many awaited the inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017. Would this be the savage end of our republic?

Trump wasted no time pursuing his agenda. He looked to areas where he could effect change rapidly, after realizing that Congress would drag its feet on virtually everything. Trump is a businessman in the truest sense. In his world, the customer is usually right—at least on some level—and a corporate leader must deliver his product as advertised. Thus, President Trump issued a series of executive orders addressing some of his biggest promises on the campaign trail.

It was during this period that the first constitutional challenges to Trump’s “absolute power” arose. The Left was giddy. They were not only going to prove that Trump really was Hitler reincarnate, but they were also going to set the stage for a constitutional crisis that (in their minds), would ultimately lead to Trump’s impeachment.

They just needed Trump to take their bait. The Left waited for President Trump to ignore the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that overturned his initial executive order on immigration. After much back-and-forth in the press (and on Twitter), something unexpected happened. The great tyrant…adhered to the ruling of the court!

After 100 days of the dreaded dictator what can we Trump supporters say to our fellow Americans? Do we apologize? Do we hang our heads in shame? No! We turn to our Leftist friends and say, “you’re welcome.”

The Ninth Circuit demanded of Trump that parts of his executive order be rewritten. Rather than waste more time and energy challenging the ruling, the Trump Administration took its licks, and made the necessary changes. I can’t seem to remember Mao turning to his lawyer, rather than his gun, when his enemies successfully opposed him. Then again, my mind is soup after years of watching “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Meanwhile, the strongman-in-waiting did something even more unbelievable: He started consulting with Congress on key legislation, such as healthcare reform and tax cuts. Oh, yeah, and the Man-Who-Would-Be-King even offered to work with his political adversaries on the Left to craft a sensible infrastructure bill.

What a tyrant!

Just when you thought Trump’s autocratic tendencies couldn’t get any worse, he did something truly unprecedented for a dictator. Trump backed down from healthcare reform when Congress made it clear that it would be unable to pass the reform as written. Did Stalin ever take “no” for an answer?

It’s unconscionable, I tell you!

Our Caesarean overlord then pivoted in foreign policy and did the very thing that many of his most ardent followers believed he would never do: Trump launched a limited strike on Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria. Never in my life have I seen such vitriol directed against a President by his own supporters. The Left thought that Trump and his “fascist” supporters would be cheering on an aggressive foreign policy. They weren’t. In fact, Trump’s base of purported warmongers and white nationalists were apoplectic over his attack on Syria. And do you know how the tyrant responded? He listened to his supporters!

After 100 days of the dreaded dictator what can we Trump supporters say to our fellow Americans? Do we apologize? Do we hang our heads in shame? No! We turn to our Leftist friends and say, “you’re welcome.”

In 100 days, President Trump has returned more power to the people and their elected representatives in government than has any president in the last 70 years. Because of Trump’s unwillingness to ignore the bizarre court rulings against his executive order on immigration; thanks to Trump’s respect for the legislative branch (when, frankly, none should be given to Congress); and thanks to Trump’s willingness to buck his own supporters in the name of doing what’s right in foreign policy, he is helping us make America Great Again.

Rather than acting the part of a dictator, Trump is the ultimate democrat. In a way, Trump is like Napoleon in reverse. When Napoleon rose to power, he legitimized his coronation by crowning himself emperor as the Pope looked on. Thus, Napoleon stood above all. In Trump—the Left’s newest fascist bogeyman—we have a leader who has taken the vast powers of his office and slowly started returning it to where it belongs. Trump is taking the imperial crown from atop his head, cutting it into equal parts, and handing each component to the other two branches of government—all while standing eye-to-eye with the legislative and judicial branches.

Some tyrant.

To my Leftist friends, I say this: If Trump is truly a tyrant as you believe, he’s not very good at it. So, please, quit whining and focus on the future.

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

America • Americanism • Cities • Immigration • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • The Leviathian State • Trump White House

Judge Orrick’s Nullification of the Rule of Law

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Back in March 2016, the Obama Administration threatened to withhold federal education dollars from the state of North Carolina if the state did not repeal their now famous bathroom bill, otherwise known as HB2. Obama’s Department of Justice thought it was a civil rights issue if a state intervened to prevent men from entering public restrooms designated for women and vice versa. Regardless of the what one thinks about HB2, Obama’s DOJ built their case on the premise that a state may not violate federal law.

What a difference a year makes.

The Left, and the Democrats have now come full circle. Of course, Obama did not really believe in the rule of law—he believes only in what he deems is “progress”—and invoked the “Supreme Law of the Land” only because he judged it could be massaged to advance his leftist goals.

Behind Orrick’s weak legal analysis and premature ruling on an action that has not yet been implemented, lies a pernicious ideology remarkably similar in principle to the one moving the slave power before the Civil War.

This week, a grafting, Obama appointed district court judge, William H. Orrick, delivered a poorly written and lawless decision that—in essence—invokes the long discredited principle of nullification. Historically, nullification was the belief that a state could nullify, or interpose itself between its own laws and any federal law it deems unconstitutional. In this instance, we have cities that, by and and large, have been controlled by the Left for decades trying to establish a basis for so called “sanctuary cities.” In truth they are are seeking nothing so much as a right to nullify federal laws they do not like.

Executive Order 13768 “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” addresses a problem whereby certain cities are purposely and “willfully violating Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.” Those cities are also shielding criminals from deportation and prosecution. According to this order, cities that persist in this lawlessness, will have “Federal funds” removed from them “except as mandated by law.” In other words, unless the government had to release funds as mandated by law, the executive office may deny grants, or future grants, to localities who are harboring criminals and thwarting investigators in their pursuit of justice.

There are some on the right who claim that this ruling is much ado about nothing. As far as this argument goes, it’s not wrong. But it’s not the whole story, either. Behind Orrick’s weak legal analysis and premature ruling on an action that has not yet been implemented, lies a pernicious ideology remarkably similar in principle to the one moving the slave power before the Civil War.

The court admits—as do the cities of San Francisco and Santa Clara—that the cities have a “well-founded belief that the Order will be enforced against them.” (p. 16) There could be no clearer admission of guilt. The cities admit they have pursued a policy of nullification. Their denial to enforce existing law has caused them “fear.” (p. 17) The fear they feel is not based on any actual action by the federal government, instead it emanates from their belief that “enforcement” of the Order will cause “injury.” (p. 18) Why would that be? Because that injury will come, they admit, when the the government enforces their immigration laws by denying them “funds on which they rely.” (p. 25)

We should perhaps set aside the obvious question of how these sanctuary cities can be so fiscally irresponsible that they cannot function in absence of federal monies from the taxpayers of other states. It is the fiduciary responsibility of local officials to balance their books. If their books were balanced, they would have no fear, unless they feared their loss was simply one of the loss of surplus largess, but that is not the argument they make. Orrick states:

The Counties have demonstrated that their sanctuary policies reflect their local judgment of what policies and practices are most effective for maintaining public safety and community health. Because they argue that the Executive Order seeks to undermine this judgment by attempting to compel them to change their policies and enforce the Federal government’s immigration laws in violation of the Tenth Amendment, their claims implicate a constitutional interest. (p. 28)

Orrick relies on arguments similar to John C. Calhoun’s

Because of the “potential loss of funds,” local governments and residents may be burdened. (p. 29) The state and local governments out of compliance with federal immigration laws may have to make different policy choices (i.e., respect federal law), or they may have to alter current “services” to account for the loss of federal funds. The horror.

In other words, Orrick relies on the Tenth Amendment to reject Trump’s Order because the order  requires the states to follow existing federal law! (p. 40) He goes on to assert that no state may abide by a federal law that requires it adopt a certain policy, or to carry out a federal program. The opinion is written so broadly in this section that it makes a mockery of the supremacy clause of Article 6; they may interpose themselves between any law or enforcement of the law they determine is unconstitutional. Slavery anyone? How about desegregated schools? Jim Crow?

We have been here before. In the “Exposition and Protest,” John C. Calhoun made similar arguments:

the general powers, expressly delegated to the General Government, are subject to its sole and separate control; and the States cannot, without violating the constitutional compact, interpose their authority to check, or in any manner to counteract its movements, so long as they are confined to the proper sphere. So, also, the peculiar and local powers reserved to the States are subject to their exclusive control; nor can the General Government interfere, in any manner, with them, without violating the Constitution.

Why may the states interpose their will and nullify the tariff? Because of the alleged self-interested economic harm to their industry. Lost in Orrick’s entire decision is the fact that there are certain states and certain cities that are refusing to enforce the laws and secure the safety of the citizens of the United States. His is a lawless decision relying on a principle used to defend slavery.

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

Administrative State • America • Americanism • Conservatives • Democrats • Donald Trump • Great Reads • History • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • Uncategorized

The ‘Hundred Days’ Humbug

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

President Trump is criticized for things he has done and for things he has left undone. What is unreasonable is the additional arbitrary standard to which he, like all modern presidents, is held liable: what he has accomplished, and failed to, in his first hundred days in office.

Why is the figure of 100 days so important? As though Franklin D. Roosevelt doesn’t have enough to answer for, here is another of his legacies.

FDR spoke of “the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal” in his fireside chat of July 24, 1933—142 days after his March 4 inauguration. He was referring to “the historical special session of the Congress” he had convened, which opened March 9 and adjourned June 16. That is, the Hundred Days were legislative days, not executive days.

Read the rest at The Wall Street Journal.

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

2016 Election • Administrative State • America • Center for American Greatness • China • Conservatives • Deterrence • Donald Trump • feminists • Foreign Policy • Government Reform • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Middle East • Neil Gorsuch • Republicans • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Leviathian State • The Media • Trump White House

How Trump’s First Three Months Point the Way to Three Percent Growth

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

The great nineteenth-century man of letters William Dean Howells once made a remark that I have long cherished as a sort of personal motto: “The problem for a critic,” Howells said, “is not making enemies, but keeping them.”

A critic who does not make enemies is unlikely to be doing his job, inasmuch as criticism is the application of discrimination to human activities and such activities, by definition, will fall short of the ideal. A critic who does not make and keep enemies is likely to be a critic who fails to speak the truth.

An honest politician has to have a place in his heart for that enemy-keeping imperative if he is to merit the adjective “honest.” But a politician’s road is harder than a critic’s. A critic must be unwavering in his service to the truth of his own experience. But beyond that he needn’t worry much about making himself likable, only interesting.

An honest politician, worse luck, has to remain broadly true to his promises while also endeavoring to remain popular with voters, the people who put him into office.

Like so many activities in this sublunary world, achieving that it is a balancing act, a tapestry of compromises and negotiations—“deals,” to use a word that Donald Trump has elevated to a conspicuous place in the political lexicon.

Cynics may wonder whether, at the end of the day, there is any real difference between compromise and capitulation, negotiation and selling out to the highest bidder. Realists will know that there is a difference. The modern habit of assuming that a reliable index of someone’s wisdom is the extent of his disillusionment is as superficial as it is philistine. It’s important, in assessing a politician’s success, to keep an eye on his deeds as well as his declarations. But the tendency to cast every political statement in the worst possible light brings us closer not to the truth but merely our own cynicism.

It is with this in mind, I believe, that the oft-quoted idea that Trump’s detractors take him literally, but not seriously, while his defenders take him seriously, not literally must be understood. As we approach Trump’s hundredth day in office—the clock just turned on 91 days as I write this—it is worth stepping back and posing on Trump’s behalf the question Mayor Ed Koch made famous: “How’m I doing?”

Cynics may wonder whether, at the end of the day, there is any real difference between compromise and capitulation, negotiation and selling out to the highest bidder. Realists will know that there is a difference. The modern habit of assuming that a reliable index of someone’s wisdom is the extent of his disillusionment is as superficial as it is philistine.

It would be difficult, I suspect, for readers who get their news primarily from outlets as the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC, or CNN to have any sense of Trump’s stupendous accomplishments these past three months.

For some of us, it can almost go without saying, the fact that Hillary Clinton is not president, that her political career, in fact, is over is by itself an accomplishment of history-making proportions.

“Precautions are always blamed,” Benjamin Jowett once observed, “because when successful they are deemed to have been unnecessary.” Pundits now have the luxury of speculating what a Clinton presidency would have been like. I can tell them. American would have evolved even further toward its status as a one-party state ruled by an elite, progressive oligarchy. The war that Obama inaugurated on religious freedom, on the First and Second Amendments, on enforcing America’s immigration laws, on our energy independence and status as the world’s premier military and economic power—all would have been prosecuted vigorously by a President Clinton. The ideological weaponization of government’s administrative alphabet soup—the IRS, the EPA, the DOJ, etc.—would have continued apace as conservative groups were targeted and discriminated against for the tort of dissenting from the progressive orthodoxy on any contentious issue.

Thus it is that the fact that Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton, is president is already, just by itself, an accomplishment of the first water. And it’s not just a matter of what Hillary Clinton would have done. At issue was also who she was: a Clinton. I leave to one side the breathtaking corruption that she conspired with through her connections with the Clinton Foundation and its various pay-to-play schemes. I leave to one side also her callous and mendacious incompetence in handling the terrorist attacks on our consulate at Benghazi, her scandalous and routine mishandling of classified material and deployment of a home-brew email server. Leave that to one side and think just of the precedent she would have set had she become president: no, I am not talking about her anatomical status as female, but rather her dynastic status as a Clinton. Had she won, the presidency of the United States for the last twenty years would have shuffled between three families. That alone would have set an ominous precedent and upsetting that counts as a large bullet dodged.

But what else has Trump wrought in his 91 days as president? To listen to the legacy media, the answer is: not much. Many near-top-tier jobs have gone unfilled. The much ballyhooed repeal of Obamacare failed on its first go around. Tax cuts haven’t happened. The progressive Jared Kushner-Ivanka wing of Trump’s advisors seems to have gained ascendancy (at least according to the Sanhedrin of the MSM) over the Steve-Bannon populist wing. In short, it’s a shambles all around.

That, anyway, is the gospel according to the progressive megaphones.

The message is far different on the ground. Quite apart from the permanent rustication of Hillary Clinton, Trump has moved with blinding speed to start fulfilling many of his major campaign promises.

  • Immigration. Illegal border crossings are down by more than 90 percent. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is once again enforcing the nation’s immigration laws. Deportations are down because there are fewer illegal penetrations of US borders. In other words, Trump’s policy is shaping up to be a major success.
  • Sanctuary cities, i.e., cities where federal immigration laws are essentially suspended. Trump promised to end them. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is working overtime to make that happen. Earlier today, he wrote at least eight jurisdictions warning them that they may be failing to comply with immigration laws and that they were therefore in jeopardy of losing federal grants. Some cities, notably in California and New York, have blustered that they will continue to resist abiding by the law, but I predict they will change their tune once the spigot of federal funds is turned off.
  • Energy. The Keystone and Dakota access pipelines. Need I say more? Yes? How about “coal”: that should settle the question.
  • Foreign affairs. Under Obama, you had the unenforced red lines of a pink politician. Under Trump, you have 59 Tomahawk missiles directed at a Syrian air force base that carried out a Sarin gas attack, followed a few days later by the destruction of an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan with one 21,000-pound super bomb. You also have successful face-to-face diplomatic meetings with President Xi Jinping of China, Prime Minister Theresa May, and even Chancellor Angela Merkel. Earlier today, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel publicly told Secretary of Defense James Mattis that he welcomes the “strategic change of American leadership and American policy.” The Russians are stamping their feet but Trump continues his course. Meanwhile, the Chinese seem to have been enlisted to help with the problem of the Kim Jong-Un, the cartoon-like dictator of North Korea. In Seoul a couple of days ago, Vice President Pence echoed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s warning that America’s “strategic patience” with North Korea’s minatory antics was at an end. Trump underscored that partly by parading a lot of military hardware in and around the Korean peninsula, partly by tweeting that “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”
  • The Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch. Also, Neil Gorsuch. And may I add, Neil Gorsuch? Thanks to the Federalist Society for preparing that list of twenty-odd names from which Trump plucked his first Supreme Court nominee. Trump will likely have to avail himself of at least two more justices and who knows how many federal judges “very much in the mold of Justice Scalia.”
  • Regulation. First there’s the two for one rule: want a new regulation? Get rid of two others first. And then there is the spate of executive orders aimed and reducing onerous and inefficient regulation. It’s early days yet, but so far it seems to be working.

Two big question marks hover over the issues of health care and tax cuts. Despite the many confident prognostications from the punditocracy, I think it is impossible to say when or what is going to happen on either issue. We’re ninety days into a new administration now. Come back at day 360.

There is also the large issue of economic growth. The stock market, which is up about 2,500 points since Donald Trump was elected, clearly is bullish on his policies. Will that enthusiasm be translated into 3 percent or better growth? If so, the pathetic pink-hatted females can jump up and down all they like, the Black Lives Matter protesters can continue their policy of violent racial redress, disappointed commentators, who had pinned their hopes for advancement on a Clinton presidency, can continue to sulk and reassure one another that Donald Trump is “not their president.” It won’t matter. If Donald Trump reaches and sustains that magic number of 3 percent growth for the major part of his first term, he can count upon a second term as well. I fully expect him to maintain plenty of enemies, just as William Dean Howells advised, but they’ll be off caterwauling in the wilderness, as irrelevant to the process then as they were to the election last fall.

Content created by The Center for American Greatness, Inc is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]

America • Americanism • Section 1 • Section 2 • self-government • separation of powers • The Constitution • The Courts • Trump White House

How to Actually Fix SCOTUS

overlay_color=”” spacing=”yes” hover_type=”none” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” border_position=”all” padding=”50 0px 50px 0px” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″

Judge Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has recently been confirmed as Justice Gorsuch of the United States Supreme Court. Since then, there have been laments in the pages of The New York Times that the Supreme Court is “broken,” while others insist that the Court’s politicization and status as a political football is simply par for the course. Most interestingly, there have appeared think-pieces about how to fix it. I agree. The Court is broken, yes, but not in the way most (especially those on the political Left) believe it is. I also do not think that we are doomed to accept as normal the far-too-frequent and near-apocalyptic clashes over the fate and direction of the Court that we’re so accustomed to seeing as a polity. There is indeed a way to fix the Court.

Vox’s Ezra Klein is one of the commentators who purports to have the solution. He writes:

The core problem here is the stakes of Supreme Court nominations: They’re too damn high. Candidates serve for life—which, given modern life spans and youthful nominees, can now mean 40 years of decisions—and no one knows when the next seat will open. … The result isn’t merely an undemocratic branch of government but a randomly undemocratic branch of government. … We need to deescalate Supreme Court fights. The most obvious way to do that is to limit terms. Holding justices to a 10-year, nonrenewable term would lower the stakes of any individual Supreme Court nomination as well as make the timing of fights more predictable.

We the People must come to understand that the Court is a mere part of our constitutional order and that it does not stand outside of it as its omnipotent and omniscient keeper and enforcer.

In sum: nix life tenure and regiment seat openings for predictability’s sake. But Klein is wrong. What’s needed is not a wonky, technocratic tweak but something much more profound: a recommitment on the part of the nation as a whole to understanding the proper scope of the Court’s authority and its role in our constitutional republic. The ways Presidents Jackson and Lincoln conceived of the separation of powers and related to the Court will be invaluable in this pursuit. We must, in essence, relearn that the Court is not the last word on the Constitution and that to make it so is fundamentally opposed to the rule of law, the principle of the separation of powers, and the Constitution itself.

First, President Jackson. He is infamous for (among other things) having said of Chief Justice John Marshall, in the wake of Worcester v. Georgia (1832)—in which the Court held that the State of Georgia had no right to interfere in the affairs of the Cherokee nation—that he “has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”

Needless to say, such a statement, were it to be uttered by a president today, would undoubtedly spawn fevered accusations that he was being unfaithful to the Constitution, invite speculation about the possibility that strongman authoritarianism had taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and prompt persistent calls for his impeachment. Whether Jackson was right, substantively-speaking, to have arrived at his conclusion, one at odds with the Court’s holding, is irrelevant. What is relevant is the realization that the three branches of the federal government are co-equal and that, therefore, each has the right to interpret the Constitution for itself. Indeed, they are sworn to do so as part of their oaths of office.

We have, regrettably, forgotten this essential truth—a vital expression of the principle of separation of powers—and replaced it with judicial supremacy. This is an alien and anti-constitutional doctrine which illicitly invests the Court with the sole authority to interpret the Constitution and bind the other branches and the sovereign citizenry to its interpretations, irrespective of how vacuous, illogical, and immoral they may be. But this is wrong, and Article VI sets the record straight: “This Constitution … shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby …” All branches are duty- and oath-bound to serve the Constitution—not their own parochial, institutional interests or the personal agendas of their members—above all.

Second, Abraham Lincoln understood this rightly as he courageously rejected the Court’s odious ruling in Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857), which held that blacks could never be citizens, maintaining that the Court’s ruling was binding only on the parties to the case. Beyond that, however, is something deeper that motivated Lincoln’s action. He firmly believed that the Court’s decisions must have their basis in valid precedent as well as the text, structure, logic, purpose, and history of the Constitution itself, otherwise “the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.” Dred Scott was an act of raw judicial will and fundamentally inimical to the rule of law, the separation of powers, the Constitution, and basic morality. Lincoln did well to ignore and refuse to enforce it.

We the People must come to understand that the Court is a mere part of our constitutional order and that it does not stand outside of it as its omnipotent and omniscient keeper and enforcer. Standardizing, as Klein and others would have us do, when seats open up on the Court—some of the members of which firmly believe that it is their duty to ratify emerging, or hasten into being, social “progress” even if that means torturing the Constitution until it says what they wish it would—will do nothing except to have the weightiness of nominations to its bench puncture the public’s consciousness at predictable intervals, rather than at random ones. But lawlessness that adheres to a schedule is no virtue.

The way to fix the Court is to stop treating it as the infallible transmitter of the meaning of the Constitution and its provisions. Part of that means reeducating the nation’s citizens as to how their government ought to function, and part of that means the other two branches—particularly Congress—must reassert themselves as co-equal partners in the job of upholding the Constitution and, thereby, preserving the sovereignty of the people. Unless and until this happens, our sovereignty will continue to be eroded and undermined by dangerous, naked will-to-power opinions of a few unelected and unaccountable members of our black-robed, secular-judicial clerisy.

border_position=”all” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hover_type=”none” element_content=””]