Clinton, Trump and Authoritarianism

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RxCowboy

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From WSJ Opinion Journal:

Clinton, Trump and Authoritarianism
The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee pitches a new edition of her campaign memoir.
929 Comments
By James Freeman
Sept. 19, 2018 3:38 p.m. ET

Still holding on to ‘16 as long as she can, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is out with a new, expanded version of her campaign memoir, “What Happened.” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports that the book “has a big new caboose” with much additional verbiage about “what has happened in the past year.” The big new literary caboose features claims of a Trumpian assault on our constitutional norms, but is bound to raise new questions about Mrs. Clinton’s own commitment to such norms.

Last night the former Secretary of State appeared on Ms. Maddow’s program and seems to have made news by warning that our duly elected President might exercise his authority to fire some of his un-elected subordinates. Mrs. Clinton spoke about Trump supporters:

I don`t think that those people really fully appreciate what is potentially possible under this presidency. What I worry about, Rachel, is that after this election, this president`s going to wholesale fire people. That`s my prediction for tonight... if we don`t have one or both houses of Congress in place, he will be even more uncontrollable and unaccountable. He will fire people in the White House. He will fire people in his administration who he thinks are crossing him, questioning him, undermining him.​

She may not be calling Trump voters “deplorables” any more—at least not publicly. Now she’s simply suggesting that they didn’t know what they were doing when they selected the President. Mrs. Clinton then elaborated on her view of the way presidential power is constrained:

... the president is close to being uncontrollable. There are people still in there who by their own admission are trying to hold on to prevent even worse things from happening, and at some point, the American public has to say, number one, I may disagree with Democrats, I may disagree with the direction of this administration, but one thing I believe in is we have to have checks and balances. That`s why we have to vote for Democrats in November.​

The constitutional scholars in the crowd may by this point be thanking their lucky stars that America did not end up with a President operating under the belief that she is accountable to the authority of her staff. As a federal judge named Brett Kavanaugh has noted, the President does not enjoy some of the executive authority under our Constitution, but all of it. It’s also disturbing that Mrs. Clinton seems to hold the mistaken belief that constitutional checks and balances only exist when people vote for Democrats.

Regardless of her confusion about the structure of the American republic, she nonetheless writes confidently about what she casts as a constant attack on the U.S. political system. Ms. Maddow shared a passage from Mrs. Clinton’s revised memoir:

The corruption of the Trump administration is breathtaking. Our democratic institutions and traditions are under assault every day. There may not be tanks in the streets and the administration`s malevolence may be constrained by now by its incompetence, but make no mistake, our democracy is in crisis.​

Mrs. Clinton shared more of the story in last night’s interview:

I do say in the afterword that I, like every other American, hope for the best, wanted to give our new President the benefit of the doubt. But the actions that we have seen coming from the White House and this Administration, in the nearly two years since the election, have raised all kinds of signal flares, alarm bells about what is happening to our democracy. And put aside partisanship and all of the ideological concerns, we have to defend the fundamental values and ideals of the American democracy.​

It’s unclear at what point Mrs. Clinton wanted to give our new President the benefit of the doubt, given that she endorsed the protests against him that occurred on his first full day in office in January of 2017. As for the alleged assaults against American institutions, she said last night:

Well what I`m worried about is that these authoritarian tendencies that we have seen at work in this Administration with this President, left unchecked, could very well result in the erosion of our institutions to an extent that we`ve never imagined possible here.​

That certainly sounds scary—greater destruction to our democratic institutions than we’ve even imagined! Given this commentary from the former secretary of State, Ms. Maddow naturally asked about impeachment:

MADDOW: Do you have thoughts on that about whether or not that`s something that Democrats should put on the table right away if they get control of Congress?​
CLINTON: I think there should be a much broader agenda and I know it`s difficult to imagine having the Congress work on so many issues at the same time. Because it does require a level of organization and follow-through that is hard and I know that having been there. If there is evidence that comes up about high crimes and misdemeanors, yes, it should be followed through on but there are so many other things that need to be addressed.​
If you look at what this Administration has done with respect to regulations on everything from asbestos to pesticides to labor concerns. This is going to begin to really have adverse consequences on many Americans.​
So, there`s a role for the Congress to play in saying, “No, stop. We`re not going to ignore the evidence. We are not going to live in a fact-free universe. You, Administrator X need to come up here and justify what you`ve done for two years.”​
There’s an uncontrollable would-be authoritarian in the Oval Office attacking the foundations of the American republic and the solution is to hold hearings on labor and environmental regulations?

Mrs. Clinton doesn’t really believe such nonsense. She knows that the Trump “authoritarian” argument is built on ill-considered Trump comments rather than concrete Trump actions and that American institutions have been holding up just fine. She also knows that only one major-party presidential nominee in 2016 sought the authority to limit the first two amendments to the Constitution. And it wasn’t Donald Trump.
 

RxCowboy

Has no Rx for his orange obsession.
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Nov 8, 2004
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The link from above, from the WSJ editorial page:

Hillary’s New Constitution
Clinton explains how she’ll gut the First and Second Amendments.
918 Comments
Updated Oct. 21, 2016 12:00 p.m. ET

Donald Trump is no legal scholar, but at Wednesday’s presidential debate he showed a superior grasp of the U.S. Constitution than did Hillary Clinton. Amid the overwrought liberal fainting about Mr. Trump’s bluster over accepting the election result (see below), Mrs. Clinton revealed a view of the Supreme Court that is far more threatening to American liberty.

Start with her answer to moderator Chris Wallace’s question about the role of the courts. “The Supreme Court should represent all of us. That’s how I see the Court,” she said. “And the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our behalf of our rights as Americans.”

Where to begin with that one? The Supreme Court doesn’t—or shouldn’t—“represent” anyone. In the U.S. system that’s the job of the elected branches. The courts are appointed, not elected, so they can be nonpartisan adjudicators of competing legal claims.

Mrs. Clinton is suggesting that the Court should be a super-legislature that vindicates the will of what she calls “the American people,” which apparently excludes “the powerful.” But last we checked, the Constitution protects everyone, even the powerful. The law is supposed to protect individual rights, not an abstraction called “the people.”

The Democrat went downhill from there, promising to appoint judges who would essentially rewrite the First and Second Amendments. Asked about the 2008 Heller decision that upheld an individual right to bear arms, Mrs. Clinton claimed to support “reasonable regulation.” She said she criticized Heller because it overturned a District of Columbia law intended merely “to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them.”

Toddlers had nothing to do with it. What Mrs. Clinton calls “reasonable” was an outright ban on handguns. The D.C. law allowed the city’s police chief to award some temporary licenses—but not even the police officer plaintiff in the case could persuade the District to let him register a handgun to be kept at his home.

Anyone who did lawfully possess a gun had to keep it unloaded and either disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times, ensuring it would be inoperable and perhaps useless for self-defense. As Antonin Scalia wrote for the Heller majority, “Few laws in the history of our Nation have come close to the severe restriction of the District’s handgun ban.”

If Mrs. Clinton supports such gun restrictions, then she thinks an individual’s right to bear arms is meaningless. If the Justices she appoints agree with her, then they can gradually turn Heller into a shell of a right, restriction by restriction, even without overturning the precedent.

Then there’s the First Amendment, which Mrs. Clinton wants to rewrite by appointing Justices she said would “stand up and say no to Citizens United, a decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.”

Citizens United is the 2010 Supreme Court decision that found that unions and corporations can spend money on political speech—in that specific case for a movie that was critical of Mrs. Clinton. The Democrat seems to take the different view that while atomized individuals might have the right to criticize politicians, heaven forbid if they want to band together to do it as a political interest group.

As for “dark” money, she certainly knows that territory. Does money get any darker than undisclosed Clinton Foundation donations from foreign business magnates tied to uranium concessions in Kazakhstan?

There is at least one right that Mrs. Clinton did suggest she believes to be absolute—to an abortion, at any time during pregnancy right up until birth. She claimed merely to oppose the repeal of Roe v. Wade, which allows some regulation of late-term abortions. But she somehow overlooked Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 decision that upheld a legislative ban on so-called partial-birth abortion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the Carhart opinion that ruled such restrictions are consistent with Roe and the Constitution. Mrs. Clinton kept invoking “the life and the health of the mother” to justify her opposition to any limit on abortion, but Carhart found the life of the mother can be sufficient.

To put all this another way, Mrs. Clinton believes there is no restriction on abortion she would ever support, and there is no restriction on gun rights she would ever oppose. Carhart, Citizens United and Heller were 5-4 decisions, and Mrs. Clinton wants each of them to be litmus tests for her Supreme Court appointments. She mocks Mr. Trump for saying he won’t abide by the election result, but she wants to rewrite the Constitution to fit her own political views.

Appeared in the October 21, 2016, print edition.