Monday, January 20, 2020

The New Post-Trump Constitution

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
The new normal: Impeachment as a routine partisan tool, endless investigations, lying under oath with impunity, surveillance of political enemies, zero accountability …
The Left sees Donald Trump’s comportment, rallies, and tweets as a new low in presidential behavior that justifies extraordinary countermeasures. But Trump’s personal characteristics are idiosyncratic and may or may not become institutionalized by subsequent presidents. And it is not as if liberal icons such as FDR, LBJ, JFK, and Bill Clinton suddenly became saintly in office.
What is far scarier is the reaction to Trump, in both the constitutional and political sense. What follows are likely the new norms for the next generation of presidents, and they will probably be equally applied to Democrats who implemented them in the Trump era.
1) Private presidential phone calls with foreign leaders will be leaked and printed in the major media. The point will be not so much to air breaking news as to embarrass the president or to use such disclosures to stymie his foreign policy. Those who leak such information will be canonized as part of a “resistance.” Prominent officials in government will publish anonymous op-eds in the New York Times bragging about how they are daily undermining a new president’s administration.
2) Impeachment is now a casual affair. It requires no report of illegal or unethical behavior by a special counsel or special prosecutor. It will not be bipartisan but solely the action of the opposition party in the House when it is in the majority.
Public support will not matter. Much less will it be needed. Impeachment will be applied equally to a first- or second-term presidency. And it will become useful in a reelection year to help drive down an incumbent’s popularity.
Even when there is no chance of conviction in the Senate — as when the impeachment indictment is weak and the president’s own party controls the upper House — impeachment will nonetheless proceed, because it is now seen as a banal, politicized vote of no confidence and thus an occasionally useful political tool.
There will be no time limit on or shelf life of a successful impeachment. Once a president is impeached, the writ may simply sit until the House majority feels that the climate or polls are ripe to refer the articles to the Senate for trial, whether in days, weeks, months, or years. The writ’s clauses entailing supposed wrongdoing may post facto grow or shrink as news headlines and presidential popularity gyrate. Impeachment will begin not with a Judiciary Committee but with a House Intelligence Committee, whose chair will decide rules of cross-examination and witness appearances in secret in the basement of the House. Information will be selectively released to the media by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee alone to massage impeachment momentum.
3) There will be no need to specify “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” in any impeachment writ against a president. “Obstruction” and the “abuse of power” will do well enough. Either can be defined largely in terms of ongoing policy differences with the opposition party. Obstructing the opposition’s effort to impeach a president and abort his agenda is now an abuse of power.
Read the rest from Victor Davis Hanson HERE.

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