King for a Day

Ideas and Issues
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Little Rock      Give it to Donald Trump.  He took his best shot.  He grabbed for the golden ring and declared himself King of America.  It didn’t last long, but mark the date from April 13th until reality set in fully on April 14th, Trump made himself King for a Day.

In what will be one of the classic quotes in the biographies to come, President Trump declared in one of his daily reality-show talkathons that are disguised as press briefings on the covid-19 pandemic that, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total.  And that’s the way it’s got to be.”

Well, no, the authority is not total by a long haul, and it’s absolutely not the way it either is, or that “it’s got to be.”

Most of us learned how dead-ass wrong he was while we were in public school in the lower grades as our history books touched on the concepts of federalism or what the conservatives, other than the president it seems, harp on and on about when they sing song about states’ rights.  Of course, there’s the separation of powers that is supposed to balance the executive, legislative and judicial functions of government.  We’ve known for a while that Trump doesn’t care much for those concepts, but the Constitution also established the country as a federation of the states, rather than one unitary, central government running from top to bottom.  In simple terms, that means that those powers, once the arguments are made and settled, that are not clearly established for the executive branch, and therefore the president, fall either to the other branches of government as stipulated, like the legislative ability to tax and declare war, or to the states.

The hoot and hollers of protest were immediate.  Not only from the governors, who either shouted back, “Heck, No,” or just went on about their business and ignored the president, knowing his stay as King of America would be short and they didn’t need to hold the stopwatch.

Scholars on the right and left scoffed in outrage.  One of his impeachment defenders, Jonathan Turley of Georg Washington Law School, was adamant, saying ““The Constitution was written precisely to deny that particular claim.”  John Yoo, who justified waterboarding for George W. Bush and is now at the University of California at Berkeley, left no doubt on this saying, “only the states can impose quarantines, close institutions and businesses, and limit intrastate travel…and only they will decide when the draconian policies will end.”  Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law called him out as a poser, saying he was “talking a big game, but not in fact exercising executive power successfully. Trump wants to seem like he is this really powerful guy being really aggressive with executive power, but he’s not.  There has been a huge mismatch between his rhetoric and his actions.”  Can he use stimulus or other monies to bribe the governors into playing along?  An op-ed columnist the Wall Street Journal reminded him that that was exactly what the opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts in the Affordable Care Act outlawed in saying that incentives could not be used to leverage states financially or in other ways from the federal side.

Trump tried to save a tiny bit of his face after anointing himself King-for-a-Day by having the White House put out a statement that he was going to call all fifty governors and essentially give them permission to reopen, but all he really did was recast himself then as the emperor parading about with no clothes believing he is dressed royally.