Republicans should teach Trump the limits of presidential power

Most of my Republican friends voted for President Trump because of his policy positions. With the notable exceptions of less free trade and increased deficit spending, his positions generally align with mainstream conservative ideology. These conservatives embrace tax cuts; robust defense spending; selection of a conservative Supreme Court Justice; pro-life positions; looser gun laws; tighter immigration control; and reduced regulation. Republicans I know are neither deplorable nor ignorant.

 

Largely anathema to conservative Trump supporters was his opponent’s progressive agenda. The American electorate had a clear choice on policy, and they elected Donald Trump. But many voters who supported his policies pulled the Trump lever despite their disgust with his temperament. Their expectation was that he would grow into the immense responsibilities of the presidency.

But that hasn’t happened.

Without addressing the pros and cons of Trump’s policies, his chaotic and sometimes juvenile actions discussed below reduce his ability to make his policies into law:

a disorganized and chaotic rollout of his poorly vetted temporary immigration ban;

obsessively lying about the size of his electoral victory and the number of people at his inauguration (America doesn’t care; he won);

needlessly starting public fights with allies Mexico and Australia;

backing down on his pledge to release his tax returns (by one survey, 74 percent of voters and a majority of Republicans think he should release them);

disparaging the intelligence community by comparing it to Nazi Germany;

calling the news media “dishonest” and “corrupt” when they write true, but critical, stories;

disrespecting our independent judiciary by calling federal Judge James Robart a “so-called” judge.

responding to the statement “Vladimir Putin is a killer” with the comment, “There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country is so innocent?” Equating America’s morality and conduct to that of despotic thug Putin is ignorant and un-American. The lying by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn leading to his resignation adds more questions to the administration’s relationships with Russia.

On the Sunday morning news shows Feb. 12, senior adviser to the president Stephen Miller made several unsettling remarks. He said there is “no such thing as judicial supremacy” and “the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial, and will not be questioned.” Miller showed a serious disregard for the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution in his angry and frightening declaration that the president was above judicial review and congressional interference.

But more alarming was the fact that the president tweeted that Miller did a great job representing him. Does the president understand the checks and balances in our government?

The autocratic tendency of the president may result from his business career. The only boss Trump ever had was his father, and that was many years ago. Being successful, wealthy and without the occasionally humbling influence of a boss, Trump has an inflated opinion of his intelligence and judgment.

These unrealistic views of his intellect and power feed into his authoritarian persona, which drives him to disregard the roles of our judiciary and Congress, along with disparaging the intelligence community, the press, foreign leaders and anyone else who disagrees with him.

Thinking and acting as if he is all-powerful and cannot be wrong are dangerous characteristics for the man who controls our nuclear arsenal and is the leader of the free world.

We citizens have no direct influence on Donald Trump, but Georgia Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, U.S. Rep. Rick Allen and the other nine Georgia Republican representatives in Congress do have leverage. They are our emissaries to the president, and with their Republican colleagues, they can – and as an independent branch of government, must – work to curb his most destructive instincts.

Democrats cannot influence Trump; the Republican Congress can. If they do not act, Republicans put their own re-election at risk in 2018.

Republicans elected Trump. They own him, and they need to teach him the limits of presidential power.

(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)

 

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