Though it may be painful as a nail in the head, let us rewind to the days of Dubya, which many people point to as the inflection point of American exceptionalism and its claim to having some legitimacy. Dubya’s handlers – namely Vice President Dick Chaney – made a case for a Strong interpretation of the Unitary Executive doctrine. What does this mean?
This is the literal interpretation of Article II of the US Constitution, which reads:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
The literal interpretation being The President of the United States IS the Executive Branch of the US government.
“Unitary executive” is a code word for a doctrine that favors nearly unlimited executive power. The limited interpretation of this doctrine posits the strong version violates basic tenets of our system of checks and balances, quietly crossing longstanding legal and moral boundaries essential to a democratic society.
Now fast forward from the Constitution days and the Bush regime to today. What does this mean for Trump, and his potential downfall? How do we interpret the doctrine Trump IS the Executive Branch?
A highly probably interpretation is a sitting president (e.g. Trump) cannot be indicted or convicted of a criminal act. This would seem to preclude any deleterious result on Trump personally from Mueller’s investigation, though this immunity does not extend to Trump’s minions.
As Trump is synonymous with this borderline personality trait, in which traditional mores, norms, and legal precedents are pushed to their limits as a turnbuckle in pro wrasslin, we may very well find out.
Other concerns are can Trump pardon himself if impeached? Can he pardon witnesses who might testify against him, specifically with the aim of “letting them off the hook” if convicted.
Therefore, this Strong Interpretaion of the Article II, the Unitary Executive is not a trivial pursuit question. Rather, it is integral to the ultimate verdict on Donald Trump so many Americans have been waiting breathlessly for in the never-ending, so called “Russiagate” scandal.
The ultimate reason Donald Trump tapped Brett Kavanaugh may never be fully known, but if the question appeared on the Big Board at the MGM Grand in Vegas, I’d bet all my worldly possessions on two words: Unitary Executive. See, Trump has no ideology to speak of beyond whatever serves his immediate purposes. His politics are entirely transactional — What do I get out of it? — and with Kavanaugh, Donald Trump gets a breathing “Get Out Of Jail Free” card on the highest court in the land.
Why? Kavanaugh is a devotee of the Unitary Executive theory of government espoused and deployed by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld during the administration of George W. Bush. The theory is their retaliation for the political defenestration of Richard Nixon, which took place during the larval stage of their political careers and was profoundly transformative for both.
Kavanaugh was appointed to the DC Court of Appeals by Bush because, it was widely whispered at the time, of his support for the idea presidents should not be sued, investigated, prosecuted or even mildly ruffled in any legal way during their time in office. “National Security” and all that noise, you see.
“Kavanaugh,” reports NPR’s Nina Totenberg, “wrote an extensive law review article in 2009 that could have implications for the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. In that article, he said after seeing firsthand the many difficult duties that a president encounters, he thinks, in retrospect, that presidents should operate free from the threat of civil suits — like the sexual harassment suit that led to Clinton’s impeachment — and presidents also should be free from criminal investigations.”
And there you have it. Why Kavanaugh? Because along with Gorsuch, Thomas, Alito and Roberts, Kavanaugh represents the final inoculation against whatever charges special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling. Trump defies a deposition subpoena? A president cannot be compelled to testify while in office. Collusion with Russia? A president cannot be investigated while in office. Obstruction of justice? A president cannot be prosecuted while in office.
The Unitary Executive theory is airtight in its contra-constitutional concept of an untouchable, all-powerful president. It is the divine right of kings for the 21st century, and in the guise of Brett Kavanaugh and his four conservative compatriots on the high court, it is Donald Trump’s last, best firewall against any legal consequences for his serial misdeeds.
I believe Trump ultimately chose Kavanaugh precisely because he is a Bush-era Unitary Executive man. The final strangeness in all this is that the approval of Kavanaugh will mean the legacy of George W. Bush — the man history has been trying to forget — will be cemented in the law of the land for all time.
Rod Rosenstein can sleep tight tonight. There is no longer any reason for Trump to fire him, because after all the Senate votes are cast, there will no longer be any reason to fire Mueller. The special counsel can roll the rock all the way to the top of the hill. Kavanaugh and his pals will roll it right back down again.
That’s why Kavanaugh was picked. He fits right into Trump’s immediate purposes. I do not know this for a fact, but I know it.
Another serious concern is what if Trump is impeached or removed from office or indicted or convicted or 25th Amendmented and following the pattern set so far, Congress and the Judicial Branch basically does nothing to enforce this? In effect, everyone is so scared of Trump and his Trumpets they simply let him be the authoritarian dictator he so badly wants to be?
The Democratic party knows – and now you know – the reason Kavanaugh is on the bench is this: he’ll help get Donald Trump off the hook when the time comes. Yep.
Don’t get excited about the so-called “Resistance” helping us out on this rather serious situation.
Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic party are not going to do anything to oppose the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Wall St. folks who pay the Democrats’ bills don’t want them REALLY resisting Trump and his agenda. They’re supposed to pretend… like the guys in WWF wrasslin pretend to smack each other with steel chairs and slam each other into folding tables. Like that.
Don’t believe me? You’ll see… it’ll be a pillow fight. Schumer in PJs doing his nails.
It is just a play. A puppet show for the feebleminded.
Those who assume there are profound divisions between the Democrats and Republicans on the composition of the Supreme Court or anything else are fooling themselves. On all the critical issues—the strengthening of the state, the implementation of pro-corporate measures, the attack on the social rights of the working class, militarism and war—the two parties agree.
Know what the best part of all of this is?
Trump talked Anthony Kennedy into retiring. Yep. Trump told Kennedy if he retired from the Supreme Court, Trump would put his favorite student – Kavanaugh – on the bench to replace him.
Corruption? No, there’s no corruption here. Why would you say that? They’re all virgins who live in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood…
They had a connection, one Trump was quick to note in the moments after his first address to Congress in February 2017. As he made his way out of the chamber, Trump paused to chat with justice Kennedy.
“Say hello to your boy,” Trump said. “Special guy.”
Trump was apparently referring to Justice Kennedy’s son, Justin. The younger Kennedy spent more than a decade at Deutsche Bank, eventually rising to become the bank’s global head of real estate capital markets, and he worked closely with Trump when he was a real estate developer, according to two people with knowledge of his role.
During Kennedy’s tenure, Deutsche Bank became Trump’s most important lender, dispensing well over $1 billion in loans to him for the renovation and construction of skyscrapers in New York and Chicago at a time other mainstream banks were wary of doing business with him because of his troubled business history.
And of course, what would a corrupt back scratching festival be without the big money anti-abortion lobby sharpening their knives over Roe v. Wade?
Meet Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society. They’re the ones picking up the tab for the parade and after party.
Leo figured out twenty years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war. So they needed to stack the courts. Leo has spent a career shaping the federal judiciary to reflect rigid, conservative religious dogmas:
Those include the notions that human life begins at conception and that homosexuality is immoral. The reason is moral “natural law” is as part of the fabric of the universe as the laws of nature, and it trumps any secular law that humans (or legislatures) might dream up. As developed by St. Thomas Aquinas and a millennium of subsequent philosophers, everything has its “natural” function and its “unnatural” misuse. Food is for nourishment, not gustatory delight; sex is for procreation, not pleasure; sensual enjoyment is luxuria, a sinful diversion of pleasure from its intended purpose of reproduction.
OOHOOPS! WHOOPS! See Chuck go. Sliding, sliding, down the hill. Sledding, sledding, never standing for anything real.
They will whine that they’ve been steamrolled by Trump and the Republicans, but shed no tears for the Democrats. You can’t be steamrolled if you aren’t even standing in front of the machine that’s about to crush us.
At this point, it may be the only narrative which can save what remains of the shattered dream of American democracy, exceptionalsm, and so on is if people stop being scared of Trump and fight back. Namely the Congress, whose love of money has morphed them from initially incredulous into Trump sycophants.
It could happen. But it won’t. Schumer and Pelosi and Hillary and the gang are not real “Resistance.” This is just a marketing scheme on their part to “win” the 2018 midterm elections. “At Least We’re Not Trump” is the tired campaign slogan they’ve trotted out again. Aaargh!
Hello?!? A reminder: the Democrats lost everything – presidency and seats in Congress – running on the platform in 2016. It appears highly the Pelosi/ Schumer/ Hillary gang will not make nearly the Blue Wave they arrogantly count on. Their hatred for Hillary causes Trumpets to respond like Pavlov’s dogs, which is going to motivate many Trumpets to vote against her villainy at the 2018 midterms, including those who otherwise might stay home.
Of course, a real resistance would have been much more successful if it occurred in the beginning of Trump’s regime. Now the shit snowball has grown so much larger and has picked up speed, which may make Trump’s reign effectively invincible at this point. The Bond Villain who spawns endless sequels.
From within Trump’s own White House staff come descriptions of managing him in terms reminiscent of a “toddler.” Typically, the mechanism that ensures cohesion within the executive branch is the president’s ability to fire people. The most striking feature of the recent statements from within the administration — the reason people feel so free to do what Tillerson did — is they don’t seem to care if Trump fires them. They either don’t think he’ll do it, or they actually don’t mind if he does.