All of the terrible qualities of some of the worst American presidents have coagulated to create a kind of President Frankenstein.
A new Atlantic op-ed in the October issue blasted Trump as a combination of “Andrew Jackson’s rage; Millard Fillmore’s bigotry; James Buchanan’s incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt’s self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon’s paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton’s lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty.”
Indeed, Trump’s way of ignoring law, the branches of government, checks and balances, the rule of law and his knack of bringing down anything he’s associated with, might spell disaster for the U.S. presidency itself.
The Atlantic walks through the history of the presidency with the founding fathers intending to create a style of government that doesn’t replicate a single dictator ruling like the British monarchy they fled from. They intentionally made the legislative branch more powerful and put judicial checks in for the explicit purpose of protecting against one person declaring himself king. But by not defining “executive powers” the framers allowed the office to grow and change as needed.
One thing they never saw coming, however, was the “president’s control over the bully pulpit, federal law enforcement, and the national-security establishment,” which has turned the office into a “dominant force” while putting constitutional liberties in danger. Those presidents who understand the Constitution use the office with a humble awareness of of their place in the structures of power. The Atlantic cites George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt as among the gracious few.
As a candidate, Trump was honest about this intentions to “shake things up,” and many of his supporters like him for the reason that he would disturb the status quo in Washington. “The man who on January 20, 2017, took a constitutional oath to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States’ seemed disdainful of the rule of law and almost certain to abuse his power,” the Atlantic read.
While Trump might set his party’s teeth on edge and tweak the nose of his opposition with the stench of his contempt for the majority of Americans, he won’t bring down the government. With the laws Congress has already passed, and Trump has signed, his ability has grown more limited in his short eight months in office. However, the respect for the office of the presidency seems in question, much like in the days of President Richard Nixon.
“Thus far, however, Trump has been almost entirely blocked from violating laws or the Constitution,” the Atlantic continues. “The courts, the press, the bureaucracy, civil society, and even Congress have together robustly enforced the rule of law.”
Look no further than the catastrophic way in which Trump’s White House wrote and rolled out the executive order on the travel ban. The uprising, the media, Congress and, ultimately, the courts helped stop it.
While he could deny the court order to cease implementing the ban, he didn’t. He ranted and raved on Twitter. He blasted the judge, the media and Congress. But the “most powerful man in the world” followed the court’s decision. “The Constitution held,” the Atlantic said.
When it comes to the Russia investigation, however, it’s unclear if he will. But even if he does refuse court orders demanding documents and information, others can step in. While Congress has refused to act enough, according to surveys of American voters, they could step in, and not doing so would put their own positions in jeopardy.
What he will do is diminish the public face of institutions people already consider suspect.
“The breakdown in institutions mirrors the breakdown in social cohesion among citizens that was also a major cause of Trumpism, and that Trumpism has churned further. This is perhaps the worst news of all for our democracy” the Atlantic explained.
The second concern is that Trump could right the ship and manage to get himself reelected.
“If Trump succeeds and makes it to a second term, his norm-breaking will be seen to serve the presidency more than it does today. If that happens, the office will be forever changed, and not for the better,” the Atlantic closed.
While the Constitution might continue to hold, if Trump pardon’s himself, if he is faced with a national crisis like terrorism or the economy collapses, he could be the true test of the founding documents.