Jun 06 2018

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.
Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Jill Abramson: Trump’s lawyers want legal immunity for the president. Who will stop them?

Donald Trump’s vision of executive power is so expansive that it would make Richard Nixon blush. The memo outlining unbridled presidential powers drafted by his lawyers for Robert Mueller goes far beyond what even the biggest fans of strong, unitary executive power, like the late US supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, ever dreamed. It essentially puts the president above the law.

Trump’s legal claim of limitless power would mean that he can defy any subpoena from Robert Mueller and his lawyers also say he has immunity from obstruction of justice charges related to his firing of the former FBI director James Comey.

Trump’s “actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself”, the lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow wrote Mueller back in January.

Their arguments are laughably unconstitutional, but who will stop them from drawing a curtain of infallibility around their client?

Ronald A. Klain: The biggest gut punch to our rule of law lately hasn’t come from Trump

The rule of law has taken some gut punches the past few days, but not from the source most widely blamed: the outlandish memo written by President Trump’s lawyers claiming that he’s above the law, followed by Trump’s “I-can-pardon-myself” tweet.  Constitutional democracy can survive self-aggrandizing claims by a president and his legal team; far more crucial is how our institutions, leaders and citizens respond to those assertions and act to constrain them. And it is on that measure that our system has been put at risk.[..]

The rule of law turns on how our legal and political systems respond to presidential overreach — and what presidents do when their excessive claims are rejected by the other branches. The Supreme Court unanimously rebuffed Clinton’s claim that he could not be deposed — and then he submitted to questioning in the Paula Jones case. Bush’s deputy attorney general, James B. Comey, refused to bend on the surveillance issue — and the president radically changed his domestic intelligence-gathering program. Congress declined to give Obama authority to bomb Syria, and the president (perhaps relieved) refrained from an attack.

Today, the greatest threat to the rule of law is not the reckless claim by Trump’s lawyers of presidential immunity, or the erratic Sunday-show ruminations of his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. What is weakening our government under law is the flaccid response that key players in our system are making to Trump’s above-the-law assertions.


Christine Emba: The Supreme Court wasn’t ready to decide on the wedding cake. Neither are we.

“Narrow” has emerged as one of the most common descriptions of the Supreme Court’s decision on Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a 7-to-2 ruling in Masterpiece’s favor. That assessment is most often delivered with a sort of grim disappointment, because neither side feels as though they have clearly prevailed. After all, narrow is the opposite of comprehensive. It implies that much of the debate has been left unresolved.

And so it has. But Masterpiece was not a simple case, and neither we nor the justices are ready to resolve the hard conflicts that lie at its core.

The decision was a win for Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, a baker who had refused to create a wedding cake to a same-sex couple because he disapproved of same-sex marriage on religious grounds. But the justices ruled in his favor on, yes, narrower grounds than Phillips had sought. The majority seized on statements made by members of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission that the justices said had shown hostility toward the baker’s religious beliefs. The court punted on deeper questions of what religious belief is, what it looks like in the public square and how it might stack up against other important concerns.

Robert Kuttner: Corruption Is The New Normal

The emblem of the Trump era is the mingling of personal corruption on the part of America’s leaders with the political corruption of American capitalism and the rise of autocracy. And, of course, the three trends feed on each other.

Take the case of the assertions by President Donald Trump’s lawyers in their memo to the special counsel Robert Mueller that was reported this weekend. The claim is naked in its candor: Trump is simply above the law. Anything that he does as president is legal, simply because he does it.

This is Trump’s attitude generally, and it is the essence of tyranny.

Autocracy and personal corruption go hand in hand. If there are no democratic checks, the autocrat can be as corrupt as he likes. Trump’s signature in the runup to the 2016 election, and in office, has been trading favors with Vladimir Putin — not favors that reset our diplomatic relationship with Russia and cool tensions but personal favors that benefit Trump financially. As an autocrat, he believes that he can avoid being held to account, and he may be right.