Trump thinks he has ab­so­lute power

The Republican Herald - - OPINION - Su­san Estrich (Estrich is a writer for Cre­ators Syn­di­cate)

It was John Dal­berg-Ac­ton, 1st Baron Ac­ton, who is re­spon­si­ble for the first quote that now comes to mind. The baron died more than 100 years ago, but one per­son will come to many minds as you read his words:

“Power tends to cor­rupt, and ab­so­lute power cor­rupts ab­so­lutely. Great men are al­most al­ways bad men, even when they ex­er­cise in­flu­ence and not au­thor­ity, still more when you su­per­add the ten­dency or the cer­tainty of cor­rup­tion by au­thor­ity.

We have a pres­i­dent who ex­er­cises both au­thor­ity and power, ab­so­lute power if you read his tweets last week, not to men­tion his su­per-lawyer Rudy Gi­u­liani’s com­ments about the hy­po­thet­i­cal mur­der of for­mer FBI Direc­tor James Comey.

Repub­li­cans were trip­ping over them­selves to find some con­text for the sui­ci­dal state­ments em­a­nat­ing from the pres­i­dent and his lawyer, es­pe­cially given the pres­i­dent’s care­less tim­ing of his tweets — the day be­fore pri­mary elec­tions in much of Amer­ica. His de­fend­ers al­ter­nately pointed out that it would in­deed be po­lit­i­cal sui­cide for any pres­i­dent to par­don him­self and that the pres­i­dent’s state­ment should be con­sid­ered purely hy­po­thet­i­cal, since of course he has done noth­ing for which he would need a par­don.

Help me here: If you’re not at any risk of need­ing a par­don, why in the world would you and your lawyer be out there talk­ing about it? They raised the is­sue, not the press or the Democrats.

If Chuck Schumer, the Demo­cratic leader in the Se­nate, had ac­tu­ally come out and said that this pres­i­dent con­sid­ers him­self above the law, with the right to par­don him­self, Schumer would be bashed non­stop by the con­ser­va­tive talk­ing heads for putting words in the pres­i­dent’s mouth.

Be­cause who would ever ac­tu­ally say such things?

The an­swer is that the only per­son who would say such things is a pres­i­dent who, think­ing only of him­self, is wor­ried about pos­si­ble crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity; and, it goes al­most with­out say­ing, has no re­spect for the Con­sti­tu­tion, the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers or, most im­por­tantly, the rule of law.

Be­cause if you be­lieve in the rule of law and ap­plaud the mir­a­cle of our con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy, then you can­not buy into the no­tion that the pres­i­dent is above the law.

How many times have we learned this? Wasn’t Water­gate enough to make that clear? Wasn’t “the Satur­day Night Mas­sacre” (the night that Richard Nixon tried to fire spe­cial prose­cu­tor Archibald Cox) enough to teach his suc­ces­sor that there is noth­ing that a spe­cial prose­cu­tor can do that will be worse than what hap­pens if you fire him?

The law, Jus­tice Oliver Wen­dell Holmes wrote, ex­ists not to tell the good man what to do but to tell the bad man what he must not do. Moral­ity is not the is­sue; it is the prospect of pun­ish­ment that de­ters the bad man, or the bad man in all of us, from break­ing the law. If you re­ally thought you could get away with mur­der, you might be tempted.

What does it say about the pres­i­dent’s ha­tred of James Comey that his lawyer would choose that ex­am­ple? A lit­tle too much, I fear.

Of course, a dif­fer­ent kind of pres­i­dent wouldn’t be com­plain­ing to the Rus­sians about the FBI direc­tor, wouldn’t be in war foot­ing to try to dis­credit the FBI, would not show the con­tempt for the rule of law that this pres­i­dent wakes up with and takes to Twit­ter to ex­press, un­fil­tered. It is ter­ri­ble that this is how our pres­i­dent feels; and it is down­right fright­en­ing that he sees no rea­son not to say it on the day be­fore an elec­tion.

What is he think­ing? What is ter­ri­fy­ing is we know the an­swer. He thinks he has ab­so­lute power.

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