Paul Ryan and other Republicans who are acting much like German politicians and business leaders in the early 1930's who thought they could rein in and control Adolph Hitler truly need a wake up call. They need to face the frightening reality that if elected to the presidency, it will be difficult if not impossible to rein in Donald Trump. As commander-in-chief, Trump could initiate military action and create chaos and potentially unleash irreversible disasters on America. Similarly, he could act through executive orders that would stand until struck down by the courts or overturned by Congressional legislative action. A piece in Salon reminds us that by the time Congress could act, it might be too late. Here are highlights:
Donald Trump has made many promises on the campaign trail about things he will fix (a broken immigration system), change (the way trade deals are negotiated) and build (a wall on the southern border) if elected president. Those who do not support Trump, regardless of political party, comfort themselves with the constitutional reminder that our government includes three co-equal branches designed to protect against the accumulation of too much power in too few hands. Those checks and balances aside, could President Trump accomplish any of his stated objectives through unilateral actions?
Scholars of the presidency and political pundits alike have noted the expanding presidential powers during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Each relied on executive action (executive orders, agreements, proclamations and signing statements) to implement and at times to bypass Congress on policies both foreign and domestic (particularly regarding war powers in the fight against terrorism since 9/11). This trend is not new, as the expansion of presidential power has often occurred during times of political crisis.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember about executive power is that there is nothing to stop a president from initiating action, even if unconstitutional. The consequences — whether legal or political — come after the fact. If Trump issued an executive order to ban Muslim immigrants, the directive would stand unless and until checked by Congress or the courts. Congress can pass legislation to overturn an executive order, or through its power of the purse, it can refuse to provide funding. Federal courts can place an injunction on an executive order (as was the case earlier this year regarding Obama’s executive order to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation), or declare a presidential action to be unconstitutional. Public opinion can also turn against a president, as can support within the president’s party, and both can have electoral consequences.
Would any of this be enough incentive to give President Trump pause before taking action? An accurate prediction would be difficult, but aggressive action by Trump regarding key issues on his policy agenda would not be shocking.
A reader sent me a link that reminds us sometimes a single unilateral action can unleash unexpected and ultimately vastly deadly consequences that could damage or end the lives of literally millions of people. The link is here. Can we really believe that a narcissistic and politically and historically ignorant would not trigger what the author calls the "Archduke Francis Ferdinand moment,"referring to the assassination that triggered World War I. A war that that lead to the downfall of nations and empires and likely cost 17-20 million lives.