Opinion | Muftic: The president who would be king
If there was one reason the Mayflower was the first of many similar boatloads full of settlers who sailed across the Atlantic, it was to escape the tyranny of a government and especially the English King. President Trump has never understood why he cannot rule by decree and executive orders like the kings and dictators he so admires and why the judiciary, Congress and law enforcement cannot be put to use to advance and protect his power and agenda. He tweeted and verbalized an assertion last week that “the judiciary is the greatest threat to our country,” insinuating his edicts were necessary to protect the United States from threats to national security.
He has attacked one of the key foundations of American democracy, an independent judiciary. After a record attempt by the Republican controlled Senate to fast track, to change the rules so fewer votes were needed to confirm judges’ appointments, and to pack the courts with conservative think tank recommended nominees, including two vacancies on the Supreme Court, it was just not enough for him. His view of the courts appears to be all judges should be loyal to him and his particular view of executive authority. That is the ultimate expression of his desire to make this country ruled by him, not by the rule of law. The threat of an independent judiciary is not a threat to the country. It is a threat to the power of the wannabe king himself.
Trump has seen some of his executive orders struck down by a judiciary that is sworn to protect the Constitution. Particularly obnoxious to him is the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The infamous Muslim ban was rejected by that court on the basis that it was discriminatory against practitioners of a religion. After some revisions, it was retitled and changed to ban and permit enhanced extreme vetting of those who came from specific countries that may harbor terrorists. Thrown into the list were a few non Muslim countries. It was a sleight of hand that finally enabled the executive order to be approved by the Supreme Court on a 5-4 decision in June 2018.
Trump’s campaign in the 2018 midterms centered around hyping fear and loathing of immigrants of color. To cater to his nationalist core followers, he devised a strategy to stop “caravans” of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. The caravan travelers, equal to the same number of students of two large high schools , were comprised of mostly women and children migrants he called “thugs” and disease ridden. The fear of these migrants was raised to near hysteria by his favored media outlets just before the midterm elections. US military intelligence had reported the caravans did not threaten national security, but nonetheless Trump rushed more US troops to the border than we have in Afghanistan. A week before the midterms he announced a plan for an executive order that would rewrite the 14th Amendment to end birthright citizenship. That has not yet been court tested. He followed that strategy up with an executive order forbidding those who reached US soil illegally to qualify for asylum only if they got in line and went through a legal checkpoint. The U.S. Judge in the Ninth Circuit ruled Nov. 19 that federal law clearly states that migrants can seek asylum anywhere on U.S. soil and … “he (Trump) may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.” Trump called foul and said that Judge was an Obama appointee. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts responded in defense of an independent judiciary: “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
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